Lewis Hamilton delivered an outstanding performance to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, with title rival Sebastian Vettel only third behind Max Verstappen.
Hamilton produced what Mercedes described as “an epic lap” on his first run in Q3, posting a 1m36.015s to beat Vettel by over 0.6s. Verstappen’s opening attempt then split the pair, with an extremely impressive 1m36.334s.
In a sign of just how good the lap was, Hamilton aborted his second run in the knowledge he was not going to improve after a slight mistake, leaving Verstappen and Vettel to try and pull out something special to beat him. Each produced a fastest sector — Vettel in sector one and Verstappen in sector two — but were unable to improve on their previous attempts and Hamilton will start Sunday’s race with an excellent chance to extend his already substantial championship lead.
“That lap felt like magic,” a clearly emotional Hamilton said immediately after climbing out of the car. “I don’t really know where it came from but it all came together.”
Valtteri Bottas was fourth but nearly 0.7s adrift of his teammate, with Kimi Raikkonen over three quarters of a second off the pace in fifth and Daniel Ricciardo’s lap of 1m36.996s leaving him sixth.
Sergio Perez — who has scored in every Singapore Grand Prix he has started — will line up seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean, while Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten.
Ferrari originally attempted to try and advance on ultrasofts from Q2 but had to switch to hypersofts for their final runs. Although Vettel hit traffic, he was able to still make it safely through. Fernando Alonso dropped out in 11th place but will be the highest-placed car to choose which tire compound to start the race on, with the top ten all on hypersofts.
Carlos Sainz was eliminated in 12th and complained of having no grip, adding “It really pisses me off,” after missing out on a spot in Q3 by less than 0.2s.
The Sauber pair of Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson were 13th and 14th respectively, with Pierre Gasly starting from 15th after being unable to match his Q1 time in the second session.
The first part of qualifying was nervy for Hamilton, with the championship leader reporting that his rear tires had gone off as Mercedes attempted to advance on the ultrasoft compound. That meant Hamilton aborted his lap and slowly dropped down the order, eventually making it through in 14th place, just 0.2s clear of the drop zone.
Kevin Magnussen was less fortunate, dropping out after completing his final lap early and not putting together a clean run to be eliminated in 16th. Brendon Hartley was just over 0.15s slower than Magnussen and also dropped out, while Stoffel Vandoorne’s poor run of qualifying form continued. Vandoorne was 18th overall with what he complained was “such a messy lap,” extending his run of Q1 eliminations to eight consecutive races.
Williams was even worse off, however, as Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll ended up over 1.4s adrift of Vandoorne at the back of the field. Stroll ran wide in the middle sector to abort his final attempt, while Sirotkin kissed the wall at Turn 21 and ended up just 0.1s faster than his teammate.