Sebastian Vettel bit his nails as he watched his rivals battle to beat his time in the final stages of qualifying, having opted to do one lap – a scintillating one at that – then hopped out of his Red Bull as the others gave it one more shot to knock the champion of his perch at the top of the timing screens and although they came close it was simply not enough.
Hopping out early was a risk, but a calculated one, which had it backfired would have been a sore point. But it did not and the time of 1:42.841 was good for pole position.
Clearly relieved, Vettel said afterwards, “It’s a weird feeling to stand in garage with two minutes to go, it’s much worse when you watch the others and there’s nothing you can do. I was watching the sectors times closely. Mark started with a purple sector and Nico and Romain then had a purple sector, but fortunately my last sector was strong enough. It was a great feeing, I’m very happy with the result. The car has been phenomenal all weekend.”
Credit to Nico Rosberg for digging deep and coming agonisingly close in the Mercedes, he was 0.091 seconds short of his fellow German’s best time of the weekend. Lewis Hamilton has also been known to pull one out the bag when it matters, but on a balmy night at Marina Bay Circuit it was not to be, and fifth was the best he could do.
Rosberg commented, “It’s unfortunate. Sebastian has been really quick the whole weekend. It was very close and it was a pity because one tenth more it would have been possible, but second is still a good result and gives us a good position to start the race tomorrow. We are confident about our race pace so I think a great result is possible.”
Romain Grosjean endured a torrid Friday but Saturday was another story altogether. The Lotus driver looking racy all day, and third place on the grid is a reward for a gutsy turning around of his fortunes. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen injured his back and was out of sorts during the session. He will start from 13th.
Grosjean said, “The car has been OK today and if we look at the number of laps we have done this weekend, it is not too bad. The team made a good decision for the strategy and it is good to be in the front for this grand prix.”
Raikkonen explained his situation, “This morning was very bad [for my back]. It wasn’t as bad in qualifying, but this morning I could not really drive and we didn’t get done what we wanted with the car. We’ll see how we get on in the race.”
Mark Webber looked strong in the first two sectors of his final run in Q3 but the final sector let him down and will line up fourth.
Felipe Massa struggled to find a setup that he felt comfortable with through until the end of FP3. Between the early session and qualifying the Brazilian and his engineer Rob Smedley arrived at a solution which allowed Massa to claim sixth spot on the grid, beating teammate Fernando Alonso who will start from seventh.
Jenson Button squeezed into Q3, and did a lap with the harder compound Pirelli bolted onto his McLaren and will start from eighth, with Daniel Ricciardo following suit in the Toro Rosso, and will start ninth.
Esteban Gutierrez shocked the establishment by not only making it into Q3 for the first time in his career, but also out qualifying his highly rated teammate Nico Hulkenberg. the pair will start 10th and 11th respectively.
Surprise early showers went to Paul di Resta in the Force India and Pastor Maldonado in the Williams. neither made it beyond Q1 while their teammates did.
Big hitter Q2 victims included Raikkonen and Hulkenberg as mentioned, but Sergio Perez would have expected to match his McLaren teammate who he had in his sights throughout the opractice sessions but fell short when it mattered.
At the foot of the grid, the Marussia pair will share the last row of the grid as they appeared to lack about half a second on their immediate rivals Caterham who will line-up just ahead of them.
Final word to Vettel who looks relentless in Singapore and his march to the fourth world title in four years is looking increasingly likely.
“It’s one of the toughest races we face all year, probably the toughest physically and mentally. One lap is so long, there is no room for mistakes, it’s very bumpy, and you can see we’re all sweating quite a lot even though we only did a few laps. Pole is the best position to start from as it is tricky to pass on this track but it’s such a long race, so there are plenty of opportunities for all of us – we usually get a safety car in this race, too,” mused Vettel. (GP247)
Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying at Marina Bay Circuit – 21 September 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:45.376||1:42.905||1:42.841|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:45.271||1:43.727||1:43.152|
|15||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:45.960||1:45.185|
|17||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:46.121|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:48.320|
|Q1 107% Time||1:51.489|