SINGAPORE (AP) — Sebastian Vettel showed his mastery of the Marina Bay circuit to take pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, while championship rival Lewis Hamilton struggled throughout and finished fifth.
Max Verstappen qualified in second place ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen steering his Ferrari to fourth place ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Vettel’s 49th career pole came on the track where he holds the record with four wins and six podiums overall, and his superiority showed in a lap record of 1 minute 39.491 seconds. He would have gone even faster had he not nudged the wall on his final attempt.
It is a crucial pole for Vettel on one of the three hardest tracks to overtake on in Formula One.
His joy was evident as he let out a high-pitched shrill for several seconds, before shouting “Grande Lavoro!” (Great work!) in Italian. He is now in a great position to claw back Hamilton’s three-point lead and reclaim first place in a hard-fought title race.
Red Bull dominated all three practice sessions, with Verstappen posting the fastest time in the third and final practice and Ricciardo setting lap records in Friday’s two sessions.
Hamilton complained of problems with his tire temperatures and seemed completely out of sorts. It was even worse for Bottas, who could not find any rhythm.
The track, with its 23 corners, greatly reduces speed and was expected to favor Ferrari over Mercedes.
But not to this extent.
Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff shook his head as he looked on anxiously from the team garage.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.