Singapore GP Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole in fine style
22 September, 2012
Sep.22 (GP247) Lewis Hamilton delivered one of the most impressive qualifying laps of his stellar career to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix in fine style on a balmy night, at the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit.
It was Hamilton’s 24th F1 career pole position, and with it he became the first driver to start from top spot on the grid in Singapore more than once. The McLaren driver looked set to slug it out with world champion Sebastian Vettel in Q3, as the two were clearly head and shoulders above the rest. Hamilton dug deep to pull out a stunning lap – 1 minute 46.362 seconds – which in the end was nearly half a second better than the next best.
Hamilton emerged from his car clearly content, but there was no celebration, no jumping up on the car, but the message to his team was loud and clear.
He spoke afterwards, “The guys have done a fantastic job all week. Sebastian [Vettel] was incredibly fast through most of the sessions so I’m very happy that I managed to pull that time out at the end. Trying to find a gap in qualifying is hard and making sure everything is up to temperature is hard too, so I feel very fortunate that I got the time [that] I needed.”
Second on the timing sheets, at the end of Q3, was not Vettel but Williams driver Pastor Maldonado who makes no secret of his love for street circuits. The Venezuelan delivered a lap from out the blue, which also sent a clear message to all his critics.
“I think we were working very hard. At the beginning of the weekend, we were a little bit lost with set up. We were improving as qualifying went on, trying to adapt the car to my style. We found a well balanced car in Q2 and Q3. I’m really looking forward to the race. Yesterday we showed good pace so I think the race is going to be a good one for us this time,” said Maldonado.
Vettel was mystified why in Q3 he could not deliver in the Red Bull. He was fastest in all free practice sessions prior to qualifying, but when it mattered in the last ten minutes of the session he was only good for third fastest.
“I’m a little disappointed, especially with Q3. Nevertheless it’s a good place to start from on the grid. The pace is there within the car but we didn’t do the last step in qualifying and it’s a shame it didn’t come together at the end,” reflected Vettel.
Jenson Button was unable to match the raw pace of his teammate, but was satisfied with fourth on the grid, albeit a second down on Hamilton.
World championship leader Fernando Alonso clearly did not have the car to match Red Bull or McLaren, but as is his custom he went beyond the call of duty to take fifth place on the grid for Ferrari. In comparison, his teammate Felipe Massa failed to make it beyond Q3, being nearly a second slower than the Spaniard. Massa will start 13th.
Alonso said: “We must be happy with the position, we’re striving all we can, but we were not quick enough in practice or qualifying. The McLarens were unreachable so I would like to be in the podium tomorrow and that’s the best we can wish for.”
Force India’s Paul Di Resta impressed with a strong showing throughout the session, making it into Q3 while his teammate Nico Hulkenberg did not. Di Resta will start from sixth, with Hulkenberg a few rows back in 11th.
Di Resta commented, “It’s very hot out there. We were relatively confident with the car and it was a good qualifying session for us ahead of tomorrow. We always want to push, but being realistic, I would be happy with sixth at the finish. You can just be hopeful that we’re currently in a good points position and hopefully I can stay in that position until the end of the weekend.”
Hulkenberg would have been expecting better, and summed up his evening, “Yes I’m surprised [to miss out on Q3], but I think I know the reason. I’m pretty frustrated. The first run in Q2 was compromised because we went out late and I had to slow to let guys who were on hot laps past. My tyre temperatures dropped as a result so I couldn’t get a feel for the grip level which affects the laps. We had a Q3 car today for sure. It’s a shame.”
Much like the McLaren boys there was a gulf between the two Red Bull drivers. Mark Webber was nearly a second down on Vettel’s best, the Aussie ending seventh fastest.
Romain Grosjean, on his return from a one race ban, out qualified his Lotus teammate Kimi Raikkonen on his way to eighth on the grid. The Frenchman was pushing really hard on his final run and scraping paint off the walls in the process.
Raikkonen on the other hand never seemed to get to grips with the E20 around the twists and bumps of Marina Bay. He will start 12th after failing to make it into Q3.
Rounding out the top ten were the Mercedes duo, with Michael Schumacher again outqualifying Nico Rosberg. They ended ninth and tenth respectively and will share the fifth row on the grid.
Schumacher reflected, “We played a bit of a strategy game compared to others and we hope it will pay off tomorrow. We looked at who was in Q3 and opted to go with the strategy. We didn’t have a good day yesterday but we definitely improved today.”
Bruno Senna was the only casualty of the walls surrounding the downtown circuit. He slammed the wall in Turn 21 – the second time in as many days he has returned his Williams back to the pits needing some major repairs – and will start 17th. With his teammate on the front row, this weekend he will have done nothing to improve his plummeting shares.
The Brazilian explained, “I was pushing too hard and on tracks like this they don’t forgive mistakes, but we’ve got to keep positive for the race. If Pastor is in the top 10 we have good pace for the race. It’s not easy to overtake but we have to push hard tomorrow to get some points from it.”
Last word to McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh: “Sebastian has looked very strong all weekend but Lewis timed it well to come good. It’s a great place to start for Jenson too, he may be a bit disappointed, but he kept it cool and he’s on the second row.”
Subbed by AJN.
Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying – Saturday, 22 September 2012
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:48.240||1:46.791||1:46.905||14|
|6||11||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:48.028||1:47.667||1:47.241||18|
|7||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:48.717||1:47.513||1:47.475||17|
|11||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:49.547||1:47.975||12|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT-Cosworth||1:53.355||7|
|Q1 107% Time||1:55.226|
Note: De la Rosa drops five grid spots for an unscheduled gearbox change.
- Williams: We need to find more performance from the car
- Williams: We’ll be fighting as hard as we can to bring home some points
- Williams: On the Mediums we still struggled for grip with both cars
- Senna suffered burns in Singapore
- Maldonado: Hopefully it’s going to be a good one for us this time
- Williams: Qualifying result a very welcome boost to the whole team
- Williams: Our FP2 programme was somewhat curtailed
- Singapore Grand Prix: Williams previews Marina Bay
- Williams: It’s bittersweet as the car was quick
- Williams: We still have some work to do with the car in terms of performance