I believe Sebastian Vettel has done an awful lot to prove wrong his strongest critics over the previous few races, but I think even he will admit that his pole in Singapore today was thanks to some bizarre and reckless decisions made by his competitors.
As the green light signalled the beginning of qualifying, most of the teams played a short game of chicken.
Nobody seemed to want to go out, as every team wanted someone else to assess the track conditions.
In the end, Williams sent Rubens Barrichello out for a lap, and he set the day’s first time of 1:51:042.
Barrichello’s lap brought the rest of the teams out, and right from the beginning it was clear that Vettel would be the man to beat.
Vettel shot straight to pole with his first lap. He was temporarily knocked down to third by the McLarens, but with his second strong push he established himself as top dog in Q1 and frankly never looked back.
Fernando Alonso had been fast in all of the practice sessions despite suffering from tendentious in his breaking knee, but although he was clearly the faster Ferrari, he had no answer to the speed of Red Bull and McLaren.
With only half the session gone, the top seven drivers all felt comfortable enough to stay in their garages. (And that gives you some sort of idea as to just how much of a "spectacle" Q1 was!)
There was a moderately exciting battle for survival between the Renault team, but to be honest Singapore’s Q1 was no different than most of the other 2010/11 Q1s since the birth of the six slow back-markers.
Q1 Top Three
Vitaly Petrov, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Jerome D’Ambrosio, Daniel Ricciardo, Vittantonio Liuzzi
I’m afraid anyone hoping for a pick-up in Q2 would have been largely disappointed. However, there was a very significant event right at the end that could actually play pivotal role in tomorrow’s race.
Lewis Hamilton was clearly fast, but he made a few errors during qualifying. In the later stages of Q1, Hamilton had damaged the underside of his car. This meant that his early laps in Q2 served more as a function for checking that his car was OK than for competing with his rivals.
Whilst Hamilton assessed his car's condition, his teammate tried his best to fight the charging might of the Red Bulls. Button was fast, but Vettel quickly occupied P1 and was never really challenged in Q2.
About five minutes into the session, the red flag was brought out when Kamui Kobayashi struggled to negotiate the highly controversial raised chicane at turn 10. The Sauber man clipped the first corner, which sent him way out of shape over the second and eventually into the air and the barrier.
Hard luck for Kamui, but it brought a much-needed point of discussion to an otherwise dull affair.
The session restarted after about six minutes, and to be honest, the drop zone could have been predicted before the green light even shone for Q2.
So, not a great second session, but as I said earlier, something very fundamental did happen in the dying moments.
As the camera man desperately searched for something interesting to show, he hit the jackpot when images of Lewis Hamilton lapping around the track with a blown rear right tyre began to fill our screens.
Hamilton had only made a small error, but the loss of these crucial tyres would mean a great deal for his final session of qualifying, and will be crucial for tomorrow’s race. Formula One’s rules state that no blown tyres will be replaced, and so Hamilton will go into Sunday with one crucial set of soft tyres missing from his arsenal.
Q2 Top Three
Sergio Perez, Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado, Sebastien Buemi, Bruno Senna, Jamie Alguersuari, Kamui Kobayshi
Q3 brought with it one of the biggest examples of catastrophic team orders I have seen in a long time.
For some unexplained and bizarre reason, McLaren and Ferrari queued for the green light!?
This meant that when they eventually took to the track, they did so on tyres that had been sat out of their heated blankets for seconds and in a procession!
Button led the pack and set the first time of 1:44:928. Behind him, Alonso suffered in dirty air, and behind that Lewis Hamilton was so anxious to pass Felipe Massa before the start of their hot lap that he almost crashed and ruined Massa’s lap anyway.
This was one of the dumbest things I have ever seen in F1. As two of the so called best teams in F1 pathetically fell over each other on track, Vettel and Webber calmly joined in free space and set painless laps.
Of course, Vettel shot straight to pole, and although Webber was P3, he still had plenty of time to set another lap time. This whole act of stupidity ruined any chance of a decent fight, as it soon became clear that Hamilton could only do one lap anyway due to his self-imposed tyre penalty, and in the end no one else had an answer for Vettel.
Force India and Michael Schumacher didn’t even bother to set a time, and whilst Button and Alonso tried to at least compete with Vettel, they were both probably so flabbergasted by their teams' decisions that Webber was able to set a comfortable P2 time.
Red Bull locked out the front row due in small part to driver skill, but in larger part to the incompetence of their competitors.
I really don’t expect much tomorrow. I have never and probably will never warm to the Singapore Grand Prix. Tomorrow’s race has a Vettel victory written all over it.
Everyone says that Alonso has great long-distance race pace, but it’s hard to see how he can make much of a difference from P5.
Hamilton’s race is pretty much screwed unless his desperate rain dances pay off.
Our best hopes may lay with Webber and Button. Fingers crossed for those two guys, eh!
1 Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault 1:44.381
2 Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault 1:44.732
3 Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.804
4 Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.809
5 Fernando Alonso, Ferrari 1:44.874
6 Felipe Massa, Ferrari 1:45.800
7 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP 1:46.013
8 Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP 1:46.043 (Q2 time)
9 Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes 1:47.093 (Q2 time)
10 Paul Di Resta, Force India-Mercedes 1:47.486 (Q2 time)
11 Sergio Perez, Sauber 1:47.616
12 Rubens Barrichello, Williams-Cosworth 1:48.082
13 Pastor Maldonado, Williams-Cosworth 1:48.270
14 Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:48.634
15 Bruno Senna, Renault 1:48.662
16 Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:49.862
17 Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber 1:48.054
18 Vitaly Petrov, Renault 1:49.835
19 Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus-Renault 1:50.948
20 Jarno Trulli, Lotus-Renault 1:51.012
21 Timo Glock, Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.154
22 Jerome d'Ambrosio, Virgin-Cosworth 1:52.363
23 Daniel Ricciardo, Hispania-Cosworth 1:52.404
24 Vitantonio Liuzzi, Hispania-Cosworth 1:52.810
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