Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, beating Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo by over three tenths of a second. Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen was fourth as championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished fifth ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
The early pace in Q1 was set by Red Bull Racing, with Max Verstappen blasting past the opening P1 time of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by half a second. Daniel Ricciardo was following the Dutchman, however, and his time of 1:42.063 gave him top spot.
Verstappen was not to be denied, however, and after being edged out of second place by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, the Dutch driver posted a lap of 1:42.010 to take back first place. In the late stages Fernando Alonso put in an excellent lap of 1:42.086 to take third place ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and the second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne. Hamilton took sixth place, while the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel went through in 11th and 12th places respectively.
There was trouble, though, for Felipe Massa. The Williams driver got out of shape on the entry to Turn20 and hit the wall hard with the right rear three-quarter. The immediate result was a puncture and he limped back to the pits. He managed to get back out on track in the final stages of the session, but though his lap was a decent 1:44.014 it was not good enough to save him and he slotted into 16th place, which eventually turned into 17th as the final times came through.
It meant he was eliminated along with 16th-placed Kevin Magnussen of Haas, 18th-placed Williams team-mate Lance Stroll, who also clipped the wall on his final run and the Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.
The first runs in Q2 also saw Verstappen in control, with the Red Bull driver knocking Vettel off top spot with a lap of 1:40.379. Team-mate Ricciardo’s opening flier yielded a solid time of 1:40.776 to put the Australian driver third ahead of Räikkönen, Hamilton, Vandoorne, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Palmer.
In the drop zone as the final runs began were 11th-placed Alonso, followed by Force India’s Sergio Perez, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, the second Force India of Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
And Alonso was the only one to make a significant enough improvement to escape the drop. The Spaniard crossed the line in 1:41.442, which initially was good enough for eighth. As more lap times flowed in he dropped one place but the time was good enough for him to edge into the final session.
Out though went Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. The Briton was unable to improve and he finished in P11 ahead of Perez, Kvyat, Ocon and Grosjean.
At the top of the order, Verstappen found a marginal improvement to secure his hold on P1, the Dutch driver posting a time of 1:40.332 on his second run. Ricciardo improved too, to 1:40.385, to seal a Red Bull 1-2 in Q2 just over a tenth ahead of Räikkönen and with Vettel fourth. Hamilton was fifth ahead of the impressive Vandoorne, while Hulkenberg was seventh ahead of Bottas, Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz.
With Red Bull dominating, it might have been expected to see Verstappen to the fore again in the first runs in Q3. And the Red Bull man obliged with a P1 time of 1:40.814, with Ricciardo five hundredths of a second behind. Vettel, though, was pushing hard and the Ferrari driver stole past to take provisional pole by 0.145s.
Those three were the only drivers inside the 1m40s mark Räikkönen fourth on 1:40.069, a tenth clear of Hamilton and seven tenths ahead of fifth-placed Bottas.
And in the final runs, Vettel was inspired. The German found fractions of time right across the lap to cross the line in 1:39.491. Verstappen couldn’t compete and had to settle for second place with a time of 1:39.814. With Ricciardo heading into sector three and up on his team-mate it looked like Vettel’s time might be tested but the Australian lost time in sector three and finished third, the last man inside 1m40s, with a lap of 1:39.840, just 0.026s behind his team-mate.