Vet­tel on pole in Sin­ga­pore

Hamil­ton qual­i­fies fifth on the grid

Sunday Tribune - - NEWS&VIEWS -

FER­RARI’S Se­bas­tian Vet­tel put him­self on pole po­si­tion to re­take the For­mula One lead from Lewis Hamil­ton with a sen­sa­tional late lap in Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix qual­i­fy­ing yes­ter­day.

Hamil­ton, who leads the Ger­man by three points with seven rounds re­main­ing, qual­i­fied his Mercedes only fifth for to­day’s night race with team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas set to start along­side in sixth.

Dutch teenager Max Ver­stap­pen will start sec­ond for Red Bull af­ter go­ing fastest in the first two phases of qual­i­fy­ing, with Aus­tralian team­mate Daniel Ric­cia­rdo third and Fer­rari’s Kimi Raikko­nen fourth.

Vet­tel, who lost the lead to Hamil­ton at the pre­vi­ous race in Italy, is a four-time win­ner in Sin­ga­pore and the pole was also his fourth in the city state as well as the 49th of his For­mula One ca­reer.

It was also his third of the sea­son but he had to put ev­ery­thing on the line when it re­ally mat­tered to beat the Red Bulls in a close-run ses­sion, light­ing up the tim­ing screens with a lap of one minute 39.491 sec­onds.

“I’m still full of adrenaline so maybe what­ever I say doesn’t make any sense,” a breath­less Vet­tel, who let out a loud whoop of joy over the team-ra­dio, said af­ter he stepped out of the car.

“The car was tricky but it came alive and it was get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter as the night pro­gressed, so I’m re­ally happy that we got it done.”

Red Bull had topped the timesheets in every ses­sion lead­ing up to qual­i­fy­ing and had looked on course for their first front row lock­out since the US Grand Prix in 2013, with Ver­stap­pen also fastest in the open­ing two phases of qual­i­fy­ing.

Had he been on pole, the 19-year-old would have been the youngest driver in the his­tory of the sport to start from the top slot.

“I think the fi­nal lap was not great but we were quite close so I’m pretty happy with that,” said the Dutch driver, who turns 20 in two weeks’ time.

“Dur­ing the race it will be dif­fi­cult to pass him so we have to see on the first lap.”

Ric­cia­rdo, a win­ner in Azer­bai­jan in June, also re­mained con­fi­dent.

“I’m still con­fi­dent we’ll get vic­tory. I think we’ve got a good pack­age. Seb turned it on in qual­i­fy­ing but I’m look­ing for­ward to to­mor­row,” said the Aus­tralian.

There were few smiles at Mercedes, with the cham­pi­ons ar­riv­ing in Sin­ga­pore fear­ing it would be a tough week­end but se­cretly hop­ing for bet­ter.

“You al­ways hope for bet­ter but prob­a­bly its re­al­is­ti­cally where we are in Sin­ga­pore,” said team boss Toto Wolff. “There seems to be a cer­tain pat­tern that some cars go bet­ter on the slow, twisty stuff. And that is Fer­rari and Red Bull.”

Hamil­ton, who took a record 69th ca­reer pole at Monza by a huge mar­gin, never looked in con­tention.

“We knew that to­day would be tough,” he said. “I def­i­nitely didn’t an­tic­i­pate Fer­rari would be as strong as they were. I thought Red Bull would be as quick as they were but we still re­main hope­ful.

“I got ev­ery­thing I could out of the car, ev­ery­thing and more,” he added.

Nico Hulken­berg was sev­enth for Renault ahead of Fer­nando Alonso and Stof­fel Van­doorne, who put both Mclarens in the top 10 a day af­ter the for­mer cham­pi­ons agreed to swap Honda power for Renault in 2018.

Spa­niard Carlos Sainz, set to move to the works Renault team next year, rounded out the top 10 for Toro Rosso. – Reuters

THE PITS: Fer­rari me­chan­ics push the car of Ger­man For­mula One driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel af­ter yes­ter­day’s Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion at the Marina Bay Street Cir­cuit.

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