Hamilton beats Maldonado to Singapore pole
22 September 2012 – Lewis Hamilton has picked up pole position for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, which he will start alongside Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. After topping all three practice sessions, Sebastian Vettel could manage no more than third ahead of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Kimi Räikkönen mustered only 12th position.
As it often the case in Formula 1, dramatic forecasts for rain came to nothing as the street circuit remained very much dry when qualifying began at nine o’clock. There were smiles in the paddock following the confirmation from Bernie Ecclestone that Singapore will be staying on the calendar until at least 2017.
There were a few surprises in Q1. Not only did Vitaly Petrov and Narain Karthikeyan out-qualify their respective team-mates at Caterham and HRT, but Sauber’s tough weekend continued. After suffering chronic oversteer, Kamui Kobayashi was helpless to avoid his first early bath of 2012 as he sat in the garage while the two Toro Rosso drivers improved.
The most car damage was picked up in Q2. Romain Grosjean - back from his ban - spun into the wall at Turn 14 and was fortunate to continue in the session, let alone out-qualify Kimi Räikkönen to become the only Lotus representative in the top ten shootout. The impact suffered by Bruno Senna was somewhat more substantial, as the Brazilian’s right-rear suspension was destroyed again the retaining wall of Turn 21; this cemented the Williams into 17th place, behind Sergio Pérez and the pair of Toro Rossos.
As Räikkönen struggled his way to 12th, Felipe Massa was 13th with Nico Hülkenberg extremely disappointed to finish 11th after losing tyre and brake temperatures when he was instructed to let cars past. The German’s dissatisfaction was highlighted by the facts that team-mate Paul di Resta was capable of sixth position and that Hülkenberg had been the quicker of the duo in final practice this evening.
In the shootout, Mercedes sent their drivers out for a single lap. As both Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg elected not to post a lap time - to line up ninth and tenth – they are able to choose their tyre compound for the start. Ahead of them will be the aforementioned di Resta, Mark Webber and Grosjean who was fortunate to avoid a touch with the wall at the start of the Esplanade Bridge.
Championship leader Alonso will set off from fifth place, perhaps privileged to be ahead of one Red Bull on this high-downforce track, whereas Jenson Button is on the back half of Row 2. Somewhat mystified by his lack of pace at the end of Q3, Vettel could not convert his practice speed into a second consecutive Marina Bay pole, confirming that Hamilton had been carrying more fuel on Friday. Maldonado was delighted with a second front row start of the year and is now aiming to score his first points since winning the Spanish Grand Prix.
Pole is Hamilton’s second in Singapore, his fifth of 2012 and third from the last four races. His 24th overall, the Englishman has now equalled the sums of triple World Champions Niki Lauda and Nélson Piquet. Heading into Sunday, he sits 37 points behind Alonso.
Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix begins at 8pm local time (BST +7) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report