Sizzling Singapore Delivers Scintillating Qualifying
Another Saturday and another front-row lockout for the Mercedes duo, with Lewis Hamilton leading Nico Rosberg for the second weekend running. However, this particular Saturday was far from straightforward for Mercedes, as Red Bull, Ferrari and Williams all made substantial bids for pole position themselves. So much so, that after the first runs in Q3, Hamilton and Rosberg found themselves P6 and P7 respectively. It was an incredible fightback, a dramatic day, and one which has set the foundations for a thrilling race tomorrow.
Mercedes Front Row Lockout – Just
Mercedes front row lockouts have hardly been hard to come by this season, but today’s result was an outstanding achievement for the team considering that both Hamilton and Rosberg faced significant pressure from their chief rivals, with the pair jumping from P6 and P7 at the start of Q3 to the head of the field. While their laps may not have been perfect, they were just good enough.
Even more poignant was the margin by which the title contending duo were separated – 0.007 split Hamilton in P1 from Rosberg in P2, which is the equivalent distance of a front wing end-fence. These fine margins have been a trait of their battle throughout this season and today, Nico was the party to fall just short. “Damn it” was the response given by him on the radio once he was informed of the inconceivably small margin which prevented him from claiming his eight pole of the season.
However, the gap could have been significantly greater, had Lewis Hamilton not suffered a rather substantial lock-up into the first corner on his final lap. To make the apex of the corner was an achievement in itself, but he also managed to hold the tight line necessary in order to optimise entry into Turn Three. While he may have exceeded track limits, he did not gain an advantage and in fact, lost almost two tenths. However, Lewis did not abort the lap, did not overdrive and managed to snatch Pole at the last moment.
After a Friday which Felipe Massa suggested was the worst of his career, optimism was at a premium heading into qualifying in regards to Williams’ chances. It was no surprise then, to see Claire Williams in a state of shock when Felipe took provisional pole position after the first runs in Q3. While they eventually slipped to P6 with Massa and P8 with Bottas, it was an excellent performance considering that the circuit characteristics suggested that this weekend would be somewhat of a right off.
Even during Q2, Williams were unfortunately living up to the low expectations for the weekend, with both drivers needing a good final run to haul themselves out of the dreaded drop zone. However, as demonstrated in Austria, the FW36 has a tendency to come alive on the super-soft rubber and this was the case today. Whether they will be able to sustain a consistent race pace, considering the fact that they will have to venture to at least one soft tyre stint, remains to be seen. Overall, today was very promising for Williams and much better than expected.
“I Could Have Had Pole”
The Singapore specialist, Sebastian Vettel, may have managed to complete the Red Bull lockout of the second row, but the German was disappointed to have not enjoyed an even better afternoon. After a scruffy lap to end the day, Vettel suggested that there was the potential for a pole position today – an opportunity missed in a season where opportunity has been at a premium. That fact was compounded by Daniel Ricciardo who once again edged out his teammate.
“I’m not happy with that final lap, I was pushing a bit too hard and didn’t get it all together, so I’m not entirely happy, but it is what it is now,” Vettel stated. A Red Bull win tomorrow is a strong possibility, with Ricciardo demonstrating excellent long run performance on Friday. Ultimately, Vettel’s chances of triumph tomorrow are slightly slimmer than his counterpart, since he will enter the race without any FP2 long runs in his armoury. While he will have undoubtedly studied Daniel’s data, (and taken great optimism from it), it cannot replace that all important primary experience.
Rolling Back The Years
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.681
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.688
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:45.854
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:45.902
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.907
6 Felipe Massa Williams 1:46.000
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:46.170
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.187
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren 1:46.250
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:47.362
11 Jenson Button McLaren 1:46.943
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:46.989
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:47.308
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:47.333
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:47.575
16 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:47.812
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber 1:48.324
18 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1:49.063
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:49.440
20 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham 1:50.405
21 Max Chilton Marussia 1:50.473
22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham 1:52.287