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Rosberg takes Singapore pole

NEWS STORY
17/09/2016

In many ways, we are about to head into the great unknown.

This morning's session, due to the fact that it took place in daylight, has little relevance in terms of qualifying or the race, both of which take place at night.

That said, it gave us an inkling of who is hot and who isn't as well as throwing up a few of the issues to look out for.

While Nico Rosberg set the pace, Lewis Hamilton had another difficult session. Following his hydraulic leak in FP2, the Briton had a couple of moments earlier today, needing to take advantage of the escape road at T7 on both occasions. Fact is, he appears to be overdriving the car. Whether this is due to the increasing pressure from his teammate or memories of last year's debacle, the Briton does not appear at one with his car.

As expected, Red Bull is looking very strong, and appears most likely to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes. Furthermore, while the latest Renault update was originally only going to be available to Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo will now receive it, as will both Renault drivers.

Ferrari, much like Mercedes, is a team experiencing mixed fortunes here. While Kimi Raikkonen has quietly got on with things, and is third overall, Sebastian Vettel was clearly unhappy this morning and returned to yesterday's settings.

Toro Rosso, which is running its two drivers with different aero packages, is looking strong, and following difficult races in Belgium and Italy the Faenza outfit, celebrating its 200th Grand Prix, could do with a good result here.

Force India looks to be doing its usual of relying on tyre strategy, and while Sergio Perez was a little off the mark earlier, the Silverstone-based team looks likely to have a better weekend here than rivals Williams, who have not looked convincing.

Though the weekend is still young, McLaren, which came here believing it was on the verge of becoming the fourth team, has to be mightily disappointed at the seeming lack of pace here. The situation was probably best summed up when Jenson Button asked where he was on the timesheets following his qualifying sim run earlier, told "P16", the Briton sighed "wow!".

With a number of updates, Haas must have coming here expecting great things. How disappointing therefore to hear Romain Grosjean claim that this was "the worst car" he has "driven in a very, very long time" at the end of this morning's session. That said, with Esteban Gutierrez looking quite at ease, are the French driver's problems all down to the car?

Despite the updated engine, Renault faces another difficult weekend, as do Sauber and Manor, all three hoping that Singapore springs one of its usual surprises especially tomorrow.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature is 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 33 degrees.

As is ever the case with street circuits, pole position is important, over the last five years the pole-man has gone on to win on four occasions.

The lights go green and Wehrlein leads the way, followed by Rosberg, Palmer, Ocon, Grosjean, Magnussen and Hamilton. All but the Manors, who are on softs, are on ultras.

On his first flying lap Rosberg locks-up in T2, meaning Hamilton is quicker in the first sector. The Briton maintains the pace in S2, and while Rosberg crosses the line at 45.316, his teammate responds with a 45.167.

Grosjean goes third (47.609), ahead of Palmer, Magnussen, Ericsson and Gutierrez.

Button posts 46.431 to go third, albeit 1.264s off the pace.

No sooner has Hulkenberg posted 46.081 to go third than, from out of nowhere, Massa produces a 46.056. Teammate Bottas posts 46.086 to bag fifth, thereby sandwiching the Force India.

A 45.499 sees Sainz go third only to be demoted by countryman Alonso who stops the clock at 45.473. The Toro Rosso driver is on the supers, while everyone else, bar his teammate, is on ultras.

Raikkonen goes quickest with a 44.964, with Verstappen going second (45.036) moments later.

"I think the front anti-roll bar is broken," warns Vettel as his first sector time is 5s off the pace.

Meanwhile, Ricciardo is on a hot lap, the Australian quickest in the first two sectors. At the line the Red Bull driver posts 44.255 to go quickest by 0.709. Vettel posts 49.116 to go twenty-second... the German and his aware that there simply isn't time to replace his anti-roll bar. Though he posts PBs in the first two sectors of his next lap it is clear something is very wrong, consequently he pits.

TV replay shows the German taking a number of corners on three wheels as his suspension appear to be seriously out of kilter. "It's just stupid, losing time," says Vettel.

While the crew gets to work, the demeanour suggests that the problem cannot be resolved in time.

As the flag is waved, Kvyat improves to fifth, while Hulkenberg appears to have missed the flag and may not be able to complete another lap.

Lots of PBs but no significant improvements... that said, Perez posts 45.204 to go fifth.

A year after taking pole here, Vettel will start from 22nd tomorrow as he fails to make it through to Q2, as do Magnussen, Nasr, Palmer, Wehrlein and Ocon.

Quickest is Ricciardo, ahead of Raikkonen, Verstappen, Hamilton, Button, Kvyat, Rosberg, Alonso, Gutierrez and Sainz.

Benefitting from Vettel's misfortune, Ericsson is first out for Q2, followed by the Mercedes duo.

"Will be interesting to see though if any teams go for supersoft as a starting tyre by using it to set their best times in Q2," says Pirelli, as the Red Bull duo appear to be doing just that.

Rosberg posts 43.020 while teammate Hamilton can only manage 43.471.

The Toro Rosso duo go third (Sainz) and fourth, only to be demoted when Raikkonen posts 44.159 to take third, albeit 1.139s off Rosberg's pace.

Ricciardo goes third (43.933) and Verstappen fourth (44.112), both over 0.9s off the pace.

The first runs completed, the drop zone comprises Button, Perez, Gutierrez, Alonso, Grosjean and Ericsson.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Singapore, here.

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1. Posted by Kico28n, 18/09/2016 3:42

"Ridiculous comment........"

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2. Posted by bfairey, 17/09/2016 17:46

"The fix is in MB want Rosberg to be the next WC.They dont like hearing God Save the Queen."

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