Hamilton Shines in Singapore Qualifying
By: James Musoke on September 22, 2012 | 10:19 A.M. EST
Lewis Hamilton earned his fifth pole of the season on Saturday. (Photo: Getty Images)
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton earned his second consecutive pole position during qualifying for the Grand Prix of Singapore, posting the quickest lap of the weekend with a time of 1 minute 46.362 seconds, about a half second faster that his fellow competitors.
Hamilton had looked competitive during practice earlier in the day, but it was Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel who dominated all three practice sessions and looked to be the early favorite to be top of the grid on Sunday. Nevertheless, the tables swiftly turned during qualifying, as it was Hamilton who set the bar throughout the session to record his fifth pole position this season, and 24th of his career.
“I’m very happy with pole position,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a good weekend so far, but there are no points for today and it’s going to be a long, tough race so I still need to be cautious. I hope we’ve done the work we need to do to put us in a strong position for tomorrow. The key will just be to stay out of trouble and look after the tires. Our guys at the factory have done an incredible job to bring our upgrades to the track this weekend.
"In previous years, we’ve often been playing catch-up on development throughout the season, but this year we’re right there. I’ve always believed that if we could start the season strongly, we’d be able to pull ahead. We’ve been there or thereabouts all season, but now I think we’re starting to see the real strength of my team pull through.”
Williams’ driver Pastor Maldonado qualified in an impressive second place with a time of 1 minute 46.804 seconds, ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who could only manage third place after a very encouraging start to the weekend. McLaren teammate Jenson Button will start in fourth, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso rounding out the top five.
Paul di Resta will start sixth, ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber, who was a half second slower than his teammate Vettel. Romain Grosjean of Lotus will start in eighth place, with the Mercedes duo of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg starting in ninth and 10th place, respectively.
“We've made good progress over the weekend with our new aerodynamic package which is encouraging,” said Ross Brawn, Mercedes team principle. “This weekend has been the first opportunity for Michael (Schumacher) and Nico (Rosberg) to try the upgrades, and it has taken a little while to get the set-up into a reasonable shape. Given the closeness of the second part of the grid, we made a strategic decision not to go out for a lap in Q3, and we're happy to have the choice of tires and new sets for the race tomorrow.”
Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, who currently sits third in the championship points, failed to get out of the second stage of qualifying and will start in 12th place ahead of the struggling Ferrari of Felipe Massa, who could only manage 13th place. Sergio Perez, who finished in second place last week in Monza, will start in 14th spot, with Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Erin Vergne starting 15th and 16th.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi struggled with over-steer problems and was unable to qualify past the initial stage of qualifying.
“We have tried everything but could not get rid of the huge over-steer,” Kobayashi said. “I have no confidence in the car and this is really the last thing you want to have to cope with on such a street circuit.”
The Japanese driver will start in 18th place, with Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen of Caterham starting in 19th and 20th position.
Marussia driver Charles Pic will have 20 seconds added to his race time after Sunday’s Grand Prix for passing under red flags during the third and final practice session. Pic and his engineer must also perform a day’s community service on behalf of the FIA Action for Road Safety campaign.
The Grand Prix of Singapore will start at 8 a.m. (ET) on Sunday.