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Vettel blows away Red Bull threat in four-way battle for Singapore F1 GP pole

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Vettel blows away Red Bull threat in four-way battle for Singapore F1 GP pole
Sep 16, 2017, 3:15 PM

Sebastian Vettel held off the dominant Red Bulls to take pole position for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen qualified alongsid...

Sebastian Vettel held off the dominant Red Bulls to take pole position for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, as Max Verstappen qualified alongside him on the front row.

Daniel Ricciardo took third place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen on a starting grid which has both Mercedes starting on the third row: Lewis Hamilton fifth and Valtteri Bottas sixth.

Vettel's time of 1m39.491s eclipsed Verstappen's effort by 0.323s at the end of a gripping qualifying battle which was largely led by Verstappen.

Both Red Bulls stayed within 0.060s of each other throughout as Q3 began as an open-ended contest, only for Vettel to blow the opposition away with a blistering lap and his fourth pole at Marina Bay.

Q1

The Red Bulls continued their rich run of form having led every session of the weekend so far as Verstappen led Q1 with a time of 1m42.010s, just 0.053s ahead of team-mate Ricciardo.

In third was Fernando Alonso, just 0.076s away from Verstappen's time as the McLaren-Honda chassis reaped rewards. Behind him was Carlos Sainz Jr, whose Toro Rosso was emitting smoke in the pitlane just before his flying lap was set.

Those outliers in the top 10 benefited from setting late flying laps as the track was green at the beginning of Q1 with oil dotted around sector three from F1's support series; the Marina Bay circuit evolved at an astonishing rate.

Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top five, two tenths off the top and another two tenths ahead of sixth place Hamilton. Jolyon Palmer took seventh, just 0.017s behind Hamilton, ahead of Daniil Kvyat (eighth) and Nico Hulkenberg in ninth.

Bottas struggled again, finishing 10th, but he was ahead of both Kimi Raikkonen – who went out first and set a fastest sector one time – and Sebastian Vettel, who was 12th ahead of both Force Indias, led by Sergio Perez. Vettel was eliminated in Q1 here last season.

Eliminated were both Williams cars: Felipe Massa (17th) having hit the wall outside the second-last corner to crack his rear-right wheel hub, and Lance Stroll (18th). Both Williams cars have been knocked out in Q1 at three of the last five GPs.

Haas' Kevin Magnussen missed out on Q2 by a tenth, having finished 16th. The Sauber duo finished 19th and 20th, led by Pascal Wehrlein. They haven't progressed Q1 since the Azerbaijan GP, six races ago, and Marcus Ericsson is on a run of 11 Q1 eliminations.

Q2

Raikkonen set a benchmark of 1m40.999s, even as Alonso in front looked to be holding him up in sector three. “The McLaren didn't help,” said Raikkonen, who eventually finished the session third, again fastest in sector one.

Verstappen, his Red Bull set-up perfectly, set the then-fastest time of 1m40.379s. The Red Bulls pushed themselves on their final flying attempts, and Verstappen improved to a 1m40.332s while Ricciardo took second place, 0.053s off his team-mate.

In fourth was Vettel, 0.004s behind his team-mate while Hamilton was fifth. The Mercedes' deficit became ever more apparent as Vandoorne finished sixth and Hulkenberg seventh to split Hamilton and eighth place Bottas.

Alonso and Sainz finished the session in ninth and 10th, respectively, to eliminate Renault's Palmer by nearly three tenths. Palmer has yet to out-qualify team-mate Hulkenberg this season, the only driver to do so.

Both Force Indias were also eliminated, with Perez complaining of a lack of grip before giving up on his flying lap to finish 12th, and Ocon ending Q2 back in 14th.

Kvyat said, “I'm fed up with this shit,” as he split the Force Indias in 13th. Romain Grosjean ended the session in last place to miss out on Q3.

Q3

Times crept into the 1m39s, with Vettel top early on with a flying lap of 1m39.669s, ahead of both Red Bulls who once again lapped within five hundredths of each other. With one flying lap remaining, Q3 was still wide open.

The Ferraris were fastest in the first sector as their engine power paid dividends, while the Red Bulls' strong chassis dominated sector three, but it was Mercedes losing time in all, particularly sector two, due to their long, heavy wheelbases.

Qualifying was delicately poised with two minutes remaining, and drivers began their warm-up laps in an attempt to shake up the Q3 order and dethrone Vettel.

Verstappen and Ricciardo couldn't improve on their times, however, and Vettel took pole with an even faster time of 1m39.491s for his 49th career pole.

Raikkonen backed out in the last sector with a late lock-up, keeping his fourth place position, as Verstappen settled for second and Ricciardo third, just under 0.030s behind his team-mate this time.

Toto Wolff's furrowed brow told the tale of Mercedes' expected woes on this circuit, with Hamilton finishing fifth, six tenths behind Vettel, and another seven tenths ahead of Bottas in sixth place.

In seventh was Hulkenberg who will start in the top 10 for the fourth time in five races, while Vandoorne takes ninth for the race having reached Q3 for the fourth time this season.

Toro Rosso's Sainz was 10th, nearly six tenths behind Vandoorne and 2.565s behind Vettel, whose composure and Ferrari's solid set-up denied Red Bull its first pole since the 2016 Monaco GP.

Who will take victory in tomorrow's race? Have your say on Vettel's pole position in the comment section below.
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