Sebastian Vettel scored his 11th pole position of the season at Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit on Saturday.
Vettel’s quickest lap of 1:44.381 left the German more than three-tenths clear of teammate Mark Webber, with the possibility of Vettel collecting most poles in a season (currently at 14 by Nigel Mansell) becoming very real.
For Webber, it was a solid run, but necessary. With Marina Bay noticeably hard on overtaking, a front row start was a must for the experienced Australian.
Jenson Button led the non-Red Bull charge thanks to a last moment wonder lap. It was enough to pull the Briton 0.005 of-a-second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who decided on a single run in order to save tyres – a cause amplified by a puncture for Hamilton in Q2.
Fernando Alonso qualified his Ferrari 5th on the grid, one place and one second ahead of fellow Scuderia pilot Felipe Massa.
Admittedly, the reigning champion received some little help from his main rivals – all of whom, bizarrely, decided to attack the track at virtually the same time. If anything, it represented a grand lack of foresight from the leading in terms of qualifying strategy – the slower outlaps only served to repress falling tyre temperatures.
It was an action that nearly saw Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) collide on their outlaps – an action that caused the Brazilian to blast the 2008 world champion:
“The incident with Hamilton? Honestly, I don’t understand why he wanted to pass at all costs: we were all in a line on our “out” lap and there was nothing to be gained from acting like that.”
Nico Rosberg was the only other driver to take part in Q3, assuming an unchallenged 7th place as a consequence. Rosberg’s Mercedes teammate, Michael Schumacher decided to stay in the pits – as did both of the Force India’s with Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.
Considering the pace of both teams, the fourth and fifth rows were always going to house them, bring forth yet another tyre-saving strategy.
Sauber’s Sergio Perez just missed out on a Q3 place. The Mexican displaced di Resta as the clock reached zero, only for the Scot to improve his time moments later, dumping Perez out.
Kamui Kobayashi was less fortunate in the other Sauber. The excitable Japanese driver clambered over the notorious turn ten chicane, holding enough pace to launch his C30 into the air. His pace unabated, Kobayashi crunched into the awaiting barrier, forcing a red flag.
Beyond the leading Sauber, formidable gaps began to appear. Rubens Barrichello (Williams) was next up in 12th – a full half-second shy of Perez, with the second Williams of Pastor Maldonado a competent 13th.
Sebastien Buemi led the Toro Rosso fight. The Swiss racer took 14th on the grid, two spots ahead of teammate Jaime Alguersuari. Renault’s Bruno Senna split the Italian cars with an effort some 3.7 seconds off of the Q2 best.
Vitaly Petrov was the star name to fall out the first of qualifying. The Russian lost out to his Renault teammate, Senna, in the dying moments of the session, despite improving his own time.
As per usual, Heikki Kovalainen led an all-Lotus ninth row, with the Virgin’s over a second adrift in 21st (Timo Glock) and 22nd (Jerome d’Ambrosio).
Both HRT’s took up the last row once again, with rookie Daniel Ricciardo outpacing Vitantonio Liuzzi. It was something of a mute point – a lingering five-place penalty from the Italian Grand Prix would have left Liuzzi last irrespective of his time.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m44.381s 2. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m44.732s + 0.351 3. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.804s + 0.423 4. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.809s + 0.428 5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m44.874s + 0.493 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m45.800s + 1.419 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m46.013s + 1.632 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time 9. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes no time 10. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes no time Q2 cut-off time: 1m47.486s Gap ** 11. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m47.616s + 2.685 12. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m48.082s + 3.151 13. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m48.270s + 3.339 14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.634s + 3.703 15. Bruno Senna Renault 1m48.662s + 3.731 16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m49.862s + 4.931 17. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari no time Q1 cut-off time: 1m49.588s Gap * 18. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m49.835s + 3.438 19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m50.948s + 4.551 20. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m51.012s + 4.615 21. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m52.154s + 5.757 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m52.363s + 5.966 23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m52.404s + 6.007 24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 1m52.810s + 6.413 107% time: 1m53.844s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2