Hamilton Too Cool For Rivals In Singapore Qualifying

In contrast to his 2011 form, Lewis Hamilton in 2012 seems to respond to pressure by doing his talking on the track and in style. In what looked like a battle between the Englishman and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel as the pair traded times in Q1 and Q2, Q3 saw Vettel not live up to the billing as the German finished the ten-minute shootout half a second away from Hamilton’s pole position lap. The performance of the McLaren driver was a clear indicator that speculation on his future employment is not affecting his displays on the race track.

It was an eventful session which had many drivers struggling for grip and sliding around the street track. Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean had brushes with the wall, with Senna’s car coming off worse and damaging his car which left him unable to set a laptime in Q2.

Finishing qualifying as the fastest man for the fifth time this season, it is the first time McLaren have achieved four pole positions in a row since Mika Hakkinen did so on his remarkable run of six consecutive poles in 1999, between the British Grand Prix in July and the Italian Grand Prix in September of that year.

Hamilton will be hoping to cut down on Fernando Alonso’s 37-point championship lead and starting the race from the front gives him the best chance of doing so. In a nod of thanks to his team, he was very happy to be sat on pole.

“The guys have done a fantastic job all week,” said Hamilton. “Sebastian [Vettel] was incredibly fast through most of the sessions so I’m very happy that I managed to pull that time out at the end.

“Trying to find a gap in qualifying is hard and making sure everything is up to temperature is hard too so I feel very fortunate that I got the time I needed.”

Maldonado has not scored a single point since his Spanish Grand Prix victory in May

Starting alongside him in a surprise second was Pastor Maldonado. The Venezuelan is starting the race from an equal career best from Barcelona, where he went on to win the Spanish Grand Prix. During Friday practice, Pastor said that the team looked some way off getting close to second quickest in qualifying, but during the hour-long session, they found the balance which allowed them such a high starting position.

I think we were working very hard because at the beginning of the weekend and during the practice we were a bit lost with the set-up,” he said.

“We were improving, especially in qualifying, and just trying to adapt the car to my style and we find naturally a very well balanced [car], especially in Q2 and then Q3.

“I’m really looking forward to the race because yesterday we showed very good pace, very consistent. So I think is going to be a good one for us this time!”

Maldonado has been involved in several on-track incidents this season, receiving numerous penalties for clashes with rivals and doing so again and again. Polesitter Hamilton made reference to this, saying that there was the potential for the championship standings to be affected should there be any similar occurrence.

“I am happy for Pastor, he has taken a lot of heat through the year and he is obviously very talented,” said Hamilton.

“I don’t want to get in his way and hopefully he doesn’t want to get in mine.

“As long as we get a good start we should be OK.

“I am sure he is aware that he has some championship contenders around him so it is not all or nothing and [he should be] getting some points for his team.”

Vettel had few smiles following posting only the third quickest time of the session

Sebastian Vettel spoke of his disappointment in failing to land pole position. The signs were positive as Red Bull appear to be back fighting at the front after a way-ward past few races. It looked like Vettel could get pole but, Vettel instead starts in third for which he could offer no explanation.

“Yes, a little disappointed, especially about Q3. I don’t know why we could not do the step,” said Vettel. “Third is a good position. It’s a long race tomorrow, a lot of things can happen.

“The pace is there but if you do not do the last step in qualifying it is a shame as the speed was there, but it didn’t come together in the end.”

“I don’t know, to be honest. I think the speed was there but we were not able to really improve. I was confident we could go quicker, somewhere lower in the 1m46s region.

“In Q2 we could just not pick up the speed and in the end I was struggling to pick up the lap I did in the beginning. A bit disappointed but the speed is there, the race is long. It is important to be in the right place at the right time.”

Alonso starts a few places down on his main title rivals

Admitting after Friday’s practice sessions that Ferrari were unlikely to be pole getters or race winners, Fernando Alonso’s words looked right as the Spaniard qualified fifth, close to a second off of the time for pole. He declared that McLaren had appeared very likely to be fastest and that a podium would be a realistic aim for the Scuderia.

“I think we must be happy with our position because we struggled all weekend,” said Alonso. “We were not quick enough in free practice, and not quick enough in qualifying. “I think the McLarens were unbeatable, at least for pole.”

“Starting fifth, on the inside, we have a good position to fight for the podium, which is maybe the maximum for the weekend,” he said.

“I think strategy will be a good path tomorrow. We also saw degradation was an issue last year so we need to take care with the tyres, the pitstops and the start.

“Many things can play in tomorrow – like the weather, we always hear a thunderstorm is a possibility. Let’s see tomorrow.”

Mark Webber may have tried to repeat what his team-mate Vettel did in Hockenheim as the Australian ran wide twice during Q3. He received a reprimand from the stewards for his actions as he was unable to offer them a “justifiable” reason for leaving the limits of the track. Vettel did the same during the race at the German Grand Prix and received a 20-second time penalty, the key difference being that Vettel overtook a driver whilst doing so.

Rosberg and Schumacher will be looking for a stronger race thanks to saving tyres in Q3

Much of their weekend has been spent running new updates as they seek to gain back their early season form, but Mercedes only set sector times in Q3 instead of setting a full laptime. The benefit of this being that they would start on the grid ahead of anyone who stayed in their garage for the session. Ross Brawn, team boss, and Michael Schumacher were in agreement that it was a wise option as it was available to them.

“I am reasonably pleased with our qualifying result, considering what we have seen this weekend,” said the German, who has struggled with brake issues. “Of course, we could have tried to make up one or two positions, although this would have been very difficult.

“However we decided to give up this possibility in favour of the fact that we now have a fresh set and free choice of tyres going into the race.

“We decided this strategy after the final practice session, and after seeing who made it into Q3, we went for it. Hopefully we can make the best of this choice tomorrow.”

Button doesn’t look like challenging his team-mate this weekend on current pace

Jenson Button was some way from the pace which won him his first McLaren pole and the man from Somerset admitted he still wasn’t happy with his car’s setup, adding that his team-mate had seemed to find the groove which Jenson cannot get into. With a long and possibly two-hour race ahead, he said that a win was not impossible.

“I found it tough,” Button said. “I am struggling, not finding my feet with the car, and with my timed lap with the rear going away quite quickly. You can hope for a win from there but the pace wasn’t there in qualifying for me so I hope the car is better in the race,” Button said.

“I think Lewis has found a good set-up and it works for him but for me it is not so good,” said Button.

“I think you can see that through [Pastor] Maldonado. I think they have got it together and you wouldn’t expect them to be so quick. If you get the right balance for the tyre you can be quick.”

Sauber are not optimistic on their race hopes

Other drivers struggling this weekend are the Sauber pairing. Sergio Perez start in 14th and 18th places respectively and both men said that this was down to new upgrades not working sufficiently.

“The main issue is that for some reason we didn’t get our new package to work,” said Perez. “This comes as a surprise because so far all the development steps have paid off. There is a lot of downforce missing.

“My last lap in Q2 was clear and I think I got the most out of it. We have tried a lot to improve the car’s set-up and everything else, but it didn’t work out.”

“We have tried everything but could not get rid of the huge oversteer,”said Kobayashi. “I have no confidence in the car and this is really the last thing you want to have to cope with on a street circuit. Given how the car is, I don’t see how I can recover in the race from where I am starting, but I will not give up, this is certain.”

Singapore GP Grid

Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.362s
2. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m46.804s + 0.442
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m46.905s + 0.543
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m46.939s + 0.577
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m47.216s + 0.854
6. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m47.241s + 0.879
7. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m47.475s + 1.113
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m47.788s + 1.426
9. Michael Schumacher Mercedes no time
10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes no time
11. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m47.975s + 1.310
12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m48.261s + 1.596
13. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m48.344s + 1.679
14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m48.505s + 1.840
15. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.774s + 2.109
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m48.849s + 2.184
17. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault no time
18. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m49.933s + 2.245
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m50.846s + 3.158
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m51.137s + 3.449
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.370s + 3.682
22. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m51.762s + 4.074
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m52.372s + 4.684
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m53.355s + 5.667

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