Sebastian Vettel thrives in Singapore


Sebastian Vettel after claiming pole position in Singapore on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images
Sebastian Vettel after claiming pole position in Singapore on Saturday. Pic/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel pulled out a scorching lap in the dying stages of Saturday’s qualifying session to seize pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver lapped the floodlit Marina Bay street circuit in one minute, 39.491 seconds, the fastest ever set around the 5-kilometer long track, in a dazzling display of speed.

Max Verstappen went second fastest and will start alongside Vettel on the front-row with his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo third.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, Vettel’s title rival, was only fifth ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The Briton, seeing a hat-trick of wins this weekend, seized the championship lead with victory at the last race in Monza.

But starting on the third row, with the Red Bulls and Kimi Raikkonen’s fourth-placed Ferrari between him and Vettel, Hamilton could well have to drive a race of damage limitation that could cost him his slim three-point advantage.

“I’m still full of adrenaline so maybe whatever I say doesn’t make any sense,” a breathless Vettel, who let out a loud whoop of joy over the team-radio, said immediately after qualifying.

“The car was tricky but it came alive and it was getting better and better as the night progressed, so really happy that we got it done.”

Saturday’s pole was the 49th of Vettel’s career and an unprecedented fourth at Singapore.

It could prove to be an especially crucial one with seven of the last nine races in the city-state won by the pole-sitter.

But the German, who also has an unprecedented four wins at the twisty track, initially did not seem to have the pace to seize the top-spot.

Red Bull had topped the timesheets in every session over the weekend.

With Verstappen even topping the opening two parts of qualifying, the former champions had looked on course to score their first front row lockout since the United States Grand Prix in 2013.

But Vettel put it all on the line when it really mattered, vaulting to the top of the timesheets during the final 12-minute pole-position shootout.

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Renault ahead of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, who put both McLaren’s in the top-ten a day after the Woking-based squad agreed to swap Honda power for Renault.

Carlos Sainz, set to move to the works Renault team next year, rounded out the top ten for Toro Rosso.

Force India’s Sergio Perez was 12th with teammate Esteban Ocon 14th.