F1 Qualifying Analysis: Missed opportunities allow Hamilton to rule again

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Today’s qualifying session for the Singapore Grand Prix was something of an anti-climax. After all of the signs suggested that Mercedes may face some serious competition in the fight for pole position, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg resumed normal service by locking out the front row of the grid.

However, it wasn’t that the competition faded away in the final part of Q3. Instead, Mercedes did what Mercedes does best: dominate. Two fine final laps from both Lewis and Nico gave the Silver Arrows a well deserved front row, with just 0.007 seconds separating our championship protagonists.

0.007 seconds. In layman’s terms, that’s equivalent to 33cm on track – next to nothing. It is impossible to lynch Rosberg for not scoring pole, given that he was so close, so instead we should praise Lewis Hamilton. The Briton has a knack of pulling a rabbit out of the hat to get the upper hand over his teammate – a trait that all great champions have.

After locking up at turn one, his chances of pole seemed to be dead in the water – even Lewis himself admitted that he thought it was over. However, instead of throwing in the towel as he mistakenly did at Silverstone, he kept his cool to find just enough time to secure his sixth pole position of the season.

Nico’s response to losing out was telling. He shouting “dammit!” loudly over the radio, and in the post-race press conference was clearly frustrated. That said, it wasn’t malicious frustration. He appeared to find it almost funny that he had lost by such a narrow margin. When he and Lewis shook hands for the post race picture, it was very brief; but a second of eye contact before turning to third-placed Daniel Ricciardo. It’s a great rivalry for this year’s championship story.

So well done Mercedes. However, both Ferrari and Red Bull will know that a big chance went begging today – arguably the best that they will see all season.

Ferrari’s plight was a little less surprising given that, to be brutal, the team hasn’t been hot this season. In fact, when Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso led home a one-two at the end of Q1, many were taken aback. “Have Ferrari found the fix?” Some on Twitter snarked that the departure of Luca di Montezemolo was worth two seconds per lap…

Ultimately, Kimi’s charge came to an end thanks to a software issue on his F14 T. Despite not completing a second run in Q3, he still finished seventh, which is actually pretty good for Kimi in 2014. The Finn seems to have some of his old fire back, and a good run into the top five tomorrow would go a long way to silencing many of his critics. Fernando Alonso was surprisingly upbeat with P4, and as a man who is clearly at ease around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, he is certain to be in the fight for a podium finish tomorrow with the Red Bull drivers.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel locked out the second row of the grid for the defending champions, but their opinions on how qualifying went were very different. Ricciardo, unsurprisingly, was more upbeat, saying that it was all he could have managed. Vettel was less cheery, saying that pole was within his grasp – the two-tenth gap to the front will leave him dwelling on where that could have been made up, no doubt.

Both Red Bull and Ferrari missed opportunities in qualifying, yes. However, the opportunity wasn’t as great as many anticipated given that Mercedes was on-song in the final stages. Beating a Mercedes in the dry is a nigh-on impossible task. Getting within one-quarter of a second? Admirable efforts all round.

Sadly “admirable efforts” don’t give you world titles – pole positions do. With four of the six winners at Marina Bay having started from pole, Lewis Hamilton will have his tail up heading into tomorrow’s race. From P2, Rosberg will be looking for a repeat of last year’s start where he made a great start to pass Vettel into turn one. By turn two, he was back down in second place, though – that’s how Lewis would like the script to run again.

Missed opportunities at the front allowed Hamilton to make the most of it and secure pole in Singapore. As those who frequently start off the front row like to remind us though, there are no points for qualifying – all the more reason to join us for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix, which promises to be a thriller.

You can watch all of the action live from Marina Bay on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.