Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton survived a late charge from Vettel to secure pole position in Malaysia. Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton will start on pole at the Malaysian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, after an eventful qualifying session that was delayed due to stormy weather.

Reigning world champion Hamilton, who secured an easy victory at the first race of the new season in Australia last weekend, was fastest on his first lap and eventually finished 0.074 seconds ahead of the impressive Vettel who drove extremely well in testing conditions.

"I think the first lap was good, it's always difficult in conditions like that and not one of us have driven in the wet this weekend," he was quoted as saying by BBC Sport in Sepang after securing the 40th pole of an illustrious career.

"You don't want to take too much risk. The next one was up and then we lost some but generally it was a fantastic job by the team."

Rosberg was evidently disappointed at having qualified in third once again despite setting the pace ahead of Hamilton in the final practice session. Although while he bemoaned his position, he provided hope that he could swiftly pass Vettel in the early stages of the race.

"Third is not good for tomorrow but that is the way it is," the German said. "It was interesting conditions out there, I have seldom had so much grip in wet conditions. Third is on the clean side of the grid, so that should help me get past Sebastian Vettel at the start."

Elsewhere on the grid, Max Verstappen, 17, was in fine fettle for Toro Rosso and will start sixth in only his second ever Formula One race.

In the build-up to the weekend, the news agenda had been dominated by Cyril Abiteboul's revelations that Renault, who currently supply engines to the Red Bull team, are considering the possibility of exiting the sport after receiving hefty criticism in recent weeks.

Such an eventuality would leave Red Bull in somewhat of a precarious position given a lack of suitable alternative manufacturers, so it will have provided some encouragement to see Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat improve to qualify in fourth and fifth position respectively.

Fernando Alonso will start 18th in his first race of the season after recovering from a head injury sustained during testing in Barcelona in February, one place behind McLaren teammate Jenson Button.