Red-hot Rosberg sizzles in Singapore
German starts in pole, two places ahead of Hamilton
Nico Rosberg will start his 200th Formula One race from pole position after producing a stunning drive to leave a beleaguered Lewis Hamilton trailing in his wake in Singapore.
The German was a crushing seven tenths of a second faster than an off-colour Hamilton, who will start in third place at the Marina Bay street circuit.
Daniel Ricciardo split the championship rivals after he hauled his Red Bull on to the front row, albeit half a second adrift of Rosberg’s outstanding lap.
“I am definitely happy with that one,” Rosberg said after securing pole. “It was one of my top three laps ever. It wasn’t clear in qualifying how we would stack up against Red Bull so I really had to give it everything and pull it out of the bag, which is cool.”
Rosberg, a winner of the last two grands prix, is enjoying a purple patch and his performance in qualifying will rank as one of his best in the sport.
His quickest lap of one minute and 42.584 seconds, at a circuit where he has failed to finish on the podium since the very first staged here in 2008, will leave Hamilton scratching his head.
And with overtaking largely impossible under the lights, Rosberg will start as the firm favourite for what would be the eighth victory of a season which could yet herald his first title.
“It wasn’t really a frustrating session it just hasn’t really been my weekend so far,” said Hamilton.
“Nico did a great job in releasing the full potential of the car and I will do as good as I can to get at least one step up.
“There have been some ups and downs, this weekend we might come out behind, but there’s still a way to go so I’ll keep pushing.”
Hamilton holds a slender two-point advantage over Rosberg, but by the time the chequered flag falls today he could find himself back behind his Mercedes teammate in the championship race.
Not only will he have to try and catch Rosberg, but he will also be battling with the Red Bull of Ricciardo.
“We made improvements through qualifying and, in practice we were still trying to find stuff in the car, and it finally came good in qualifying,” said the Australian. “The rhythm throughout the session was good.”
Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen will start the race in fourth place, while it was a day to forget for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
The German may have won half of the eight races staged in Singapore, but he will be last on the grid after suffering from car problems.
Meanwhile, Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start in fifth place on the grid, with the Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz in sixth and Daniil Kvyat in seventh.