Sebastian Vettel hung on to take his fifth pole of the 2013 Formula 1 season in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying.
The Red Bull driver opted to do just one Q3 run as his initial 1m42.841s lap put him 0.6 of a second clear of his rivals. He had also outpaced the pack by nearly a second in Q2.
Vettel’s casual approach to the pole shootout almost proved costly, as first Mark Webber, then Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean all hinted at pole pace on their second shots.
In the end, they all fell short. Rosberg’s Mercedes came closest, 0.091 second down on Vettel, who is separated from teammate Webber by Grosjean’s Lotus.
Lewis Hamilton was only fifth in the second Mercedes, while the Ferraris were down in sixth and seventh, with the departing Felipe Massa ahead of team leader Fernando Alonso again. Massa had earlier only just made it beyond Q1 having encountered traffic at the wrong moment.
It emerged just before qualifying that Kimi Raikkonen was struggling with back pain and that Lotus had been sufficiently concerned to get reserve driver Davide Valsecchi prepared. The Finn only managed to qualify 13th, lapping 0.7sec slower than teammate Grosjean in Q2. It remains unclear whether his race participation is in jeopardy.
Esteban Gutierrez was among the stars of qualifying as he put aside recent Saturday woes to reach Q3 for the first time, having first hauled himself out of Q1 at the last moment. His Sauber teammate Nico Hulkenberg was overshadowed for once and is only 11th on the grid.
Sauber was not the only team to have one driver either side of the Q2/Q3 divide.
Jenson Button sneaked into the top 10 for McLaren by just 0.058sec and took eighth, while the under-pressure Sergio Perez was down in 14th.
Jean-Eric Vergne was within 0.091sec of joining Toro Rosso team-mate Daniel Ricciardo in Q3 but will start 12th, three places behind the Australian.
Gutierrez and Massa’s late jumps in Q1 caught out Paul di Resta, who was already in the pits and pushed back to 17th. Teammate Adrian Sutil only managed two places better.
Williams’s Pastor Malonado was also knocked out in Q1, though teammate Valtteri Bottas made it to Q2.
Caterham was again quicker than Marussia, Charles Pic coming out in front among the tail-end pack.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap 1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m42.841s 2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m42.932s +0.091s 3. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m43.058s +0.217s 4. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m43.152s +0.311s 5. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m43.254s +0.413s 6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m43.890s +1.049s 7. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m43.938s +1.097s 8. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.282s +1.441s 9. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.439s +1.598s 10. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari No time set Q2 cut-off time: 1m44.555s Gap **11. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m44.555s +1.650s 12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m44.588s +1.683s 13. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m44.658s +1.753s 14. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m44.752s +1.847s 15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m45.185s +2.280s 16. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m45.388s +2.483s Q1 cut-off time: 1m45.982s Gap * 17. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m46.121s +1.925s 18. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m46.619s +2.423s 19. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m48.111s +3.915s 20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1m48.320s +4.124s 21. Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.830s +4.634s 22. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m48.930s +4.734s 107% time: 1m51.489s * Gap to quickest in Q1 ** Gap to quickest in Q2