It’s usually one of the most exciting races of the season. Not only is it staged against a spectacular backdrop of the Singapore skyline at night, but it’s also one of only two street circuits on the calendar – the other being Monaco – meaning that the drivers have to work extra hard to keep their cars on the track and out of the wall.
Sadly though, qualifying didn’t offer up much in the way of excitement for the spectators. The Red Bulls had been fast throughout the free practice sessions, and despite Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets in P1, it looked as though even the Mercedes lacked the pace to do anything about the Red Bulls’ blistering speed.
As qualifying got underway, it appeared that one of Vettel’s main rivals was already out of the running for the weekend. Following the announcement of his move to Ferrari next year, Kimi Raikkonen was reported to be suffering from a bad back – something you really don’t went when flying over the bumps and curves of a street circuit.
The Ice Man wasn’t going to let his injury hold him back though, and went out in Q1 and Q2 to give qualifying his best shot. Unfortunately, his best was only 13th place, leaving him with a lot of work to do in the race tomorrow if he’s to keep his championship hopes alive.
There was pace in the Lotus though, as Romain Grosjean demonstrated. He was the only car – aside from the Red Bulls – who got through Q1 without going onto the super soft tyres, leaving him with an extra set of new tyres for the remainder of the session.
His Q2 wasn’t anything special, but he really delivered in Q3, putting his Lotus in third place on the grid, much to the delight of the team.
Mercedes showed promise early on in the session. Both Rosberg and Hamilton traded fastest laps at the beginning of Q1 on the medium compound tyres, but were forced to go out for a second run on the super softs to be sure of getting through to Q2.
Their times were good – but sadly, they were always just that little bit behind the Red Bulls. As Q3 got under way, it looked as if the best the Mercedes could hope for was third and fourth on the grid.
Vettel went out early to set a lap – and it was a good one. So much so that he headed back into the pits and sat the rest of the session out, so confident was he that nobody would be able to beat his time.
There was a nail biting moment for him as the rest of the cars battled it out in the top ten shootout. Webber set a purple first sector, with Rosberg also putting in blistering times. And for a second it like as though Seb might just be toppled off the top spot.
But it wasn’t to be. Rosberg could only manage second place, with Webber being pushed down to fourth after Grosjean snatched third from him at the last minute.
Hamilton meanwhile was characteristically disappointed with his fifth place on the grid – especially given his good showing early on in Q1, and his team mate’s strong qualifying position.
It was a lacklustre afternoon for the Ferraris as well, who had to settle for sixth and seventh – with Massa delighted to out qualify his team mate Alonso once again. That was surely sign of his intent to race for himself for the remainder of the season after the team decided to ditch him for Raikkonen in 2014.
The top 10 was rounded out by Button, Ricciardo and Gutierrez, with the Sauber driver delighted just to have made it through to Q3.
It was a disastrous afternoon for Paul Di Resta, whose car seems to be going backwards during the second half of the season. He was pushed out of Q1 just after the flag dropped, but the Scot remain optimistic that he can make up places in tomorrow’s race.
It was also a disappointing qualifying session for Nico Hulkenberg. Despite flying during Q1, he was just pipped to the post by his team mate in Q2, and will start the race in 11th position tomorrow. By Sarah Ellis
Provisional qualifying results:
1. Sebastian Vettel Germany Red Bull-Renault 1m 42.841s
2. Nico Rosberg Germany Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 42.932s
3. Romain Grosjean France Lotus-Renault 1m 43.058s
4. Mark Webber Australia Red Bull-Renault 1m 43.152s
5. Lewis Hamilton Britain Mercedes-Mercedes 1m 43.254s
6. Felipe Massa Brazil Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 43.890s
7. Fernando Alonso Spain Ferrari-Ferrari 1m 43.938s
8. Jenson Button Britain McLaren-Mercedes 1m 44.282s
9. Daniel Ricciardo Australia Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 44.439s
10. Esteban Gutierrez Mexico Sauber-Ferrari no time Q3
11. Nico Hulkenberg Germany Sauber-Ferrari 1m 44.555s
12. Jean-Eric Vergne France Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m 44.588s
13. Kimi Raikkonen Finland Lotus-Renault 1m 44.658s
14. Sergio Perez Mexico McLaren-Mercedes 1m 44.752s
15. Adrian Sutil Germany Force India-Mercedes 1m 45.185s
16. Valtteri Bottas Finland Williams-Renault 1m 45.388s
17. Paul di Resta Britain Force India-Mercedes 1m 46.121s
18. Pastor Maldonado Venezuela Williams-Renault 1m 46.619s
19. Charles Pic France Caterham-Renault 1m 48.111s
20. Giedo van der Garde Holland Caterham-Renault 1m 48.320s
21. Jules Bianchi France Marussia-Cosworth 1m 48.830s
22. Max Chilton Britain Marussia-Cosworth 1m 48.930s