Singapore GP Report:
Marina Bay circuit always promised to throw up surprises, with it’s tight, winding streets the scene of many Formula 1 memories since it’s first race back in 2008. Saturday evening’s qualifying promised many more, with possibly the most open pole battle this season.
As the floodlights went on, the green light went out and Q1 began. Both Mercedes cars were quickly out on track and immediately asserted their dominance, in first and second place. Jenson Button came close, just over a second down. However, it was Daniel Ricciardo who shone in the first session. His clinical lap was leaps and bounds faster than the rest of the grid, his closest competitor, Kimi Raikkonen in second. At the bottom end of the grid, it was business as usual, except for a new face to the elimination battle. Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel will start Sunday’s race in 22nd. His car developed a suspension issue, leaving no time for any repair work and resulting in a Sunday of hard work ahead. Esteban Ocon once again failed to beat his Manor teammate, Wehrlein. They’ll start in 21st and 20th respectively. With only a few minutes left, Jolyon Palmer looked as if he may escape the drop, but quickly returned into the battle, finishing in 19th place. His teammate Magnussen fared marginally better, in 17th, with the Sauber of Felipe Nasr once again struggling in 18th.
Q2 began slowly, with a small trickle of cars out on track. The top 5 seemed somewhat familiar, with Rosberg leading Hamilton, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Raikkonen. Their teams must have felt the same, they all finished in the pits, satisfied with their positions. Towards the back, both the McLarens of Alonso and Button needed to improve, and both were set on doing so, until Jenson Button clipped his left rear, causing a puncture and rendering his efforts useless. There was big drama at the end, with a rear lock up under braking for Haas’ Romain Grosjean, with the Frenchman burying his troublesome car in the barrier at turn 10. Starting 16th will be Marcus Ericsson, who failed to improve his Q1 position. He’ll be behind the Haas’ of Gutierrez and Grosjean, in 14th and 15 respectively. 13th place was occupied by Button, who’ll be disappointed after being well on track to improve into the top 10. The two Williams were an unexpected addition to the drop, with Massa behind Bottas in P12 and P11.
The final session was delayed due to Grosjean’s crash, allowing the teams to fix any niggles that may have appeared in Q2. It promised an interesting mix up, with no one certain of how the grid would look after 12 minutes of laps. The Force India’s both looked quick in practice, but Perez failed to impress, managing just 10th place. McLaren’s Alonso finished 9th fastest, separating Perez from his teammate, Hulkenberg. He will start in 8th. It was a good day for Torro Rosso, with Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat in 6th and 7th respectively.
The battle for pole was a 5-way duel. Mercedes vs Red Bull vs (only one) Ferrari. It was Nico Rosberg, though, who managed to come out on top, taking his 30th F1 career pole to start his 200th race at the front. Behind him, the weekend’s star driver so far, Daniel Ricciardo, who split the two Mercedes’, with Hamilton in third behind him. Verstappen finished 4th fastest, he’ll start directly behind his teammate on the second row. Kimi Raikkonen’s pole drought, lasting back to France 2008, continues. He’ll start 5th fastest under the lights in Singapore.