Sebastian Vettel stormed to Ferrari’s first pole position in over three years as Mercedes’ perfect streak of pole positions in 2015 came to an end in Singapore.
After setting the pace during the final practice session on Saturday evening, Vettel carried his good form through to qualifying as night fell to score his first pole position since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.
A fastest lap of 1:43.885 in Q3 saw Vettel take pole by half a second ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen as Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were forced to settle for fifth and sixth place respectively.
Mercedes struggled for pace on both the soft and super-soft tires in qualifying, forcing them to take an extra set of both compounds whilst Ferrari and Red Bull were able to relax in Q1 and Q2.
In Q3, Hamilton wrung every last tenth out of his Mercedes W06 Hybrid, but his time of 1:45.300 was only good enough for fifth, 1.4 seconds behind Vettel at the front.
It marks the first race in 2015 that Mercedes has not started on pole position, and the first time since Vettel’s last pole that a Mercedes-powered car was not P1 in qualifying.
For Ferrari, the result marked its first pole position in over three years, its last being in the wet qualifying session for the 2012 German Grand Prix. The last time the team scored pole position in the dry was five years ago at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.
Daniil Kvyat followed Vettel, Ricciardo and Raikkonen home in P4, finishing ahead of the two Mercedes drivers. Valtteri Bottas qualified seventh for Williams with his sole Q3 run, beating Max Verstappen in the Toro Rosso and Williams teammate Felipe Massa. Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten for Lotus.
Carlos Sainz Jr. brought Q2 to an early end when he clipped the wall at turn 19, prompting the marshals to show yellow flags through the final sector due to the debris on track. This stopped Nico Hulkenberg from improving his time, leaving him 11th ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Sergio Perez finished 13th in the second Force India, two places behind his teammate, whilst Sainz and Jenson Button ended up P14 and P15.
Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson failed to live up to Sauber’s improved practice form as they were both knocked out in Q1. A late lap from Button dumped Nasr into the dropzone alongside Ericsson, meaning that they will start 16th and 17th on Sunday. Pastor Maldonado finished two-tenths of a second further back in P18.
Alexander Rossi’s first qualifying session in F1 saw him qualify 20th, half a second behind teammate Will Stevens. However, the American gained more experience behind the wheel of the Manor car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday.
The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday.
More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.
Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.
“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.
“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”
This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.
“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.
“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”
This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.
“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”
At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.
“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”
Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.
“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”
Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.
“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.
“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”