Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel claimed his 49th career pole position on Saturday in qualifying for the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were next fastest, with Kimi Raikkonen fourth. Mercedes team mates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had to settle for third row grid positions.
Red Bull started qualifying in the same form that had seen the team sweep all three practice sessions in Singapore. Verstappen set the pace with a lap of 1:42.010s, half a tenth faster than his team mate Ricciardo.
Everyone had been straight on to ultrasoft tyres. A flurry of fast laps at the end of Q1 saw McLaren’s Fernando Alonso spring into third ahead of Sainz, while Alonso’s team mate Stoffel Vandoorne was a strong fifth two tenths ahead of Hamilton. Both Ferraris ended up pushed out of the top ten by the late improvements, but in no danger of being eliminated.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean just managed to make it through to Q2 in 15th place, at the expense of his team mate Kevin Magnussen who was 0.129s slower. Felipe Massa failed to progress after hitting the wall in turn 21, suffering a puncture and broken wheel on his Williams. His team mate Lance Stroll also gave the barrier a hard thump in the final corner on his last lap, and also failed to make the cut.
The two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson were slowest in the first round. Ericsson will start from the back after taking a five place grid penalty for a gearbox change after hitting the wall in FP3.
Vettel set a new track record with his first run in Q2, only to be immediately surpassed by Verstappen chalking up a lap of 1:40.379s. Their respective team mates Ricciardo and Raikkonen were next up ahead of Hamilton and Vandoorne.
Even so, no one was confident enough to sit in pit lane and forego a second run. Verstappen slightly improved his time on his next run to keep the advantage over Ricciardo, who moved into second. Raikkonen also found some extra speed to go third ahead of Vettel.
A last push saw Alonso force his way into ninth place ahead of Sainz. Missing out on the final round were Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, both Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. Slowest in Q2 was Grosjean.
Alonso set the first time in Q3 with a lap of 1:41.944s, but Vettel quickly blew that away with a stunning lap of 1:39.669s. Verstappen attempted to fight back but was 0.145s off the Ferrari’s pace. Ricciardo was just a few hundredths off his team mate’s pace with Raikkonen fourth ahead of the Mercedes pairing of Hamilton and Bottas.
Vettel shaved off another three thousandths of a second on his second run despite finding the wall. Other drivers also improved their time, but not by enough to shake up the top six. Vettel’s advantage over the two Mercedes was over six tenths of a secpond. Having lost his drivers championship lead after the last race, pole position is vital for Vettel especially with Hamilton starting four places in arrears.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took seventh place, followed by the two McLarens of Alonso and Vandoorne. Carlos Sainz will round out the top ten on the grid.