Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (SportsNetwork.com) - Defending Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton placed his Mercedes on the pole for the Malaysian Grand Prix after edging Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari in Saturday's rain- soaked qualifying.

The start of the final round of qualifying was delayed more than 30 minutes due to a heavy downpour. In Q3, Hamilton made a lap around Sepang International Circuit in 1 minute, 49.834 seconds for his second pole of the season and the 40th of his F1 career. Two weeks ago, the Briton started on pole and won the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton's lap time was only 0.074 seconds quicker than Vettel.

"I think the first lap (in Q3) was quite good," Hamilton said. "It was difficult because none of us have driven in the wet this weekend. So the first lap is always the unknown. You don't want to take too much risk."

Hamilton won last year's Malaysian GP from the pole.

Vettel, in his second grand prix with Ferrari, ended Mercedes nine-race streak of sweeping the front starting row. Hamilton's teammate, Nico Rosberg, qualified third for Sunday's 56-lap race with a lap time in 1:50.299.

"When it starts to rain here, it can mix up things," Vettel said. "I think it was an interesting qualifying session. The car felt good in both dry and wet conditions. So I'm reasonably happy."

The last time Rosberg qualified outside the top-two was in June 2014 in the Austrian Grand Prix, where he started third.

"I just didn't drive well enough," Rosberg said. "I'm annoyed by that. Third place is not good for tomorrow. But that's the way it is."

Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull took the fourth spot, while his teammate, Daniil Kvyat, was fifth. Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen placed sixth. In Australia, Verstappen became the youngest driver ever to start a F1 grand prix at age 17 years.

Felipe Massa from Williams qualified seventh, followed by Lotus' Romain Grosjean, Valtteri Bottas, who is Massa's teammate, and Marcus Ericsson from Sauber.

McLaren once again struggled in qualifying, as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso finished 17th and 18th, respectively. Honda is supplying engines for McLaren this year.

Alonso is making his first start of the season after suffering a concussion during an accident in preseason testing last month on Barcelona.