Lewis Hamilton shoots the lights out to take pole in Singapore
Defending F1 champion upsets the odds to take top spot on the grid
Lewis Hamilton during qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Photograph: Lars Baron/Getty Images
Lewis Hamilton upset the odds to put his Mercedes on pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix following a scintillating lap in qualifying.
Hamilton’s rival Sebastian Vettel had been the favourite to take the glory under the floodlights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
But the Ferrari driver, who trails Hamilton by 30 points in the championship, finished only third, with Max Verstappen second for Red Bull.
Hamilton headed into Saturday’s session having failed to trouble the top of the order in any of the three practice sessions here.
Indeed, the Singapore venue is supposed to be suited to Ferrari and a bogey track for Mercedes.
But the defending champion pulled out an astonishing lap to claim the 79th pole of his career, and finish a third of a second faster than Verstappen.
Vettel was an enormous six-tenths slower than his rival, while Valtteri Bottas in the sister Mercedes machinery finished three-quarters of a second down on Hamilton in fourth.
Starting from the front is crucial at this twisty and slow-speed temporary track, with seven pole-sitters of the 10 races contested in Singapore taking the chequered flag.
And moments after delivering yet another of his one-lap masterclasses, Hamilton was visibly shaking with the emotion of a performance which edges him ever closer to a fifth championship.
“Wow,” he said. “That lap felt like magic and I don’t know where it came from. It just all came together, and today I managed for that one lap to get it right.
“I am super overwhelmed and my heart is racing. I might have an anxiety attack in a second.
“It felt special. I don’t feel there was a moment in the lap where I ran wide or there were any problems. It felt like one of the best laps that I remember driving.”
A deflated Vettel added: “It is not ideal. We wanted to get pole and we didn’t.
“It was a messy qualifying session, and there was too much time missing. The laps were not good enough so it was not what we wanted.”
Fernando Alonso, entering the swansong of his career, missed out on progressing to Q3 by just one-tenth of a second. McLaren informed Alonso he had qualified 11th.
“Nice,” the Spaniard, 37, replied. His team-mate, Stoffel Vandoorne, who will be replaced by British teenager Lando Norris next season, was more than a second down on Alonso and lines up in 18th for Sunday’s race.
Elsewhere, there was more misery for British team Williams after Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll finished 19th and last respectively.
The pair were an eye-watering 1.4 seconds slower than any other team.
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1min 36.015secs, 2 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:36.334, 3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:36.628, 4 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:36.702, 5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.794, 6 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:36.996, 7 Sergio Perez (Mex) Force India 1:37.985, 8 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:38.320, 9 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1:38.365, 10 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:38.588, 11 Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren 1:38.641, 12 Carlos Sainz (Esp) Renault 1:38.716, 13 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.747, 14 Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber-Ferrari 1:39.453, 15 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:39.691, 16 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:39.644, 17 Brendon Hartley (Nzl) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:39.809, 18 Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1:39.864, 19 Sergey Sirotkin (Rus) Williams 1:41.263, 20 Lance Stroll (Can) Williams 1:41.334