Singapore Quali Recap: Hamilton, Maldonado quickest as Red Bull slows its charge

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Hamilton won pole for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix under the lights, holding on to a fast lap even as Sebastian Vettel attempted to challenge near the end of Q3. Instead, Pastor Maldonado slid between the men who had fought over lap times all weekend, posting the second fastest time of the session. Vettel was third fastest, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso rounding out the fastest five. Hamilton did lightly kiss the wall on his final lap, which was slower than his earlier fastest lap of the session. Q1 was relatively normal, with Kamui Kobayashi joining the slower teams in the first knockout of qualifying, having been caught out by Di Resta and Grosjean’s early use of super soft tyres. Q2 saw a fight in the mid-field to move on to fight for pole, and both Senna and Grosjean hit the wall. Senna’s smash ended his day, while Grosjean managed to move on to Q3. Schumacher fought his Mercedes to push it into Q3, as the last man to cross the line in Q2.

Previous rain kept the street circuit damp when the first Friday session began. Few drivers ventured out early, though Alonso was quickest on the intermediate tyres once teams got down to work. In the end, Vettel (1:50.566) and Hamilton broke away from the field to set the fastest two times on the dry track. Only a tenth separated them, with Button, Alonso, and Maldonado rounding out the fastest five nearly a full second off Vettel’s pace. No driver crashed heavily despite the changing conditions, though Hamilton and others found the kerbing at Turn 10 a formidable obstacle. Hamilton ended his session a bit early, and no other driver was able to come close to either his or Vettel’s times.

The track was dry by the time the night session began, leaving Vettel (1:48.340) to take control once again. Senna disrupted the proceedings with a spin. Though he did not damage the car extensively, he could not get his Williams restarted and jogged away, leaving it for the marshals to cart away. After things got going again, most teams seemed focused on race and long distance work. Button, Alonso, Webber, and Hamilton completed the fastest five at the end of the session.

Vettel’s (1:47.947) practice domination continued, as he set the fastest time in the final Saturday practice. Crashes marred that session, as both Webber and Perez made a mess running into the Armco. Webber continued on, making back to the garage with a puncture. Petrov caused an early end to the practice, running into the barriers at the second to last corner and bringing out the red flags. Hamilton, Alonso, Hulkenberg, and Raikkonen completed the fastest five. At the end of the practice, Pic passed cars under the red flags, resulting in a twenty second addition to his race time on Sunday. He and his race engineer will also have to serve a day of community service at an FIA road safety course.

The lights shone off of shiny new helmet designs as the twenty minutes of Q1 began in the heat and humidity of Singapore. No one rushed out onto the circuit, though Perez was the first out followed by Raikkonen, Grosjean, and Di Resta. Many others soon followed suit. Pic and Glock headed straight out on the super soft tyres while the other drivers did so more typically on the soft tyres. Six minutes into the session, Maldonado (1:49.976) led Grosjean, Kobayashi, Vergne, Perez, Pic, and Rosberg. Immediately thereafter, Alonso shot to the top with his first fast lap, more than four tenths faster than the Venezuelan. Drivers continued to slot times into the order while Vettel and Webber remained strapped in, in the garage. Maldonado, then Rosberg popped up faster than Alonso as halfway approached.

Halfway through, Alonso (1:49.391) again led, over Rosberg, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Senna, Schumacher, Di Resta, Massa, Raikkonen, and Button the top ten. Hamilton had yet to set a competitive time, despite having posted four laps including his installation lap. Drivers began to return to their garages in preparation for the final valuable moments.

Hamilton, de la Rosa, Webber, Kovalainen, Petrov, and Vettel had all either set times out of the 107% or no time at all, with eight minutes remaining. Meanwhile, Schumacher leapt up to fourth and Massa sixth. Hamilton (1:148.285) finally posted a fast time, going fastest of all. Button slotted in behind his teammate, just over a second slower than his teammate. That order would last only seconds as Webber split the McLarens, then Vettel went faster than his own teammate. After that point, all drivers had managed a time within the 107% rule. Meanwhile, the stewards opened an investigation regarding some blocking between Webber and Glock, with the presumable blocking coming from Webber.

Vergne, Kobayashi, Kovalainen, Glock, Pic, Karthikeyan, and de la Rosa were all in the knockout zone when five minutes remained. Hamilton led Vettel, Webber, Button, and Alonso as the fastest five. Though Red Bull felt safe, they informed Vettel that he had to do another lap to be safe. On the super soft tyres, Raikkonen pushed to go fastest of all, only to have Di Resta then Grosjean do the same after switching tyre compounds. That began to scare many engineers, as Schumacher sat twelfth, and Massa had slid down to fourteenth. Kobayashi had moved up and out of the relegation zone, but Petrov, Vergne, Kovalainen, Glock, Pic, Karthikeyan, and de la Rosa were are about to be knock out of qualifying with a minute remaining.

In the final minute, Vergne moved up in the order, but teammate Ricciardo made himself safe up in seventh. That put Senna on the bubble and Kobayashi into the relegation zone. Senna aborted his final lap after brushing the wall. He remained safe. At the end of the session, Grosjean (1:47.688) led on the super softs, over Di Resta, Raikkonen, Vettel, Hamilton, Webber, Ricciardo, Perez, Button, and Alonso the top ten. Schumacher was safe in thirteenth, and Massa the same in sixteenth.

Knocked Out in Q1:
18. Kamui Kobayashi
19. Vitaly Petrov
20. Heikki Kovalainen
21. Timo Glock
22. Charles Pic
23. Narain Karthikeyan
24. Pedro de la Rosa

Raikkonen went straight out for the fifteen minutes of Q2, followed by Grosjean. Both Lotus drivers were shod with the super soft tyres that ended Q1. Alonso and Perez quickly followed, as did another handful of drivers. Raikkonen’s first time was a decently competitive 1:48.169. Meanwhile, Grosjean slid into the wall, thumping his rear into the wall. Alonso (1:48.058) led over Raikkonen, Massa, Di Resta, and Perez when ten minutes remained. Webber soon went second fastest. As the seconds ticked away, Senna also had an incident, hitting the wall just before the pit entrance and severely damaging the right rear of his Williams.

At halfway, Hamilton (1:46.665) led Vettel, Button, Alonso, Webber, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Maldonado, Massa, and Di Resta. Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Perez, Ricciardo, Vergne, Grosjean, and Senna were all in the knockout zone. Neither Grosjean nor Senna had set a time. Everyone but Schumacher returned to the garage when six minutes remained. The German pitted as Grosjean rejoined, followed by teammate Raikkonen.

Only Lotus populated the circuit with five minutes to go, though Di Resta soon followed. Other drivers were trickling out of the garages as the moments ticked away.  Hamilton Vettel, and Button were the top three and they remained in the garage with two minutes to go. Grosjean quickly split Button away from the top two. Drivers began their final laps as the last minute began, pushing hard to move forward to the fight for pole.

Hulkenberg moved up to sixth, with time for another lap in the final seconds. Button aborted his final lap form fifth, after Webber went third. Maldonado moved up to move forward. Raikkonen was unable to improve, as was Massa. Both were knocked out. Schumacher managed to fly into ninth as the last man across the line. Hamilton (1:46.665) led Vettel, Webber, Grosjean, Alonso, Maldonado, Button, Di Resta, Schumacher, and Rosberg as the men heading into Q3.

Knocked Out in Q2:
11. Nico Hulkenberg
12. Kimi Raikkonen
13. Felipe Massa
14. Sergio Perez
15. Daniel Ricciardo
16. Jean-Eric Vergne
17. Bruno Senna


A queue formed behind Rosberg to be out onto the track right away for the ten minutes of Q3. Only Alonso and Grosjean remained in the garage. Due to the queue, the drivers were bunched together. Di Resta returned to the garage after his installation lap, leaving Hamilton to post the fastest first sector time. Button continued the McLaren pace with a fastest overall second sector, only to have Hamilton better his time. Button (1:47.238) set the first time, only to have Hamilton supplant it by nearly a second. Vettel slotted into third, four tenths slower than Button.

Everyone else had returned to the garage without setting a full lap time as halfway arrived. Grosjean rejoined first, followed by Maldonado a minute later. Alonso left the pit lane on new super soft tyres, followed immediately by Webber. Vettel followed his teammate with two and a half minutes left. Again, the drivers left in something of a pack as the final frantic two minutes began.

Only Schumacher and Rosberg remained, seemingly willing to sit on their sector times. Grosjean’s first lap was a bit dodgy, as the Frenchman pushed hard and slid the rear a few times. He was only fourth fastest. Alonso’s first sector was not particularly quick, but the spotlight was on Maldonado as he took the checkered flag for a provisional second place. Alonso slotted into third, with Vettel still behind. Webber managed only fifth, dropping Di Resta into sixth. Vettel managed only third, as Button’s lap put him fourth fastest. In the end, Hamilton led Maldonado, Vettel, Button, and Alonso as the fastest five. Neither Mercedes driver set a full lap time.

Final Qualifying Times for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix:

1. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1:46.36214
2. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1:46.80417
3. Sebastian VettelRed Bull1:46.90514
4. Jenson ButtonMcLaren1:47.93915
5. Fernando AlonsoFerrari1:47.21614
6. Paul Di RestaForce India1:47.24118
7. Mark Webber*Red Bull1:47.47517
8. Romain GrosjeanLotus1:47.78816
9. Michael SchumacherMercedesn/t14
10. Nico RosbergMercedesn/t13
11. Nico HulkenbergForce India1:47.97512
12. Kimi RaikkonanLotus1:48.26114
13. Felipe MassaFerrari1:48.34412
14. Sergio PerezSauber1:48.50514
15. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1:48.77413
16. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1:48.84914
17. Bruno SennaWilliamsn/t10
18. Kamui KobayashiSauber1:49.9338
19. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1:50.8466
20. Heikki KovalainenCaterham1:51.1376
21. Timo GlockMarussia1:51.3708
22. Charles PicMarussia1:51.7628
23. Narain KarthikeyanHRT1:52.3727
24. Pedro de la RosaHRT1:53.3557

*under stewards’ investigation for blocking

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