Hamilton delivered one of the laps of his life to stun the opposition at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Filed: Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 22:59 UK
Last Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2018 at 22:59 UK
Lewis Hamilton pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a moment of self-proclaimed “magic” to put his Mercedes on pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Less than a fortnight after he produced one of the best victories of his career in Italy, Hamilton delivered one of the laps of his life to stun the opposition at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The twisty slow-speed track is a venue which is supposed to suit Ferrari, with Hamilton’s championship rival, Sebastian Vettel, having been the favourite to take the glory under the 1,500 floodlights that
light up this 3.15-mile circuit.
But the German, 30 points behind Hamilton in the championship, could finish only third. Hamilton will be joined on the front row by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
Hamilton headed into the shoot-out for pole without troubling the top of the order in any of the three practice sessions. He then only scraped through to the second phase of qualifying after finishing 14th
in the opening running.
Yet, the Englishman somehow ended it all on top – delivering the ‘V’ sign for victory – after finishing three tenths of a second clear of Verstappen, and a mighty six tenths ahead of Vettel.
To emphasise the brilliance of his performance, Valtteri Bottas, using identical Mercedes machinery, was 0.687sec down on Hamilton in fourth. No wonder the Brit’s race engineer, Pete Bonnington, told his
driver it was an “epic lap”.
“Wow,” said an emotional Hamilton moments after getting out of his car. “That felt like magic. I don’t know where it came from.
“I am super overwhelmed. I am absolutely overwhelmed. My heart is racing. I might have an anxiety attack in a second.
“There wasn’t a moment in the lap where I ran wide, or there were any problems. I was just perfectly to the limit. It felt special and one of the best laps that I can remember feeling.”
Hamilton now has 79 poles, 11 more than any other driver.
His qualifying displays this year at Melbourne, Silverstone, and most recently Spa-Francorchamps were impressive, but this was his one-lap performance of the year, and one that would appear to edge him ever closer to a fifth championship.
“It’s stardust,” Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, said. “I can’t explain what happened. Lewis is just an exceptional individual, and an exceptional driver.”
For Vettel, this was the latest in a string of hammer blows to his championship credentials.
There are only seven rounds remaining, and the German knows he is running out of time to prevent Hamilton from marching towards a fourth title in five years.
The statistics look bleak for Vettel, too. Of his 52 victories, only five of those have been from third on the grid, while seven of the 10 races staged in Singapore have been won from the front.
“It is not ideal,” Vettel said. “Obviously, we wanted to get pole position, and we didn’t. In the end, there was just too much time missing.
“We had two shots at pole, and both were not good enough. The race is a different story, so by tomorrow things will look different, but I am not happy with how it went.”
On a dreary night for Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Fernando Alonso, entering the swansong of his career, missed out on progressing to Q3 by just one-tenth of a second. He will start 11th for McLaren.
Stoffel Vandoorne, who will be replaced by British teenager Lando Norris at McLaren next season, was more than a second down on his team-mate and lines up a lowly 18th.
There was more misery for Williams after Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll finished 19th and last respectively. The pair were a staggering 1.4 seconds slower than any other team.
Vandoorne: ‘McLaren car extremely poor’