The fluctuating Formula 1 season took another intriguing turn during qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix with Sebastian Vettel claiming pole while title-challenger Lewis Hamilton could only manage fifth.
It was a strong performance from Vettel edging out Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo who had dominated Friday practice.
In fourth starts Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen with Lewis Hamilton qualifying 0.635 seconds adrift of Vettel.
Rounding out the front of the grid is Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and unsurprisingly the McLaren’s are setup perfectly to handle the twisty Marina Bay Circuit giving Alonso and Vandoorne eighth and ninth on the grid.
Ferrari Comes Alive in Qualifying
The front of the grid was far from certain heading into Singapore qualifying.
Red Bull were the quickest during Friday practice with both Ferrari and Mercedes off the pace.
That Mercedes was struggling wasn’t entirely unexpected given that the tight, twisty circuit and hot conditions don’t tend to favour their car setup.
But Vettel stepped up a gear during qualifying to end over three-tenths quicker than the Red Bull’s and sixth-tenths ahead of Hamilton.
Even then, it was a far from a perfect lap by Vettel with the German admitting that he was lucky to claim pole.
“I was a bit lucky on my final lap, because I brushed the wall quite severely out of 19,” said Vettel. “It was not just a little brush; it was actually a hit.”
“It was fine until I approached the last corner; I had huge vibration. Thankfully there was only one corner left but I really pushed as hard as I could.”
“Obviously the weekend so far has been a bit up and down for us. Yesterday was difficult. This afternoon was difficult. Tonight the car really came alive and it was just getting better.”
Hamilton in Damage Control
Taking pole at the Marina Bay Circuit takes extra importance with the limited overtaking opportunities.
It gives Vettel a golden chance to overturn Hamilton’s three-point lead in driver’s championship only a race after he slipped behind for the first time this season.