The Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel will start on pole for tomorrows Singapore Grand Prix, after delivering a masterclass of a lap in Q3 after being put under pressure from the Red Bulls.
Many tipped it as one of the most hotly contested battles for pole, with both Red Bull and Ferrari seemingly in the hunt for the top position, with Mercedes on the back foot slightly but still looking to be in with a shot as well. However, it was Vettel who triumphed in the end with a pole position time of 1:39.491, a new record for the Marina Bay circuit. Vettel, a four time winner of the Singapore Grand Prix, has never been beaten on this track starting from pole.
“The car was amazing,” said an elated and clearly emotional Vettel. “It’s an amazing track when you feel the car was coming together. I knew we had it in us but we had to get there.”
Vettel will line up alongside the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who was the faster of the two red Bulls today, with Daniel Ricciardo third in the session, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth for Ferrari. Throughout the weekend the Red Bull’s looked a force to be reckoned with, topping all three practice sessions between them as well as the first two qualifying sessions. But as is the case we’ve seen before, when it matters the Ferrari’s have been able to turn their engines up that little bit more, and it was this power that ultimately secured Vettel the pole position today.
There is a crumb of comfort for the Red Bull team though, and that is their race pace looked to be a lot better than the Ferrari’s during the Free Practice running on Friday. Meaning that they may be able to take the fight tomorrow to the Ferrari of Vettel, though it may be a difficult ask seeing as the cars are a lot wider this year, and the Marina Bay circuit was already known as a notorious track for overtaking. Team Principal Christian Horner seemed optimistic about the team’s chances on Sunday.
“We’ve been quickest in every session,” said Horner. “And then the one that really counts, in those last stages – the drivers extracted everything from the car and we just don’t have that last little bit. We’re happy with a front-row start and third as well. The race pace we had yesterday puts us in good stead for tomorrow. If we can get a good start, we can hopefully give them a hard time. We have nothing to lose, Seb has a championship to think about.”
It was a session to forget for Mercedes though, with Lewis Hamilton only fifth and half a second off the pace of Vettel, his closest championship rival. While Valtteri Bottas struggled to sixth place in an uncompetitive looking silver arrow. While the Ferrari of Vettel, and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo looked to be in the fight for the pole position today Hamilton was nowhere whatsoever, while Bottas didn’t appear to be challenging whatsoever for the pole.
Coming here the Mercedes team made no secret of the fact they felt the track would not suit the W08’s package whatsoever. Indeed Singapore has been one of the tracks the team has really struggled on in the past. Although they have won two of the last three races here, often those margins are almost non-existent compared to the likes of the thirty second advantage they had in Monza for example. As well as the fact that they have suffered some serious mechanical faults here in the past too.
“We knew coming here it would be difficult,” said Hamilton. “Every year it’s been difficult for us generally. We knew today would be tough but I didn’t anticipate Ferrari would be as strong as they were.”
“It’s what we expected,” conceded Silver Arrows chief Toto Wolff after the disappointing qualifying session. “You always hope for better, but it’s probably where realistically we are in Singapore.”
Nico Hulkenberg was the first of the “best of the rest” in seventh, having once again outqualified his team mate Jolyon Palmer who managed 11th on the grid for tomorrow. The soon to be ex Renault driver is still yet to beat Hulkenberg in a qualifying session this season.
While a day after their split was officially announced, McLaren got both cars into Q3 for only the third time this season, with Fernando Alonso eighth and Stoffel Vandoorne a place back in ninth. The team highlighted this track as one of their better ones on the calendar, due to the focus on good aero packages here compared to engine power, something the Honda engine is seriously lacking. Renault bound Carlos Sainz closed out the top ten in his Toro Rosso.
The Mercedes team were not the only team to suffer this weekend, as both Force India and Williams struggled in qualifying, on what has been a disappointing day for Mercedes powered teams. Neither Force India could make it out of Q2, while both Williams cars were knocked out of Q1 for the fourth time in six Grands Prixs.
With a track that is notorious for overtaking on, strategy calls that can lead to glory of failure in the blink of an eye, as well as a Safety Car period at some point in every race ran here, the race on Sunday could be one of the more interesting races we’ve seen around the Marina Bay Circuit.
Singapore Qualifying Results
1) Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, 1:39.491
2) Max Verstappen, Red Bull, +0.323s
3) Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, +0.349s
4) Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, +0.578s
5) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, +0.635s
6) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, +1.319s
7) Nico Hulkenberg, Renault, +1.522s
8) Fernando Alonso, McLaren, +1.688s
9) Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, +1.907s
10) Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, +2.565s
Knocked out in Q2
11) Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:42.107
12) Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:42.246
13) Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:42.338
14) Esteban Ocon, Force India, 1:42.760
15) Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:43.883
Knocked out in Q1
16) Kevin Magnussen, Haas, 1:43.756
17) Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:44.014
18) Lance Stroll, Williams, 1:44.728
19) Pascal Wehrlein, Sauber, 1:45.059
20) Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, 1:45.570
Feature Image Credit: Red Bull Racing Press Release.