Lewis Hamilton continued McLaren’s recent qualifying dominance, making it four poles from four races for the Woking team and underlining his value to them as he set an untouchable lap to claim pole position in Singapore ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Sebastian Vettel.
Following Vettel’s dominance of all free practice sessions Hamilton set the bar at an unbeatable height in the final part of qualifying to claim his 5th pole of 2012 and his 3rd in four races, by almost half a second. It is his 24th career pole position, matching that of Niki Lauda and Nelson Piquet and the fifth of his season.
“I’m very happy with pole position. It’s been a good weekend so far, but there are no points for today, and it’s going to be a long, tough race, so I still need to be cautious. I hope we’ve done the work we need to do to put us in a strong position for tomorrow – the key will just be to stay out of trouble and look after the tyres,” said Hamilton.
Maldonado once again showed his prowess for qualifying on circuits lined with walls and barriers; he pulled out a sensational lap join Hamilton on the front-row. The Venezuelan is looking to score his first points since his race victory in Barcelona in May. Formula One drivers are most often compared to their team mates and for Bruno Senna his weekend of woes continued as he made heavy contact with the wall in Q2 and couldn’t continue in the session.
Vettel put his lack of pace in Q3 down to not extracting the full potential of the car, which had he done so may have made for a closer fight for pole but not necessarily meant the current World Champion would take his 4th pole of 2012. The track ‘rubbered in’ considerably since final practice and the surface fell in to the laps of the McLaren drivers as they were poised, in provisional first and second after their first Q3 runs.
The recent upgrades on the Ferrari car could not allow Fernando Alonso to fight for pole position and the championship leader will begin the race in fifth position, while team mate Felipe Massa begins in 13th. Alonso only took one run in Q3 and will have an extra set of options for the race, should he need them for Ferrari’s strategy.
From the outset it looked to be a battle between Hamilton and Vettel, with Vettel being the fastest prime runner in Q1 and Hamilton going fastest of all in Q2. Come Q3, Hamilton continued his trait of setting a very fast lap on the first run and letting the others chase his time, which turned out to not be possible.
During the second runs Hamilton set another lap time which was fast enough for pole, although not quicker than his initial benchmark. The Briton has coped extremely well in recent weeks with pressure surrounding his employer next year, and unlike in 2011 he has used it to re-ignite his season. He is currently sitting just 37 points behind Alonso in the Championship and if tomorrow’s result was to be based on qualifying that would be cut to just 22 points.
In the Constructors’ race, McLaren sit 29 points behind Red Bull and with Jenson Button starting 4th with Mark Webber in 7th this gap could be closed on a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake on.
Filling the gap between Alonso and Webber is Paul Di Resta in 6th. The Force India driver, along with team mate Nico Hulkenberg, has looked solid all weekend and could be set for a good haul of points tomorrow. For Hulkenberg, qualifying did not go as planned and he missed out on a place in the final shoot-out by 3/100ths of a second.
Completing the top ten are Romain Grosjean and the Mercedes pairing of Schumacher and Rosberg. Grosjean was very lucky in Q2 to spin and make contact with the wall but avoid any sufficient damage. He was able to have a run in Q3 where he once again came extremely close to the barrier. The Mercedes cars did not complete a full lap in Q3, leaving themselves with an open strategy for tomorrow. It’s the most sensible move for the team as they only scraped in to Q3 in ninth and tenth and having to start on a set of scrubbed super-softs would not have got them very far in to the Grand Prix with their high-degredation woes.
Further down the grid there was a transformation in emotions for Kamui Kobyashi, the Sauber driver heading out of qualifying at the earliest stage after choosing not to take a set of super-softs. Just three weeks ago he began the Belgian Grand Prix from second.
And on the final row of the grid Karthikeyan got the better of De La Rosa for the second race in succession and lapped nearly a second faster than his veteran team mate.
[Additional reporting: Matt Meadows]
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Marina Bay, Qualifying
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m46.362s
2. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m46.804s + 0.442
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m46.905s + 0.543
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m46.939s + 0.577
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m47.216s + 0.854
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m47.241s + 0.879
7. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m47.475s + 1.113
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m47.788s + 1.426
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m47.975s + 1.310
12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m48.261s + 1.596
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m48.344s + 1.679
14. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m48.505s + 1.840
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m48.774s + 2.109
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m48.849s + 2.184
17. Bruno Senna Williams no time
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m49.933s + 2.245
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m50.846s + 3.158
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m51.137s + 3.449
21. Timo Glock Marussia 1m51.370s + 3.682
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m51.762s + 4.074
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m52.372s + 4.684
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m53.355s + 5.667