Hamilton snatches Singapore pole away from Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix after edging out Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg in a close session at Marina Bay on Saturday evening.

The British driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:45.681 to finish just seven-thousandths of a second quicker than Rosberg, who appeared to have pole position sewn up after his final lap in Q3. Ultimately, he was denied, causing him to shout “dammit!” very loudly over the radio to his engineer upon hearing the result.

After showing early signs of pace in qualifying, Ferrari eventually tailed off with Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen qualifying fifth and seventh respectively. Red Bull was the team to stand out as Mercedes’ closest challenger, qualifying third and fourth with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Sebastian Vettel once again.

Due to the big difference in pace between the option and prime tire, the top teams were unable to save a set of the quicker compound tires in Q1 in order to be sure of a place in the second session. After a disappointing showing in final practice, Lewis Hamilton quickly proved that Mercedes was still the team to beat by going fastest of all on the first prime runs ahead of Esteban Gutierrez (who had fitted options early) and the Ferrari duo of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Nico Rosberg could only rank P6 on his first run following a lock-up at turn eight that was very reminiscent of his mistake at Monza, costing him some time.

Red Bull opted to send its drivers out for just one run on the super-soft tire, and although Daniel Ricciardo managed to move into P1 with his first lap, Sebastian Vettel was forced to back off and try again after traffic ruined his initial effort. He eventually found some space to move up to fifth as Ferrari continued to impress following FP3, with Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso finishing P1 and P2 at the end of the first session. Lewis Hamilton finished third, whilst the Red Bull duo of Vettel and Ricciardo finished ninth and tenth after the times tumbled at the end of the session.

At the bottom, the usual pretenders at Caterham and Marussia filled out the bottom four positions. They were joined in the dropzone by Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado in the dropzone, after they qualified 17th and 18th respectively.

Keen to continue his good form from Q1, Kimi Raikkonen was one of the first drivers to head out in the second session, and quickly moved up into top spot with his first lap time. Fernando Alonso followed suit to go just 0.031s quicker than his teammate, but both were soon overhauled by Hamilton in the Mercedes, albeit by the narrowest of margins. With Rosberg down in fifth, Mercedes looked to have a serious fight on its hands for pole position.

The pace of the frontrunners was good enough to remove the need for a second flying lap. However, the fight to get through to Q3 was well and truly on further down the order as Felipe Massa was the first to hoist himself out of danger by going P4. His example was followed by teammate Valtteri Bottas in eighth, whilst Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat both managed to get into Q3 at the expense of their teammates, leaving Jenson Button and Jean-Eric Vergne in 11th and 12th respectively. Force India’s qualifying was a struggle, with Nico Hulkenberg finishing 13th and Sergio Perez qualifying 15th behind Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez. Romain Grosjean propped up the Q2 order in P16.

For good measure, Nico Rosberg’s second run saw him move half a second clear of Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, suggesting that Mercedes did still have the advantage heading into the final part of qualifying.

All of the drivers that had made it through to Q3 headed out early for their first runs on the super-soft tire, and it was Felipe Massa who was the surprise suspect to sit on provisional pole. His lap of 1:46.007 saw him edge ahead of Ricciardo and Alonso, whilst Hamilton and Rosberg could go just sixth and seventh respectively on their first runs. However, with just three-tenths of a second separating the top seven, pole was by no means a foregone conclusion.

Kimi Raikkonen’s hopes of a first pole position of the year were dashed when he was told to pull his car back into the pits due to a problem. Ultimately, the Finn has to settle for seventh place, whilst teammate Fernando Alonso could not keep up his FP3 form and had to settle fifth place on the grid.

Daniel Ricciardo was the first to beat Massa in the race for pole position, but he eventually finished third as Mercedes rose to the front once again. Rosberg beat the Australian driver by one-tenth of a second and looked to have pole position in the bag, only for Hamilton to charge through and snatch pole by just 0.007s – the closest margin we have seen this season.

The result will be a huge boost for Hamilton as he looks to close the gap to Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ championship. However, the Briton will know that with his teammate starting alongside him on the front row, he will face a tough challenge under the lights in Singapore on Sunday.

Further back, Red Bull will be pleased with its efforts to lock out the second row of the grid, whilst Ferrari failed to keep up its practice form, leaving Fernando Alonso as the top car in fifth place and Kimi Raikkonen in seventh. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished sixth and eighth for Williams, whilst Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten.

The stage is set for a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, so be sure to join us from 7.30am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra for all of the action from Marina Bay.