McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has claimed his fourth pole position of the year in Singapore, using the P Zero Red supersoft tyre, which has been nominated together with the P Zero Yellow soft for the weekend. Hamilton’s fastest time of 1m46.362s clinched pole by half a second from Williams driver Pastor Maldonado. With pole position having won the Singapore Grand Prix for three out of the last four years, qualifying is vital at the slow and twisty Marina Bay track. Pole position has also won the last four races this year.
As expected, conditions were hot and humid for the hour-long session, with 28 degrees ambient and 72% humidity. All the drivers started the first qualifying session on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre, apart from Marussia, HRT and Caterham, which used the P Zero Red supersoft. The first of the frontrunners to switch to the supersoft was Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen, but with such a big difference in lap time between the two compounds – more than a second and a half – none of the top teams were sure of getting through on the soft tyre until the first session was over. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was quickest in Q1 on the supersoft, while Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was the best-placed driver to get through on the soft tyres, with the fourth-fastest time.
In Q2 all the drivers started off on the supersoft tyre, with Lewis Hamilton setting quickest time in the first half of the session on just a single run using the supersoft.
Both Mercedes drivers started Q3 on the P Zero Yellow soft tyre but did not set a time, meaning that they will be able to choose which compound they start on tomorrow. The other drivers all used the supersoft tyres, with Hamilton, Button and Vettel all completing two runs. Hamilton’s first run was enough to secure his 24th pole position, while Maldonado spectacularly clinched the runner-up spot in the closing seconds.
Vettel was fastest in the final free practice session this morning, completing a clean sweep of fastest times in the Singapore free practice sessions. Vettel was quickest on both the soft and supersoft tyres, going 1.6 seconds faster on the supersoft tyre than he did on the soft, with a time of 1m47.947s.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “Unusually, track temperature in Singapore is often lower than ambient temperature, so it was important for the drivers to warm up the tyres effectively and get the most out of them instantly, with the track evolving all the time during the qualifying session. We’re expecting to see two stops tomorrow, although some teams could try three. With such a speed advantage from the supersoft tyres, the teams were looking after those in particular: we saw them being used for multiple runs, so that the drivers can save new sets for the race. However, we’ve seen from the past that it’s also possible to use an innovative tyre strategy to finish on the podium from outside the top 10. The strategic possibilities in Singapore are wide open and tyre management is sure to be key.”
Tyres used by the top ten qualifiers: