Hamilton denies Ferrari pole for Singapore GP

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Photo by: www.kymilman.com/f1

With thirty points between them, Lewis Hamilton had a comfortable lead over his rival Sebastian Vettel. Vettel and his Ferrari have traditionally fared better than Lewis’s Mercedes at the Singapore Grand Prix but neither could ignore the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

The Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay is not a power-limited circuit but it’s very long and qualifying is very important. Ferrari led FP2 but Vettel tapped the wall late in the session trying to find the pace and limit as did his future teammate, Charles Leclerc.

Sebastian Vettel still had some understeer in FP3 that he was nursing around Singapore searching for car balance. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, seemed relatively planted during the session. Lewis also was nursing some understeer during the session so could the teams get both Ferrari and Mercedes more balanced for qualifying?

Q1

Haas F1’s Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were first out on track joined by Charles Leclerc. The Haas duo knew that Renault looked competitive in Singapore and had a lot of work to do to keep Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz behind them.

Initial runs found Leclerc ahead of Haas but that ended quickly with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen’s initial lap with two Force India’s behind him and his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, who had a tough sector 3 and only finished 4th.

Mercedes started their initial runs with Lewis Hamilton looking for his 4th pole position at Singapore (and 200th for a British driver in F1) but his first run was on the harder Ultrasoft while all others were on the Hypersoft. Lewis slotted in for 5th on his first run but it was Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who shoved his car onto the top of the list with his first run.

An interesting narrative from all Free Practice sessions was how competitive Renault could be on this street circuit and their initial runs on the Hypersoft tires saw Nico Hulkenberg move into 7th. Lewis Hamilton stayed on the Ultrasoft tires running multiple laps trying to improve his time and Mercedes rolled the dice and bet that he would be safe for Q2 but he narrowly made it.

Out in Q1- Vandoorne, Hartley, Magnussen, Stroll, Sirotkin

Q2

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came out fir his initial lap on the Ultrasfot tires while Mercedes started on the Hypersofts. Lewis set initial time of 1:37.344s with Vettel down in 4th on his harder tires. That time was eclipsed by Max Verstappen with Daniel Ricciardo in 3rd suggesting that like last year, Red Bull could be a bigger factor in this race. Ferrari’s look at the Ultrasoft in Q2 wasn’t going to be enough with most of the field ahead of them leaving them at risk of being knocked out.

A quick tire change to the Hypersoft and the Ferrari’s came back out to hoist themselves back up the order. Kimi quickly claimed top spot with a 1:37.194s and Sebastian Vettel got caught up in traffic during his hot lap to only finish 5th.

Out in Q2- Gasly, Ericsson, Leclerc, Sainz, Alonso

Q3

The expectation for Q3 was that Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull were all in play for pole position. Who would take their Hypersoft-shod cars to the top? A 6-way shootout for pole position began with Raikkonen, Hamilton and Vettel leading the way.

Kimi set provisional pole but Lewis, setting fastest sector times, jumped to the stop with a 1:36.015s with Verstappen in second and Vettel in third. Max three tenths behind Lewis and Sebastian six tenths behind him.

If the conventional wisdom was that Ferrari had the edge in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton did his best to refute that. Could Ferrari get a better out lap, generate more heat in their tires for grip and then make a run for pole? Was the slow out lap from Mercedes the reason Ferrari had less grip?

Kimi started his final run having had to pass two Mercedes on their slow out lap strategy but did he heat his tires enough? With Kim and Sebastian setting fast sector times, Kimi’s best effort only secured 5th and Sebastian could only muster 3rd with Verstappen in second. Concerns that Mercedes had about Ferrari’s pace may gave been unfounded as Lewis secured the 200th pole for a British driver. Vettel’s challenge was compounded with Verstappen stuck between him and his rival.

Singapore Qualifying Results:

PosDriverCarTimeGap
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1m36.015s
2Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault1m36.334s0.319s
3Sebastian VettelFerrari1m36.628s0.613s
4Valtteri BottasMercedes1m36.702s0.687s
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m36.794s0.779s
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault1m36.996s0.981s
7Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1m37.985s1.970s
8Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari1m38.320s2.305s
9Esteban OconForce India/Mercedes1m38.365s2.350s
10Nico HulkenbergRenault1m38.588s2.573s
11Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Renault1m38.641s
12Carlos SainzRenault1m38.716s
13Charles LeclercSauber/Ferrari1m38.747s
14Marcus EricssonSauber/Ferrari1m39.453s
15Pierre GaslyToro Rosso/Honda1m39.691s
16Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari1m39.644s
17Brendon HartleyToro Rosso/Honda1m39.809s
18Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren/Renault1m39.864s
19Sergey SirotkinWilliams/Mercedes1m41.263s
20Lance StrollWilliams/Mercedes1m41.334s
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jtr

Really disappointing run for Magnussen, not sure what happened with him. He said over and over again in his post-session interview that “we” just didn’t have the pace, like the car and team were really struggling this weekend. But Grosjean had plenty of pace, good for Q3 and 8th on the grid. The order between the two of them seems to have flipped lately after Grosjean’s early season slump. KMag better step up his game, considering what an a$$hole he seems to be, the team might find him to be more trouble than he’s worth if he isn’t getting it… Read more »

jakobusvdl

I’m not a fan of Hamilton, but my respect for his driving skills are growing now we’re seeing him in an inter team battle for the WDC. He certainly has been nailing qualifying, and taking the race win opportunities this season, and has opened a significant pace gap to Bottas.
The start should be ‘interesting’, with Ver-crash-en, and Vettel, both probably thinking that the first corner is going to be their best chance to get past Hamilton, and we know how well that worked out last year……

jakobusvdl

The intra team driver pace differences are interesting to compare. The street circuits really seem to exaggerate the differences.