Sebastian Vettel earned pole position for the 2017 Singapore Formula One Grand Prix after finishing first in qualifying at Marina Bay on Saturday.
Vettel finished ahead of Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, while Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas found themselves thoroughly beaten, finishing in P5 and P6, respectively.
It means Vettel, a four-time winner in Singapore, has positioned himself to make up the ground on Hamilton in the drivers' championship standings.
Hamilton began the day with a three-point lead in the drivers' championship, but he and Mercedes had looked far from their best during practice sessions. Those problems were still present when Red Bull Racing left Hamilton and Bottas trailing at the end of Q1.
Alonso made good progress, despite going wide on the slippery final turn. Still, the Spaniard managed to get among the fastest early times, per the Formula 1 official Twitter account:
There was trouble for Felipe Massa during Q1 when the Williams driver suffered a punctured tyre and broken wheel after colliding with a wall. Massa's issue was symptomatic of the challenges a slick track was presenting the drivers.
At the front, Verstappen and Ricciardo were setting the pace ahead of Hamilton entering the final sector. Red Bull's performance was buoyed by the competitive spirit between the team's top drivers, per Ben Edwards of Channel 4 F1:
By the end of Q1, Mercedes had also been overtaken by Alonso and McLaren. The result prompted surprise from Sky Sports F1:
Massa's crash saw him among the drivers eliminated before Q2. He was joined by Kevin Magnussen of Haas.
After being off the pace in Q1, Ferrari exerted themselves more. Vettel and Raikkonen surged ahead of Hamilton to briefly put Ferrari in the lead.
Yet neither could hold off Verstappen, who soon set the fastest time again. He also had Ricciardo for company, with his team-mate moving into third early on.
Hamilton had to settle for P5 after again struggling along the final sector of the track. Meanwhile, among those eliminated was Sergio Perez of Force India, along with an angry Daniil Kvyat:
Alonso led the drivers out for P3, with Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Hamilton all vying for pole. A dramatic finish saw Verstappen think he had secured another P1 finish, but Vettel immediately overtook him Vettel, posting a time merely one-tenth of a second quicker.
The second runs saw Vettel and Verstappen still deadlocked in the race for pole, but Ricciardo was also in contention. A slow middle sector for Verstappen ultimately doomed his bid to land pole, leaving Vettel to secure the vital spot after Ricciardo couldn't better his time.
Vettel was naturally euphoric after his win, but he remains aware of the challenges ahead:
Verstappen couldn't hide his disappointment but still sounded confident ahead of the race proper on Sunday:
The day had started with Verstappen setting the pace in the third and final practice session:
He finished a shade ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton third. The fact there was a mere 0.1 seconds separating the three drivers provided scant confidence for Red Bull Racing ahead of qualifying.
Even so, Verstappen and Ricciardo still did enough to prove Ferrari won't have all their own way on Sunday. Meanwhile, Mercedes have to be worried by Hamilton's struggles in qualifying.