Lewis Hamilton Scorches To Pole For Singapore Grand Prix

Formula One World Championship

Lewis Hamilton surprised himself by finding ideal lines to take pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix, while title rival Sebastian Vettel had to settle for third on Saturday.

Hamilton's first lap in final qualifying, described by his race engineer as "epic", was enough despite failing to improve on his second run.

"That lap felt like magic", the world champion said. "I don't know where it came from".

The Marina Bay Circuit is one where the Mercedes is not usually at their strongest, but they got the win previous year after the Turn 1 collision which took Kimi Raikkonen, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel out of the race.

Vettel was on course to challenge Raikkonen for top spot in second practice but contact with the barriers on the exit of Turn 22 forced him to abort his one and only lap on the hyper-soft tyres.

"Obviously the gap if you look at it is a surprise but I don't think it reflects the true performance".

"We got through our programme, tried some different options and got some good results from it", said championship leader Hamilton of the Silver Arrows' promising Friday work.

"It was a messy qualifying session and there was too much time missing so we didn't get any better than third", he added. Mercedes have traditionally struggled at Singapore, and Ferrari came into the weekend as strong favourites.

The wins suggest that Mercedes do go well here, but they are right in suggesting that...

This time, though, the Silver Arrows seem to have the pace, with Hamilton just 0.011s slower than Raikkonen in FP2.

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Ferrari had their own problems in qualifying. That's including Lewis' lap as an individual but also them as a team.

"Qualifying wasn't as smooth as it should have been", he said. The second lap I tried to obviously go that little bit more, just half a metre braking later, but it was just too much and the auto wasn't going to have it, so I really do feel I got absolutely everything possible on that first lap. The gap is quite big but I am not anxious about that. In FP3 there were just so many problems - I was going into forced neutral, the auto was just stopping on the track and while driving on my fast laps it was bogging down.

Hamilton promptly put in a fizzing flying lap, of 1:36.015, pushing Vettel into third and Raikkonen into sixth.

"Other people did a better job", a despondent Vettel said, appearing to question his team's decision-making.

But he doubted he could have beaten Hamilton's time. They are accompanied by Romain Grosjean of Haas-who out-qualified his teammate Kevin Magnussen by 1.3 seconds-and Nico Hülkenberg of Renault, who squeezed McLaren driver Fernando Alonso out of Q3 at the last minute. In doing so, Hamilton secured a record-extending 79th pole in Formula One and 200th for a British driver.

Not even Hamilton's boss, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, could quite believe what he had just seen.

"The only thing I can say is that it was a great qualifying, the best I have ever done and the auto was working really well. We were half a second behind these guys and I was thinking there was no way I'm going to be able to find half a second".

"The track is incredible", gushed Hamilton, last year's Singapore race victor. And Sebastian tried to speed up, and then I locked up and I was going to hit him, so I had to shove to the left to avoid him and killed my tyre.

"The second lap I tried to go that little bit more - just half a meter braking later, but it was just too much and the auto wasn't going to have it".

"I was nervous at the end but I am so grateful".

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