Vettel takes Singapore pole as Mercedes slump

Sebastian Vettel took his first pole position as a Ferrari driver and the team’s first since the German Grand Prix of 2012 with a dominant performance in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The German will be joined on the front row by former Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian taking his best qualifying position since last year’s Chinese Grand Prix. Kimi Räikkönen was third fastest for Ferrari ahead of the second Red Bull of Daniil Kvyat as Mercedes were soundly beaten. Lewis Hamilton was fifth, though he was almost 1.5s behind Vettel. Nico Rosberg was sixth.

Q1 saw Ricciardo make the early headway with a time of 1:46.805, but nine minutes into the segment Vettel jumped to the top of the timesheet, eclipsing the Red Bull driver by seven tenths of a second.

With just a few minutes remaining, most of the field opted to switch to the quicker supersofts, including, unusually, the Mercedes drivers and Hamilton was quickly into P1 with a time of 1:45.765s.

The Ferraris though were still looking quick on the prime tyre and while Kvyat eventually took P1 on the supersoft with a time of 1:45.340, with Hamilton in P2, Vettel made it through to Q2 in third place with a time of 1:46.017, just 0.677 off Kvyat and having only used the soft tyre.

Daniel Ricciardo also made it through to the second phase on the soft tyre and his time of 1:46.166 was good enough for fourth place ahead of Rosberg. The only other driver to save a set of supersoft tyres was Ferrari’s Räikkönen who progressed in P8, behind Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz.

At the bottom end of the order the Manors of Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi were eliminated in P19 and P20 respectively, with Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr also exiting at this stage. McLaren’s Jenson Button made it through in P15, though he was just 0.074 ahead of Nasr.

At the end of Q2’s opening salvoes, Vettel was quickest, having vaulted to P1 with the last of the opening runs. The Ferrari driver’s 1:44.743 put him ahead of Kvyat, with Räikkönen third ahead of Ricciardo, Hamilton and Rosberg. In the drop zone were Force India’s Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, in P11 and P12, followed by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, Sainz and 15th-placed Button.

And at the end of the final runs none escaped the drop, though Hulkenberg climbed to P11 with a lap of 1:46.305, though that was still four tenths of a second adrift of Valtteri Bottas’ P9 time. Behind Hulkenberg, P12 went to Alonso who finished ahead of Perez, Sainz and Button. Sainz prevented any further improvements when he clipped the wall and scattered debris across the track.

At the top of the order the Ferraris and Red Bulls opted to forego a second run, while Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen jumped to fifth ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg.

The first runs in Q3 saw Vettel quickest once more, with the German setting an opening run time of 1:44.305 to sit ahead of former Red bull team-mate Ricciardo who was three tenths adrift of the four-time world champion. Räikkönen was third ahead of Kvyat with Rosberg fifth. Hamilton, meanwhile, was down in ninth place having run wide over a kerb at Turn Seven, an error that forced him to abort his first flying lap.

In the end, Vettel’s opening lap was good enough. Ricciardo improved but couldn’t pass the Ferrari driver’s benchmarch and he settled for second.

Vettel got down to a 1:43.885s, 0.543s clear of the Red Bull driver to take his first pole position since Brazil 2012. Raikkonen and Kvyat had to settle for third and fourth with Hamilton and Rosberg to start the Mercedes from row three. Behind them Bottas took seventh ahead of Verstappen, Massa and Grosjean.


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