Saturday, 20 September 2014

Hamilton takes pole as Mercedes lock out the front row for Singapore

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow's Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit from pole position ahead of team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg by just 0.007s to give the Silver Arrows their seventh front row lock out of the season.

Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo was best of the rest and will start the race from third place 0.173s behind Hamilton and once again out-qualified team mate and reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel. Following the session Ricciardo commented:

'Coming into the weekend we thought that if we could be within two or three tenths of Mercedes then there was a realistic chance to stay with them in the race. We actually ended up closer to them than we thought in qualifying, so that’s good. 

If the start goes okay then it’s about trying to be smart and doing something with the strategy. If I can get close, then I’ll have a go, I haven’t been shy doing that this year, but it’s difficult on a street circuit. It’s close to home here and it’s nice to see a few Aussie flags in the crowd. Hopefully we can get a podium result for them tomorrow.'

Reigning world champion and defending Singapore Grand Prix race winner Sebastian Vettel commented:

'I’m not happy with that final lap, I was pushing a bit too hard and didn’t get it all together, so I’m not entirely happy, but it is what it is now. 

I think pole could have been in our grasp. We’ll hope to have a good race tomorrow, with good pit stops and a good strategy and we’ll see what we can do from there. I think we have good speed, but everyone seems to have good speed here. It’s a long race, so we’ll see how the tyres work and what we can do.'

Infiniti Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner was happy that his drivers locked out the second row saying:

'Second row of the grid for both of the drivers in a really tight qualifying was a really strong team performance. It was very close at the end and it was certainly the closest we’ve been to Mercedes in qualifying all year, so hopefully that bodes well for tomorrow’s race and we can put them under pressure.'

After showing fantastic progress in the early part of qualifying and this morning's practice session Ferrari had a difficult session as Fernando Alonso will start the race from 5th place on the grid while team mate Kimi Raikkonen lost power on his final run of in Q3 as a result of a suspect electrical failure which forced the Finn to stop on track to protect the car. Speaking after the session Raikkonen said: 

'That's racing'

Despite the problem, Raikkonen will start the race from seventh place on the grid and he will be hoping that the team will be able to sort out the issue on time for tomorrow's race as he looks to have a strong result but Ferrari have shown that they have made great progress recently.

Felipe Massa did a great job for the Williams Martini Racing Team, after holding provisional pole briefly the Brazilian finished the session sixth place splitting the two Ferrari's on a circuit where the team felt that they would struggle this weekend.

Valtteri Bottas will start the race behind fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen in eighth place for the Williams Martini Racing Team. 

Kevin Magnussen was left disappointed after McLaren brought an upgrade package for this weekend's race as he will start the race from 9th place on grid and would have been hoping to be higher up the grid. 

Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat rounded out the top ten for the Italian team. It was a disappointing session for Jenson Button in the second McLaren as he just missed out on a place in Q3 and will start the race from 11th place but has a free choice on what tyre he can start the race on.

Jean Eric Vegne will start the race just behind Button in 12th place in his Toro Rosso. It was a difficult session for the Sahara Force India F1 Team as Nico Hulkenberg will start the race from 13th place on the grid just ahead of the Sauber F1 Team's Esteban Gutierrez while Sergio Perez will start the race from 15th place. Speaking after the session, Hulkenberg commented:

'The qualifying hour in Singapore is always intense and stressful, but I was hoping to be a bit more competitive and squeeze into the top ten. As it turned out, a place in Q3 was a few tenths away, but my lap was pretty good. 

'I feel quite positive about the race because I have a free choice on tyres for the start and Singapore is always a long and eventful race. There are a few strategy options because yesterday we saw a lot of tyre degradation on both the compounds. The target is to come away with points tomorrow.'

Speaking about his session, Sergio Perez commented:

'The track felt very different today and we were not expecting such a dramatic change coming into qualifying. As the session went on, we struggled to get the tyres to work in the way we wanted.

We headed out early in Q2 to try and get a clean out lap and prepare the tyres, but obviously we knew this would give away something in terms of performance with the track evolution. 

Even with these choices, we weren't able to make the progress we wanted. Looking at the race we know that overtaking on this circuit is quite difficult, but with a good start and a strong strategy we can make up some places. This track is very harsh in terms of tyre degradation and I expect it to play a big part tomorrow. It will be a battle to get some good points, but on a track like this everything is possible.'

Sahara Force India F1 Team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya stated:

'We were expecting to be a little higher up the grid today. Our starting positions tomorrow mean we will need to work a bit harder to score the points we need. However, I feel quite positive about our long run pace, which should allow us to race competitively. 

Singapore usually throws up opportunities to explore different strategies and we enjoy racing in the heat. We need to be ready to maximise the opportunities that come up in the race with the goal of getting both cars in the points.'

A clearly frustrated Romain Grosjean will start the race from 16th place for the Lotus F1 Team. Adrian Sutil will start the race from 17th place for the Sauber F1 Team just ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the second Lotus.

The Marussia F1 Team's Jules Bianchi was best of the 'new teams' as he will start the race from 19th place just ahead of the Caterham F1 Team's Kamui Kobayashi and his Marussia team mate Max Chilton while Marcus Ericsson will start the race from 22nd place.

© Ben Johnston 2014

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