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Hamilton takes emphatic Singapore pole

NEWS STORY
15/09/2018

On the basis of this morning's final practice session, which saw Sebastian Vettel half-a-second quicker than title rival Lewis Hamilton, few would have bet against the German taking pole position.

However, as we know from experience, though he has enjoyed great success here, taking pole here doesn't necessarily mean he'll go on to win... just cast you mind back twelve months.

Nonetheless, with Kimi Raikkonen almost 0.2s quicker than Hamilton, Ferrari was looking good for a front row lock-out.

Though fifth and sixth, FP3 was hardly a walk in the park for Red Bull, Max Verstappen getting noticeably frustrated with his engine, at one point referring to it as "the product in the back of this car".

Romain Grosjean was best of the rest, but with 7th to 16th covered by just over a second, the midfield battle is going to be as fraught and unpredictable as ever.

Like Monaco and Hungary, the characteristics of this track mean a good qualifying position is vital, however, like the Principality any mistake will prove costly, as Charles Leclerc and Vettel have already discovered.

Traffic is also an issue, and as we headed into Q1, it was clear that anything could and probably would happen... indeed, just 15 minutes before the start of the session, work was ongoing on Vettel's car which was up on its stands, the issue thought to be electrics related.

Ahead of Q1, the air temperature was 29.3 degrees C, while the track temperature was 33.6.

In the moments before the lights went green, the cameras cut to Vettel who was sitting in his car raring to go... what electrical problem?

Grosjean was first out, followed by Magnussen, Perez and Leclerc, with Raikkonen an early riser. All on hypersofts.

Grosjean's benchmark of 1:39.946, was soon crushed by Raikkonen who crossed the line at 38.534, teammate Vettel only managing 39.126.

On the ultras, the only drivers to use them, the Mercedes pair went fifth (Hamilton) and eighteenth for Bottas who actually aborted his first run.

However, a 38.153 saw Ricciardo go top, the Australian - winner in Monaco remember - just 0.065s ahead of an improved Vettel. Verstappen posted 38.751 to go fourth.

With five minutes remaining, the drop zone comprised Vandoorne, Ericsson, Hartley, Stroll and Sirotkin.

Though Bottas eventually improved to seventh (39.291), Hamilton had slipped down to ninth and not entirely safe.

A late charge saw Grosjean go fourth with a 38.685, thereby demoting Hamilton to tenth.

Aware of the danger, Hamilton headed out again, but still on the ultras. However, he pitted without posting a time. While the team wanted him to do a fast lap he insisted he couldn't improve because of his tyres.

A 38.932 saw Hulkenberg go seventh, while Leclerc went tenth, demoting Hamilton to thirteenth.

Ericsson did a superb job in posting 39.366 to go thirteenth, demoting Hamilton to fourteenth, and escaping elimination by the skin of his teeth.

Quickest in Q1 was Ricciardo, ahead of Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso and Sainz.

We lost Magnussen, Hartley, Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Stroll.

Raikkonen kicked off Q2, the Finn emerging on the ultrasofts. Hamilton, on the other hand, opted for the hypers.

Making the cut on the ultras is a gamble, but it is one that clearly both Ferrari drivers are taking.

Raikkonen set the benchmark with a lowly 59.470, Hamilton getting serious with a 37.344. With Vettel only managing 38.854, it was clear the ultras weren't the way to go.

That said, with Bottas posting 38.425, it put Hamilton's effort in perspective.

However, as Raikkonen complained his tyres were "way too slow", Verstappen went quickest with a 37.214 and Ricciardo third (37.406).

The first wave saw Perez go fourth, ahead of Bottas, Hulkenberg, Ocon and Sainz.

With five minutes remaining the Ferraris headed back out, Raikkonen still to post a time.

The Finn was son on the pace, going quickest in S1 and maintaining the pace in S2. At the line he posted 37.194 to demote Verstappen to second.

With 1:30 remaining, Vettel began his hot lap, the German having dropped to 17th. Despite major traffic issues - including a Haas - the Ferrari driver posted a 37.876, which only good enough for fifth was enough to make the cut.

Bottas made a late improvement to third, while improvements from Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Ocon, meant bad news for Alonso, Sainz and Leclerc.

Quickest was Raikkonen, ahead of Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Vettel, Perez, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Ocon.

We lost Alonso, Sainz, Leclerc, Ericsson and Gasly.

Hamilton was first out of the trap for Q3, and in no time at all the Briton is joined by his rivals, among them Vettel and Raikkonen. The Finn was clearly in a hurry, opting to overtake Hamilton on the out lap.

Though Raikkonen was quick in S1, Hamilton went quicker. In S2 Raikkonen again set the pace, but again Hamilton went quicker. At the line the Finn posted 37.403, but moments later Hamilton responded with a 36.015, with Vettel posting 36.628 moments later. The Briton had pole with a 0.613s advantage.

A 36.334 saw Verstappen go second, with Bottas going fourth and Ricciardo sixth.

As the drivers headed back to the pits before the final assault, Grosjean headed out, the Haas driver relying on a single run.

Vettel called on his team to send him out at the right time and not in traffic.

With the track to himself, Grosjean posted 38.320, which put him seventh, best of the rest.

Raikkonen posted a PB in S1, while Hamilton was noticeably off the pace.

Vettel, however, went quickest in S1, the Ferrari driver hadn't given up.

A poor final sector meant Raikkonen didn't improve, while Vettel also lost time, albeit in S2.

Verstappen then went quickest in S2 while Vettel could only manage third (36.628).

Like Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel, Verstappen had a poor final sector, the Red Bull driver missing out on pole by 0.319.

Hamilton took pole, and along with it another step towards a fifth title.

With no grid penalties thus far, tomorrow's grid will see Hamilton start from pole, ahead of Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Perez, Grosjean, Ocon and Hulkenberg.

Alonso will start eleventh, ahead of Sainz, Leclerc, Ericsson, Gasly, Magnussen, Hartley, Vandoorne, Sirotkin and Stroll.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Singapore, here.

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