Lewis Hamilton claims shock pole position in Singapore
Singapore GP - Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton claims shock pole position in Singapore

15/09/2018

Lewis Hamilton took a surprise pole position ahead of Max Verstappen at the Singapore Grand Prix after producing a flawless lap in the final session of qualifying.

Hamilton's time of 1:36.015 was 0.319s clear of Verstappen and 0.613s quicker than pre-qualifying favourite Sebastian Vettel. The result turned the final practice results among the top here teams on their head, with Red Bull emerging as a threat as Ferrari's dominance dwindled.

Hamilton's lap was over three seconds quicker than last year's pole position time at the same circuit and centred around an impressive middle sector. Verstappen was the only driver who bettered Hamilton on that part of the lap and perhaps could have gone even quicker had he not ran wide in the final corner and dropped 0.125s to Hamilton in the final sector. The Red Bull driver's lap was even more impressive given that his engine was cutting out around the lap and had to run in a de-tuned state after persistent problems in FP3.

For the championship, the result is huge. Vettel came to Singapore expecting his Ferrari to suit the characteristics of the tight street circuit, but somewhere between final practice and qualifying the Ferrari's pace relative to Mercedes leaked away. With a 30-point deficit in the championship to Hamilton -- largely thanks to errors made earlier in the season -- Vettel needs a win this weekend more than he has at any other point in the year.

But not only will Vettel start from the second row of the grid, he will have to contend with Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas starting alongside him in fourth. The Finn was just 0.074s off beating Vettel to third and held a 0.092s margin to the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen in fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified sixth for Red Bull, 0.662s off teammate Verstappen, but comfortably clear of Sergio Perez in the Force India in seventh. Romain Grosjean will line up eighth on the grid for Haas ahead of the second Force India of Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg's Renault in tenth.

Fernando Alonso qualified 11th after missing out on a place in the top ten by just 0.107s. He will line up one place ahead of the man who will replace him at McLaren next year, Carlos Sainz, who had a scrappy second run in his Renault to set the 12th fastest time. The two Saubers will start 13th and 14th, although Charles Leclerc had a significant 0.7s margin over teammate Marcus Ericsson. Pierre Gasly was 15th fastest after failing to improve on his Q1 time in Q2.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on a place in Q2 by 0.030s to Gasly and will be disappointed to start 16th after setting a time 0.959s off Haas teammate Romain Grosjean in Q1. Brendon Hartley will start 17th in the second Toro Rosso after clocking a time 0.195s off teammate Gasly and 0.055s ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, who clipped the wall on the exit of Turn 21 with a scrappy lap in the McLaren.

Williams endured its worst qualifying performance in a year full of disappointing qualifying performances, with Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll setting times 1.4s off Vandoorne's lap. They will start on the back row of the grid and will have to hope carnage in the midfield opens an opportunity to move forwards on Sunday.

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