Sunday 21 January 2018

Vettel claims his 41st pole position in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel

Ian Parkes

Sebastian Vettel underlined his growing superiority by claiming the 41st pole position of his Formula One career ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Winner of the last two races in Belgium and Italy, and after taking the chequered flag for the last two years at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Vettel is on course to complete two separate hat-tricks on Sunday.

In posting an astonishing lap of one minute 42.841secs, a tenth of a second clear of Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, only mechanical failure can surely stop Vettel from his 33rd F1 triumph.

Under the bright lights of the track's 1,500 halogen lamps Vettel's dominance was such he did not bother attempting a second run in the closing top-10 shootout.

Instead, Vettel stood in the garage and watched the screens, biting his nails as Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber went quickest in the first sector, but could only finish fourth.

Rosberg was then fastest in the second sector, but ultimately missed out by 0.091secs, whilst Lotus' Romain Grosjean purpled the last part of the track, but will line up third.

Behind the leading quartet are Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa ahead of Fernando Alonso, the duo sixth and seventh, but with them a second behind Vettel.

McLaren's Jenson Button starts eighth ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo, with Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez 10th after out-qualifying team-mate Nico Hulkenberg for the first time this year.

After the middle 15-minute session, and after playing second best for once to Gutierrez, Hulkenberg will start 11th in his Sauber.

Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne lines up 12th, followed by Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, with the Finn suffering with a back problem team principal Eric Boullier described as "not 100 per cent".

Under pressure at McLaren, Sergio Perez could only manage 14th, with Force India's Adrian Suil and Valtteri Bottas in his Williams on row eight in 15th and 16th.

Paul Di Resta's wretched second half of the season continued as the Scot will start from 17th after failing to make it through the first 20-minute qualifying session for the fourth time this year in his Force India.

Di Resta, however, remained positive as he said: "We've not given ourselves the best chance, but whether that's good enough to fight through and score points we'll have to wait and see."

Di Resta will be joined on row nine by Williams' Pastor Maldonado, who a year ago at this circuit qualified second, further highlighting the slump in fortunes for the Venezuelan and the team.

Caterham again occupy row 10, with Charles Pic edging out Giedo van der Garde, whilst for the 12th consecutive race this year Marussia's Jules Bianchi out-qualified Max Chilton, albeit with just a tenth of a second between them.

Assessing his unusual situation in looking on as qualifying concluded, Vettel said: "It was weird standing in the garage with roughly two minutes to go.

"It then became much worse with the others making their final attempt and there's nothing you can do.

"I watched the sector times closely with Romain, Nico and Mark, but fortunately my last sector was strong enough to stay shead of Nico.

"In the end it was a great feeling because it could have gone wrong.

"Yesterday the gap to the others was a surprise, but today was more what we expected."

Coming so close to deposing Vettel from top spot, Rosberg said: "Seb has been really quick all weekend.

"It was very close in the end. One tenth (of a second) more would have been possible, but second is still a good result.

"We've good race pace and I'm very confident for tomorrow."

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