Mercedes Lewis Hamilton takes Pole Position ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Championship rival Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the Singapore GP.
On a track where Mercedes have tended to struggle in the past couple of years, pole position today was unexpected. Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas ended FP3 3rd and 4th behind both Scuderia cars and over half a second adrift. Things at one point looked bleak for the Silver Bullets. They opted to run on the Ultrasoft tyre in Q1 and were close to being knocked out with Bottas 12th and Hamilton a whisker from being out in 14th. Bottas and Hamilton got back to normality by ending Q2 in 3rd and 4th with the possibility of a car on the front-row.
Hamilton’s first lap was legendary and will go down as one of his best qualifying performances. A one minute 36 dead was over 3 seconds quicker than Vettel’s pole lap from last year. Bottas however was disappointed with 4th and to be nearly 7 tenths behind Hamilton. The Finn, who has yet to secure pole position this year, is seemingly going to play rear-gunner to Hamilton.
One of the Ferrari drivers should have been on Pole. Sebastian Vettel, who has gone well round here in the past, dominated FP3 after a great comeback after he damaged his Ferrari during FP2. Both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen looked to be in trouble however in Q2 as they both ran the Ultrasoft tyre. They quickly found out that they could not get enough heat and time out of the purple marked tyres and swapped to the Hypersoft tyre which saw them safely through to Q3. Vettel repeatedly hit traffic on his out laps and bemoaned a “messy” qualifying session while Raikkonen, who was on Pole in Monza, struggled and ended Q3 5th after topping Q2.
Close but not close enough for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. It was a great lap by the Dutchman to beat both Ferrari’s, the Mercedes of Bottas and his Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to 2nd. Verstappen qualified in 2nd last year but was caught in a Ferrari-sandwich which resulted in contact. A clean start is crucial if he wants to challenge for the win. Ricciardo, who topped Q1, will line-up in 6th but will be baffled to how he ended up over 6 and a half tenths off of Verstappen.
Apart from Hamilton and Verstappen, Force India’s Sergio Perez was the star of qualifying as the Mexican claimed “best of the rest” spot in 7th. Perez admitted that they weren’t expecting this pace but was very happy with 7th. Esteban Ocon confirmed that the major update that Force India had brought to this weekend had worked by qualifying in 9th and ahead of the Renault of Hulkenberg.
Romain Grosjean has been on good form of late and that seems to be helping his chances of staying with Haas for next year. 8th on the grid will please the Frenchman and what will please him more is that he out-qualified team-mate Kevin Magnussen who was knocked out in Q1.
Renault seem to be struggling for pace this weekend and will hope that they will be leaving Singapore on Sunday night with a handful of points as Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified in 10th, and Carlos Sainz, who qualified in 12th, look to be right in the middle of the mid-field pack.
It was another valiant effort by Fernando Alonso drag his McLaren to 11th place. The Spaniard had hoped that Q3 could have been on the cards but just missed out. It was another tough day for Stoffel Vandoorne who was out-qualified for the 15th time this season by Alonso. Having missed much of FP1, Vandoorne claimed that his last Q1 lap was “such a messy lap” with the Belgian tapping the wall at turn 22.
It was a solid performance by Sauber with both Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson progressing to Q1 and qualifying in 13th and 14th. Although, tapping the wall at turn 22 as well, Leclerc was able to put his drama in FP1 behind him which left the Sauber team with a bit of rebuilding to do around the front-right corner.
If it had not been for Magnussen’s Q1 elimination, Pierre Gasly would have found himself out in Q1. Gasly was 2 and a bit tenths off of Ericsson’s time but he would have to settle for 15th in the end. Brendon Hartley was a casualty of Q1 despite being just under 2 tenths slower than Gasly in Q1. Management at Toro Rosso have told the New Zealander to pick up the pace or he’ll be out of a seat for next year.
It was yet another frustrating session for Williams as both Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll found themselves 3 seconds off of the pace of Ricciardo who ended Q1 quickest. After leaving Monza on a high with both drivers in the points, the team have been brought back down to earth with a bang with the team locking-out the back row of the grid.
1.Hamilton 2.Verstappen 3.Vettel 4.Bottas 5.Raikkonen 6.Ricciardo 7.Perez 8.Grosjean 9.Ocon 10.Hulkenberg 11.Alonso 12.Sainz 13.Leclerc 14.Ericsson 15.Gasly 16.Magnussen 17.Hartley 18.Vandoorne 19.Sirotkin 20.Stroll