Sebastian Vettel earned the 41st pole position of his F1 career

Sebastian Vettel has claimed the fiftieth pole position for the Red Bull Racing team at the Singapore Grand Prix, surviving a tense qualifying session to earn top spot from his compatriot, Nico Rosberg, by just nine-hundredths of a second.

The defending race-winner’s main rivals for pole position all opted for two qualifying runs in the final top-ten hit-out, but Vettel elected to save a set of Pirelli Super Soft tyres with a single flying lap. It was a brave decision, indeed…

“It was a weird feeling, standing in the garage with two minutes to go,” he said in the following post-qualifying press conference.

“It is much worse seeing others on their final attempts. I was watching the sector times very closely, in particular Romain [Grosjean], Nico  [Rosberg] and Mark [Webber].”

With many runners forced to use their limited allocation of brand new Super Soft tyre sets in the earlier Q1 and Q2 sessions, only Vettel, his teammate Mark Webber and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean managed to get all the way into Q3 without resorting to a run on the softer rubber. Quite how that will pan in in terms of Sunday’s race strategy remains to be seen, but it will certainly afford them flexibility over their rivals.

Grosjean’s strategy paid off with the third-fastest time, crucially giving him a starting position on the ‘cleaner’ side of the grid, which may allow him to leapfrog Rosberg off the starting line.

Webber qualified fourth-fastest, losing out to Vettel in the final sector of the lap, where the German has proved metronomic in speed.

Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fifth position, lamenting the fact that he wasn’t able to extract the same potential out of his car as his teammate Rosberg had managed.

Felipe Massa outqualified Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso for the second round in succession, with the Brazilian securing the sixth-fastest effort in Q3, just four-hundredths of a second faster than the Spaniard. But celebrations in the Maranello camp will be distinctly muted, with the F138 over a second off the pace all weekend.

Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo each had another Q3 appearance, with both opting for a single Q3 run to claim eighth and ninth on the final session’s timesheets.

At the Italian Grand Prix, it was Nico Hülkenberg who shocked all comers with a brilliant qualifying performance, and this weekend it was the turn of his Sauber teammate Esteban Gutiérrez to provide the surprise performance in qualifying.

Gutierrez made the top-ten for the first timeTo say that the Mexican youngster has been unimpressive in his rookie F1 season would be a masterstroke of understatement, but the former GP3 Series champion pulled a rabbit out of the hat in Q2. It was a time good enough to get him into Q3 for the first time in his career, ironically at the expense of his teammate, Hülkenberg, who qualified eleventh-fastest.

Kimi Räikkönen was the biggest scalp in Q2, with the Finn only managing thirteenth-fastest in his Lotus. The 2007 World Champion had been struck by a painful back injury that had made driving in Saturday’s early practice session a nightmare, but he was resolute in his aims to take the grid on Sunday.

Jean-Éric Vergne (12th) and Sergio Pérez (14th) completed the sixth and seventh grid rows of drivers who were unable to match their teammates’ Q3 promotions, while Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas completed the eighth row of the grid to also fall at the Q2 hurdle.

Paul di Resta suffered his fifth Q1 exit in eight races, frustratingly declaring that the Force India VJM06 “simply isn’t fast enough” on the updated Pirelli tyres, which have hurt the little team’s form more than anyone else in the field. The Scot qualified half a second faster than Pastor Maldonado, whose usual street racing skills went missing in Q1.

It was a Caterham and Marussia affair once again at the back of the grid, with Charles Pic finishing quickest of the quartet once again. His teammate Giedo van der Garde was lucky to survive a sizeable slide into the wall in Q1, and managed to complete the session despite concerns over his left-rear suspension.

2013 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Qualifying Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:42.841  
2. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:42.932 + 0.091
3. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:43.058 + 0.217
4. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:43.152 + 0.311
5. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:43.254 + 0.413
6. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:43.890 + 1.049
7. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:43.938 + 1.097
8. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:43.282 + 1.441
9. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:44.439 + 1.598
10. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 no time + 0.907
Q3 Cut-Off – 1:44.497   Time Gap*
11. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:44.555 + 1.650
12. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:44.588 + 1.683
13. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:44.658 + 1.753
14. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:44.752 + 1.847
15. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:45.185 + 2.280
16. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:45.388 + 2.483
Q2 Cut-Off – 1:45.982   Time Gap**
17. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:46.121 + 1.925
18. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:46.619 + 2.423
19. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:48.111 + 3.915
20. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:48.320 + 4.124
21. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:48.830 + 4.634
22. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Racing Cosworth MR02 1:48.930 + 4.734

* Gap to fastest Q2 time of 1:42.905 by Sebastian Vettel
** Gap to fastest Q1 time of 1:44.196 by Lewis Hamilton

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.