Lewis Hamilton took a widely predicted pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix today, but he was given a helping hand by Rubens Barrichello who crashed with 26 seconds remaining, when Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg were both on potentially better laps. They ended up second and third respectively.
It was an anti climactic ending to a session which was brought alive by the unexpected performance of Rosberg and the Red Bulls.
Hamilton felt that he had a couple of tenths over the others in any case.
“I came in today with a positive approach, ” said Hamilton. “My mechanics did a great job working until 10am repairing the car. A big thanks to them. The lap was really relaxed. The car has got better as the track has got grippier.”
Barrichello did a lot of damage to his car, which will put a lot of pressure on the Brawn mechanics tomorrow. The crash worked to his advantage as he was in 5th place at the time with Alonso and Glock possibly in a position to get ahead of him.
He had to change the gearbox before the session which means he will take a penalty and lose five grid places, but if he has to change the new one as well because it is damaged, he may be in even more trouble.
Ross Brawn called it a ‘disastrous’ session for his team, where they underestimated the opposition in Q2.
Hamilton was fastest in Q1, from Button while Giancarlo Fisichella dropped out at the first hurdle. He feels that he is far away from the limit of the car, doesn’t have the feeling for it. He seems to be struggling on braking in particular, perhaps due to the way the car brakes to harvest energy for KERS.
In Q2, Rosberg was blisteringly fast, while Button struggled. After the first runs he was in the drop zone and it didn’t improve from there. He ended up 12th. He looked uncomfortable with the car. He had taken a wrong direction on set up in the practice session and didn’t seem to have improved things much for qualifying.
“The problem was understeer,” said Button. ” We tried to change it but it meant that the bottom of the car was hitting the ground and I had a lock up. It’s been tough, we were quick in Q1. 12th on the grid is disastrous.”
Team mate Barrichello had an off, damaging the floor of his car, but recovered well to get through to Q3 on his final run.
Also in trouble in Q2 was the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. He was third in Q1, but his best wasn’t good enough.
This result, especially for Red Bull is an unexpected bonus, with Vettel in 2nd place and Webber 4th, it is an opportunity to get some point back from the Brawn drivers. This track should have suited Brawn better on paper, but the modifications to the Red Bull seem to have improved it on this track.
It is yet another twist in a fascinating season where it has been hard to be certain with predictions of how teams will go from track to track.
Nico Rosberg complained that he was cheated out of victory by Renault last year in Singapore, where he finished second to Fernando Alonso. Perhaps tomorrow he will have his chance to claim that elusive first win.