Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the Singapore GP after outshining Mercedes team-mate and title rival Lewis Hamilton in qualifying.
Hamilton will start just third after a mistake – one of many on what has been an error-strewn weekend for the world champion – on his flying lap allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to claim a front-row starting berth alongside Rosberg.
The German’s pole lap was the fastest ever recorded at Singapore and over half a second better than Hamilton’s best. “That was one of my top three laps ever,” said a jubilant Rosberg.
“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.”
Hamilton arrived in Q3 critically under-prepared after missing out on a large chunk of track time due to a mechanical failure in Practice Two before two errors in Practice Three meant he failed to complete a lap on the ultrasoft tyres.
He was made immediately out-paced by seven tenths by Rosberg’s brilliant effort at the start of the pole position shoot-out and then ran wide on his second Q3 flyer to allow Ricciardo to grab second.
“It was stunning lap, it really came from nowhere,” said Red Bull Christian Horner. “We will try to take the fight to Mercedes.”
Both Red Bulls reached the top ten shootout on supersoft tyres, meaning Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who line up fourth next to Hamilton, will start on slower but more durable tyres than Mercedes.
Mercedes have consistently struggled off the line this year and Ricciardo quipped: “I will try to get into Nico’s ear before the start and put some more pressure on him!
But Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel will start last after suffering a suspension failure in Q1. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen qualified fifth on another lacklustre day for the faltering Scuderia.
Carlos Sainz took sixth with one of the laps of the day, two tenths up on his Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kyvat.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso rounded off the top ten alongside Force India pair Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. But the Mexican was later dropped to 18th after receiving an eight-place grid penalty for two yellow flag infringements after Romain Grosjean crashed in Q2.
Grosjean, who described his Haas car as “one of the worst cars I’ve ever driven” on Saturday morning, crashed out heavily at the conclusion of Q2, wrecking Williams’ hopes of reaching the top ten, while Jenson Button also failed to reach Q3 after brushing the wall in his McLaren.
Singapore GP qualifying
1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:42.584
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.531
3. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, + 0.704
4. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 0.744
5. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.956
6. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.613
7. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.885
8. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 1.895
9. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 1.969
10. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1.998
Out in Q2
11. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:44.740
12. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:44.991
13. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:45.144
14. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, 1:45.593
15. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:45.723
16. Marcus Ericcson, Sauber, 1:47.827
Out in Q3
17. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, 1:46.825
18. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, 1:46.860
19. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 1:46.960
20. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, 1:47.667
21. Esteban Ocon, Manor, 1:48.296
22. Sebastian Vettel, 1:49.116