Sebastian Vettel has edged closer to sealing his first world title with Pirelli, after setting pole position under the lights of Singapore. The German driver was fastest with a time of 1m44.381s in the final qualifying session on the P Zero Red supersoft tyres, beating last year’s pole time by more than a second. It was Vettel’s 26th career pole position (his 25th in 50 races with Red Bull Racing) and Red Bull Racing’s 14th pole of the year, continuing their unbroken record.
Once again, a wide variety of tactics were at work in preparation for tomorrow’s race, where pit stop strategy will be crucial. With a difference of 0.8-1.0 seconds per lap between the soft and the supersoft tyres, most runners are expected to adopt a three-stop strategy, although some teams may choose to stop twice.
The Singapore track once again challenged the brakes, cooling and particularly the tyres, which impact against the kerbs at more than 200kph and absorb huge forces. Thanks to swift overnight intervention there was no repeat of the kerbing detaching itself from the track surface, as seen during Friday’s free practice sessions.
All the top runners got through the first and second qualifying sessions using a combination of the P Zero Yellow soft tyres and the P Zero Red supersofts. The final top 10 – which included both Force India cars for the first time this year – ran on P Zero Red supersoft tyres from the very beginning. The Force India cars did not come out at all during the final session while Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher did not set a time and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton did not complete a second flying run. This means that they will all have an extra set of the P Zero supersoft tyres for the race tomorrow – which has a 40% chance of rain. Hamilton’s final run during Q2 on the supersoft tyres ended when he picked up a puncture due to a cut tyre, probably caused by debris.
Once again conditions were hot and humid, with ambient temperatures of 30 degrees and humidity of 71%. While these conditions do not affect the performance of the tyre, high levels of humidity make the track surface more slippery, similar to a light coating of rain.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Although we had a problem with the kerbing yesterday, some extremely efficient intervention from the FIA and race organisers overnight meant that there was no repeat of this at all today and we were able to enjoy another qualifying session that underlined some of the strategy that is in store for tomorrow. Of course there’s the possibility of rain, which would obviously introduce a whole new aspect to the race, but with the top three teams lining up alongside each other tomorrow, it will be fascinating to see just how the action unfolds.”
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