Nico Rosberg will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole position after dominating Formula 1 qualifying under the lights at Marina Bay on Saturday night.
Rosberg arrived in Singapore trailing Mercedes teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton by just two points in the drivers’ championship, having won the last two races.
The German stamped his authority on proceedings in Singapore by following up his fastest laps in FP2 and FP3 with pole position, seeing off the challenge from Hamilton and the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers.
Rosberg took provisional pole with his first run in Q3, a lap of 1:42.584 putting him seven-tenths of a second clear of Hamilton and over a second clear of the Red Bulls in P4 and P5. The gauntlet for the rest of the field had been laid down.
With none of his rivals able to improve on their second flying laps by a significant amount, Rosberg was able to revel in the 29th pole position of his F1 career.
Ricciardo found six-tenths of a second on his final lap to jump up to second ahead of Hamilton, who paid the price for a mistake at Turn 1 to finish third and missed out on his 100th front-row start in F1 in the process.
Max Verstappen qualified fourth for ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who was the sole Ferrari driver in Q3, while Toro Rosso enjoyed a hugely impressive session as Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat finished sixth and seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez took Force India into the top 10 once again, qualifying eighth and 10th respectively, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso split the pair in ninth.
Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were caught out by a late yellow flag in Q2, leaving them P11 and P12 respectively on the grid, ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren who clipped the wall on his final lap.
Romain Grosjean’s weekend from hell continued as he crashed out of Q2 during his final flying lap, losing control of his car at Turn 10. The Frenchman was left P15 in the final timesheets, just behind Haas teammate Esteban Gutierrez.
Marcus Ericsson put Sauber’s updates to good use as he made it through to Q2 for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix, qualifying 16th. His late Q1 lap was enough to keep Renault drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer out, the pair finishing 17th and 19th respectively, split by Felipe Nasr in the sister Sauber.
Pascal Wehrlein led Manor’s charge once again in qualifying, but could not keep his streak of Q2 appearances going, finishing 20th. He arguably stole a position more suited to teammate Esteban Ocon – Saturday being his 20th birthday – leaving the Frenchman to settle for 21st on the grid.
2015 pole-sitter and race winner Sebastian Vettel saw his tough weekend continue when a broken rear anti-roll bar on his Ferrari resigned him to an early exit in Q1. Unable to improve his time that was 4.8 seconds off the pace, Vettel pitted with four minutes remaining, calling it “stupid” to continue. The German will start tomorrow’s race from 22nd on the grid.
While Rosberg may have dominated proceedings on Saturday, Sunday’s race could prove to be more difficult with both Ricciardo and Verstappen set to start on super-soft tires, giving them a longer first stint in the race.
Alas, with Mercedes’ pace impressing throughout the weekend, either Rosberg or Hamilton may have too much for the Red Bulls to handle.
The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.