WATCH: 'There is a giant lizard on the track' - Creature invades Singapore qualifying session
Published 17/09/2016 | 15:30
Nico Rosberg left a beleaguered Lewis Hamilton trailing in his wake after he secured pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix in emphatic fashion.
Rosberg, who will start his 200th Formula One race on Sunday, was a crushing seven tenths of a second faster than an off-colour Hamilton would could qualify only third at the Marina Bay street circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo split the championship rivals after he hauled his Red Bull on to the front row, albeit half a second adrift of Rosberg's outstanding lap.
Hamilton holds a slender two-point advantage over Rosberg, but by the time the chequered flag falls on Sunday he could find himself back behind his Mercedes team-mate in the championship race.
Rosberg, a winner of the last two grands prix, is enjoying a purple patch and his performance here on Saturday will surely rank as one of his best in the sport.
His quickest lap of one minute and 42.584 seconds, at a circuit where he has failed to finish on the podium since the very first staged here in 2008, will leave Hamilton scratching his head.
And with overtaking largely impossible under the lights, Rosberg will start as the firm favourite for what would be the eighth victory of a season which could yet herald his first title.
"I am definitely happy with that one for my 200th grand prix," said Rosberg. "Definitely one of my top three laps ever.
"I knew I had to give it everything and pull one out of the bag which is cool."
Hamilton added: "It has not been my weekend so far. Nico did a great job and he showed the potential of the car."
Sebastian Vettel may have won half of the eight races staged in Singapore, but he will be last on the grid on Sunday. The four-time world champion, a winner here last year, encountered a problem with his Ferrari.
"That's just stupid," Vettel moaned after he was sent out for a second time in Q1. "We are wasting time."
He aborted his second attempt, and while the Ferrari mechanics fiddled around with the back of his car they failed to resolve the issue. A frustrated Vettel took his gloves off before leaving the cockpit.
Marina Bay would have represented one of the German's best chances to secure a strong finish this season. Instead, he must look to defy history. Nobody has ever finished on the podium in Singapore after qualifying outside the top 15.
Work to do, then. The same can be said for Jenson Button, who will start only 13th on Sunday after his car stopped on the track in the closing stages of Q2.
The final seven rounds of the season could well be the last of Button's career after he announced in Italy that he will take a year out in 2017.
And after he finished outside the points in Monza a fortnight ago, and a disappointing qualifying session here, the 2009 world champion may be relieved to be out of the McLaren cockpit next year.
There was disappointing news for British rookie Jolyon Palmer, too. Palmer is running out of time to convince the Renault hierarchy that he warrants a second season in the sport, and he qualified only 19th.
The 25-year-old from Horsham, who has failed to score a point in his debut campaign, was out-qualified by his Renault team-mate Kevin Magnussen. The Dane starts two places above him.
Elsewhere, Max Verstappen qualified fourth with Kimi Raikkonen fifth. Fernando Alonso will start eighth for McLaren.
There was a very strange incident during qualifying which saw a large lizard walk across the track. startling Verstappen.
It's suspected that the large reptile was a Monitor Lizard, a common species in Singapore.