Lewis Hamilton has beaten Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by three-tenths of a second to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix. The four times champion pulled out one of his “epic, sexy lap” laps to beat the Dutchman on his first run in Q3.
Hamilton was forced to back out of his second run after he ran wide at Memorial corner as Verstappen was gaining in the first and second sectors. However, the Dutchman was slow in the final start-stop sector, but says the front row “feels like a victory.”
Hamilton’s lap was three tenths faster than Verstappen, and he was over half a second faster than his title rival Sebastian Vettel. It also means that he is twelve pole positions off Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
The Dutchman believes that he has his best qualifying of the year, and could have been faster if he wasn’t affected by drivability problems with his engine which have been afflicting him for most of the weekend. But he doubted he could have beaten Hamilton’s time.
While his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas was seven tenths off in fourth. This weekend, Mercedes were expected to struggle at this type of circuit, but appear to have bounced into a strong position.
Vettel, meanwhile, has appeared to have struggled on Friday but setup changes for FP3 looked to bring him back into the mix. However, the German got his timing wrong starting his lap as the traffic began to build and then his own errors added up in what could be summed up as a “messy” evening for the four times champion.
Hamilton said “I was a bit nervous going into qualifying because I didn’t think we had the pace. We were half a second behind these guys. Then the real challenge on the ultra. We got into that last session and it was about pulling all the bits from free practice and trying to put it into a perfect puzzle.”
“I didn’t think I could do any more. The second lap I tried to go that little bit more, braking half a metre later but the car wasn’t going to have it.”
Verstappen added “This feels like a victory. The amount of problems I’ve had today with the engine, not having a smooth run, to be second is unbelievable. It just shows we have an amazing car.
“We just have to make sure we have a clean start and from there on anything is possible. We need to sort out the engine for tomorrow but at least I’m happy with the car.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Bottas was unable to challenge the top three, but he did manage to slightly improve on his last run to take fourth ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. The pace of Mercedes has been a surprise as Vettel expected his Ferrari to suit the characteristics of the tight street circuit, but somewhere between final practice and qualifying the Ferrari’s pace relative to Mercedes leaked away.
Daniel Ricciardo was the slowest of the top three teams sixth, well ahead of the Force India of Sergio Perez. Perez’s teammate Esteban Ocon survived a late brush with the wall to start ninth, ahead of the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Fernando Alonso just missed out on Q3 by a tenth, starting ahead of his McLaren replacement Carlos Sainz. The younger Spaniard said he had “absolutely no grip” on his final run in Q2, and failed to improve his time.
Both Sauber’s made it through to Q2 once again, Ferrari bound Charles Leclerc seven tenths faster than Marcus Ericsson, they start thirteenth and fourteenth respectively. With Pierre Gasly fifteenth and the Toro Rosso the slowest in the second session.
Kevin Magnussen failed to improve on his second run in Q1 and was pushed into the drop zone by Ericsson. The Dane starts ahead of Toro Rosso’s driver Brendon Hartley two tenths off teammate Gasly, but half-a-tenth ahead of McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.
Williams difficult season continued, both Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll almost a second and a half off the pace starting nineteenth and twentieth.