Sebastian Vettel has claimed his eleventh pole position of the season, comfortably securing the prime starting position for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix with his first flying lap in the last phase of qualifying.
Leading the Red Bull team’s fifth qualifying one-two of the season, Vettel starts alongside team-mate Mark Webber as the German sets out to clinch back-to-back Drivers’ Championships this weekend.
Despite forecasts for heavy rain and thunderstorms this weekend, the precipitation has stayed away when the F1 cars have had their running, although conditions were still physically taxing when qualifying got underway at 10pm local time: the ambient temperature was 31°C (88°F) and humidity was a sticky 70%.
The first phase of qualifying provided no major surprises. The three sophomore teams – Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT – will line up line astern on the final three rows of the grid, although credit to HRT rookie Daniel Ricciardo, who managed to outqualify team- mate Vitantonio Liuzzi for the second time.
And this weekend it was one of the Renaults that found themselves eliminated from the further participation in qualifying, with Vitaly Petrov failing to make the cut in his R31, which has been well off-the-pace all weekend.
With seven of the grid’s twenty-four runners now removed from the equation, the second phase of qualifying largely went to form: the frontrunners could elect to attempt a single, clean run and be almost assured of making the top-ten, such was their pace advantage over the rest of the field.
It effectively left the Force India and Sauber outfits to vie for the last two spots in the top-ten, as the chasing Williams and Toro Rosso teams (along with Bruno Senna in the sole Renault) simply didn’t have the pace to mount a bid for a berth in Q3.
Kamui Kobayashi tipped the odds firmly in Force India’s favour by crashing out early in Q2 and claiming P17 on the grid for Sunday’s 61-lap race. The Japanese driver took far too much kerbing at the unsightly Turn 10 ‘Singapore Sling’ chicane and bounced straight into the wall.
Kobayashi’s team-mate Sergio Pérez briefly gave the Swiss team some hope by briefly moving into the top-ten in the dying seconds of the session, only to be pipped at the post by Paul di Resta, who finished the session tenth-fastest behind team-mate Adrian Sutil.
Williams pairing Rubens Barrichello and Pastor Maldonado wound up 12th and 13th-fastest, while the Toro Rossos of Sébastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari bookended Bruno Senna in 15th.
The final phase of qualifying was a case of weighing up a crucial decision: go out and post a lap time to get a good grid slot, or remain in the garage and save a set of tyres for the race?
Schumacher, Sutil and di Resta all elected to remain indoors for the final ten-minute shoot-out, meaning they’ll start the race in positions eight to ten, respectively. Nico Rosberg was the slowest of the runners to attempt a lap-time, meaning he will start from seventh place.
Out front, Vettel cruised serenely to yet another pole position, while team-mate Webber claimed the outside front-row position, some 0.3 seconds adrift. With it being the sirt side of the grid and Webber’s history of poor getaways from the line, he’ll be lucky to hold that position for more than a few metres when the race gets underway…
The man in prime position to spoil Vettel’s party is Jenson Button, whose rapid-starting McLaren lines up third. Lewis Hamilton will start from fourth, being largely absent from Q3 as he elected to do just a single run to save tyres, having already lost a set of super-soft Pirellis when he picked up a puncture in Q2.
The third row is an all Ferrari affair, with Fernando Alonso aiming for a third victory in Singapore from fifth on the grid. Felipe Massa, who was visibly upset after the session after feeling he’d been baulked by Hamilton, will start from sixth.
2011 Singapore Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:46.397||1:44.931||1:44.381|
|2.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault||1:47.332||1:45.651||1:44.732|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes||1:46.956||1:45.472||1:44.804|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes||1:47.014||1:46.829||1:44.809|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||1:47.688||1:46.405||1:46.013|
|8.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||1:48.819||1:46.043||no time|
|9.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes||1:47.952||1:47.093||no time|
|10.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes||1:48.022||1:47.486||no time|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari||1:47.717||1:47.616|
|12.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth||1:48.061||1:48.082|
|13.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth||1:49.710||1:48.270|
|14.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:48.753||1:48.634|
|16.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari||1:49.588||1:49.862|
|17.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari||1:48.054||no time|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus Renault||1:50.948|
|20.||Jarno Trulli||Team Lotus Renault||1:51.012|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:52.154|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth||1:52.363|
|23.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:52.404|
|24.||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT F1 Cosworth||1:52.810|