Singapore F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Lewis Hamilton on Pole After Superb Lap

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 15, 2018

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 15: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 15, 2018 in Singapore.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Lars Baron/Getty Images

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton produced a stunning lap to qualify on pole position for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.

On a weekend where the Silver Arrows were expected to struggle, Hamilton turned in a remarkable lap of one minute, 36.015 seconds to top the standings. Red Bull's Max Verstappen was also in fine form to finish in second, while Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will need to fight back from third.

Earlier in the day, Vettel was quickest in final practice, recovering from the crash he suffered in FP2 on Friday.

The race at Marina Bay is poised to be a crucial one in the race for the drivers' title. Hamilton leads Vettel by 30 points going into the weekend, with seven races remaining in the 2018 season.

Here's a look at how things are shaping up for Sunday's race following a high-intensity qualifying session.

   

Qualifying Recap

Here is a look at the grid for Sunday's race:

While the first two phases of qualifying tend to be a breeze for the major teams, there was almost drama in Q1 on Saturday, as Hamilton found himself on the cusp of being eliminated at the first cut off.

In the end, he finished in 14th place during the stint and made it clear to his mechanics he was not happy with the condition of the car early on:

Meanwhile, following an inconsistent morning, Daniel Ricciardo's performance was much improved early in qualifying, as he topped the initial time sheets.

Having impressed throughout the buildup to qualifying Ferrari opted against putting the quickest tyres on for Q2, perhaps believing they could save a fresh set of the hypersofts for the final runs in Q3. It didn't prove to be a tactical masterclass, though.

After their initial runs Vettel was in 10th and just about in contention to make Q3, whereas Raikkonen pulled out of his lap, leaving him bottom.

With Mercedes and Red Bull safe at this point, it left Ferrari under pressure to do two more quicker laps. Raikkonen eventually went quickest with his second lap although Vettel had a much more nervous time, as he ran into traffic and was eventually fifth.

Despite the drama, it meant all the big names were in the mix in Q3. And Hamilton got the session off to a scintillating start, as he produced a remarkable 1:36.015 to go top. Vettel was around six tenths down on his rival, allowing Verstappen to sneak into second spot.

BBC's Andrew Benson was shocked to see Hamilton go so quick:

It laid down the gauntlet for the rest of the drivers to respond, but such was the standard of that opening lap, nobody could get near the world champion. Verstappen and Vettel started their laps quickly, but maintained their positions from the initial runs.

          

FP3 Recap

Here are the final standings from third practice in Singapore:

Having fared better than many anticipated on Friday around this tight street circuit, all eyes were on Mercedes on Saturday to see if they were able to live with the pace of Ferrari. But the Silver Arrows were happy to bide their time in FP3, as they were one of the last teams to post a timed lap.

Once again, it was Ferrari who set the early pace, with Vettel shooting to the top of the standings in the Marina Bay dusk.

The Pirelli Motorsport Twitter account outlined the unique challenges that racing at this time of day poses:

As Autosport Live noted, Vettel was a long way clear of the rest of the field with his opening timed lap:

Team-mate Raikkonen was able to cut the gap down to 0.362 seconds, although the rest of the field did appear to be floundering in an attempt to rein in the Ferraris. Hamilton, on his first timed lap, moved into third, almost seven tenths behind the leader. He eventually closed that gap to around half a second.

Per F1 journalist Luke Smith, Hamilton said he wasn't confident of finding the time needed to seriously challenge Vettel:

In the latter stages, all eyes were on the Red Bulls, as Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen put on the quickest tyre compound in an attempt to pressure the Mercedes pair. In the end, they had to make do with fifth and sixth, respectively.

With Raikkonen topping FP2 and Vettel dominant in FP3, it appears Ferrari are going to be difficult to get the better of in the scrap for pole position on Saturday.  

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