Ferrari ascendent in Singapore as Vettel takes Pole, Raikonnen 3rd; Ricciardo P2 for Red Bull — Hamilton & Mercedes’ Qualifying streaks snapped
The Mercedes Silver Arrows experienced a rare stumble in Saturday Qualifying at the tight, twisty Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore. With the team going for a record-tying 24th consecutive pole position and their star driver Lewis Hamilton attempting to tie Ayrton Senna’s individual diver record of 8 consecutive poles, both were denied by the blistering pace of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari. Vettel, who like many suspected Mercedes of hiding their pace in practice, instead dominated the field, coming home a full half second ahead of the charging Red Bull of Aussie Daniel Ricciardo. Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, making it avery good day for the Scuderia in Singapore. Ricciardo’s teammate Daniil Kvyat was able to come home in P4, so even as Red Bull and engine supplier Renault enter the final phase of a messy divorce, the union experienced its best qualifying performance of the season. Go figure.
For the Mercedes factory team, things were just as mixed up if not more so. With the previously supreme Hamilton able to muster a time only good enough for 5th on the grid and his lesser half Nico Rosberg taking a modest P6, this was Mercedes’ worst Quali performance since the Schumacher/Ross Brawn days. And with their record-breaking efforts and aura of dominance dented, it’s definitely hard to see them pulling out a victory come race day tomorrow. The team simply has not been able to get their rear tires to perform in practice or qualifying so far this weekend and there’s no reason to believe they can cure that problem before the lights go out on Sunday. However, taking the long view, it could simply be that the high downforce nature of Marina Bay does not play to their massive horsepower advantage, enabling the slower but more planted Ferraris and Red Bulls to equal and even surpass the Silver Arrows’ normal advantages. With nothing but high speed purpose built tracks remaining on the calendar after this race, it’s more than likely that Mercedes and Hamilton will just write off Singapore as that one time all year they could not quite get to grips with the circuit, redouble their efforts going forward and then begin stomping everyone again for the last six races of the season.
Less surprising, the nearly as powerful Mercedes-powered Williams chassis also struggled with their high downforce configuration, as they always seem to do. Valtteri Bottas could do no better than P7 on the grid and Felipe Massa, two weeks removed from a sparkling podium at mega-fast Monza, found himself mired back in P9. Rounding out the top ten, rookie Max Verstappen was an impressive P8 for Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean was 10th fastest for Lotus.
Top 10 Qualifiers in Singapore:
|2||3||DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING||1:46.166||1:45.291||1:44.428||17|
|4||26||DANIIL KVYAT||RED BULL RACING||1:45.340||1:44.979||1:44.745||15|
|8||33||MAX VERSTAPPEN||TORO ROSSO||1:46.483||1:45.635||1:45.798||16|
Tomorrow’s Grand Prix airs live on NBC Sports Network at 8AM Eastern. Look for a throwback Ferrari-Red Bull duel with Mercedes in the uncharacteristic position of fighting for good points rather than the win. But then this beautifully lit but narrow street race has a history of crashes and bizarre events that turn predictions on their head. So best to tune in and see how it all plays out for yourself!