Lewis Hamilton takes his 24th career pole position this afternoon at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and ends Sebastian Vettel’s dominance of the pre-race sessions at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel, who had topped the time sheets in all three practice sessions, progressed comfortably through Q1 and Q2 but in the final top-10 shootout was eclipsed by both Hamilton and second-placed Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. The Red Bull Racing driver will thus line up on row two, marginally ahead of fourth-placed Jenson Button.
“I’m a little disappointed. Especially Q3, I don’t know why we couldn’t do the step,” said Vettel afterwards.
“I think the speed was there but we weren't able to really improve, whereas in Q2 I got the lap in reasonably safely and I was a little bit off Lewis, I think, one and a half tenths,” he added. “I was confident that we could go quicker somewhere but... if, could, would, should... we don't know.
“But I think the pace was there to do better than what we did in Q2 but in Q3. We just couldn’t find it and in the end I was even struggling to repeat the lap I did in the beginning. But we have been competitive throughout the weekend. The race is very long here, a lot of things can happen – safety cars – so it's important to be in the right place at the right time and then we go from there.”
Hamilton, too, admitted that while he felt he had put in a “great” lap, he was surprised that Vettel had not threatened more.
“Sebastian was incredibly fast through most of the sessions, so I’m not really sure what happened in the end,” he said. “Nonetheless I’m very happy that I was able to pull that time out. A great lap, I’m very happy with it.”
With Button lining up fourth, row three was left to be filled by the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso and the impressive looking Force India of Paul Di Resta, though the Scot admitted his run to sixth on the grid had not been easy.
“I struggled during final practice and we seemed to lose our way,” he said. “So we went back to basics and built up our speed again during qualifying and managed to deliver the laptime when it mattered during Q3 – in fact, it was my best lap of the weekend. So we’re in a strong position for tomorrow and hopefully we can come away with some big points.”
Mark Webber, meanwhile, will start from seventh place, behind Paul Di Resta and fifth-placed Fernando Alonso, and afterwards the Australian said he should have finished further up the grid.
“I think we did (expect to be higher). It was a tricky session, every run we did the car was a little bit different,” he said. “We didn’t have the rear grip we had maybe in other sessions. Normally the supersoft gives us a certain balance, but it was difficult to chase it in that session.
“We have to take the medicine, that’s where we are,” he added. “It’s disappointing but obviously it’s a long race tomorrow. We have a chance to get something from it. It looks like a mixed-up quali, with a few different people up there, which is the story of the year. Ultimately, we should have got a little bit more out of it, but it was tricky today.”
After the session Webber was summoned to the stewards’ office, for apparently impeding Marussia’s Timo Glock during Q1 and the Red Bull driver admitted he had made a mistake at the pit exit.
“I was leaving the pit exit and I just found myself on the kerb,” he said. “It was no big deal. I just tried to accelerate as quickly as I could around. He was reasonably satisfied with that I think. He went a lot quickly later on.”
Webber later escaped with a reprimand from the race officials.
The first session passed as expected, with Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi the only major casualty. The Sauber driver will line up 18th on the grid, four places behind team-mate Sergio Perez, and the Japanese driver afterwards complained of massive understeer which left him with little confidence in his car.
The second segment, however, saw several expected contenders fail to make the top-10 cut, with Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Pérez all being dumped out as a host of drivers improved their lap times in the final moments.
That wasn’t the case in the top-10 shootout. After all the contenders had banked opening runs, the track appeared to slow down and many drivers failed to significantly improve on their opening laps when crunch time came at the end of the session. Hamilton’s lap from his first timed run in the session thus became an unsurpassable benchmark and the McLaren driver duly claimed his second pole at the circuit, after starting from the front and winning here in 2009.