Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix with a sublime lap of the Marina Bay Street Circuit that left him three-tenths of a second clear of Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel could only manage third place.
In Q1, after Kimi Räikkönen set the early pace with a time of 1m:38.534s, Red Bull’s bypassed the Finn with a time of the 1m:38.153s. Verstappen then slotted into P3 with his opening lap of 1m:38.715s.
Vettel, who seemed to back out of his opening lap, then found clear air to post a time of 1m:38.218s. The was good enough for P2 behind Ricciardo. Haas’ Romain Grosjean then put in a time of 1m:38.685s to move Verstappen down to fifth, as the clock counted down towards the final runs.
In the drop zone as those runs began were McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and Williams’ drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.
It was Ericsson who made the jump to safety in the dying seconds. The Swede vaulted to P13, and that dropped Haas’ Kevin Magnussen to P16 and out of the session. Eliminated behind Magnussen were Hartley, Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Stroll.
The end of the session was nervous too for championship leader Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes elected to run the first session on ultrasoft tyres, and as better times came in from rivals in the closing stages, Hamilton plummeted down the order. Fortunately for the Briton, he dropped only as far as P14, and he was through to Q2.
In the second session, Ferrari sent Räikkönen and Vettel being out on ultrasoft tyres looking to set perhaps a time good enough to be able to start on the set.
Hamilton took the top spot with a time of 1m:37.344s, with Ricciardo slotting into P2. Verstappen then bypassed both with a lap of 1m:37.214s. Vettel, meanwhile, was lodged in 10th, while Räikkönen was all the way down in P15 and telling his team the ultrasoft was “just too slow”.
In the final runs, Räikkönen jumped to the top of the order with a time of 1m:37.194s. Vettel caught traffic on his run, and when Bottas improved to P3 after the flag, the Ferrari driver dropped to P6 behind Ricciardo.
Eliminated at the end of Q3 were McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in 11th place, followed by Renault’s Carlos Sainz, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc, his team-mate Ericsson and Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly.
In the first runs of Q3 Hamilton staked an early claim to pole position with a stunning lap of 1m:36.015s. Verstappen kept the championship leader in his sights by taking P2 with a time of 1m:36.344s and Vettel slotted into P3, although the German was almost six-tenths of a second behind title rival Hamilton.
And that was how the top six order stayed. Verstappen went quickest in the second sector on his final run, but he later said he was forced to back off in the last sector as he experienced an engine issue.
Vettel, too, began well, running quickest in the first sector but the lap slipped away from the German, and he had to settle for third place ahead of Bottas, Räikkönen and Ricciardo.
Seventh place went to Force India’s Sergio Pérez, with the Mexican finishing ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean, Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.
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