Saturday at the Marina Bay Street Circuit was both eventful and surprising, with Mercedes’ 23-race run of qualifying success being shattered by Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. Here is a round-up of final practice and the three qualifying sessions in Singapore:
With 60 minutes of running to complete final changes and tweaks ahead of qualifying and Sunday’s race, practice three was a busy session under the bright lights of Singapore.
However, like Friday’s earlier running, conditions were not representative.
Pastor Maldonado was the first out on track for Lotus and he was swiftly followed by a number of other drivers, including Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. Early running was completed on the soft tire, before switching to the option compound for the final runs.
Daniil Kvyat was the early pace-setter for Red Bull Racing, but by the half-way mark it was Vettel who had returned to the top of the timesheets. Ferrari looked strong on both tire compounds, as did Red Bull, while Mercedes struggled more for pace in the unique track conditions and on the unusual street track.
Drivers moved onto the super-softs with just a few minutes left in the session. Vettel displaced his team-mate Raikkonen with a 1:45.682 and it proved to be an unbeatable time. He ended the session fastest from Raikkonen, who was four tenths further back, and Kvyat.
Daniel Ricciardo was fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz Jr.
Max Verstappen and Marcus Ericsson completed the top 10. Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button – who completed fewer laps compared to most – were next up. F1 rookie Alexander Rossi was 19th, ahead of his Manor team-mate Will Stevens.
The qualifying hour in Singapore produced a very surprising result in the narrative of the 2015 season, but not of the race weekend itself. Signs from practice showed that Mercedes would have a fight on its hands to secure pole position, and that’s exactly what happened.
Vettel stormed to his first pole position in three years, halting Mercedes’ streak of success. Both of his Q3 times were good enough for first but the quickest was a 1:43.885. He finished six tenths clear of Ricciardo’s Red Bull, with the Australian putting in an impressive qualifying performance.
Raikkonen and Kvyat were third and fourth and will complete the second row, ahead of the two Mercedes drivers of Hamilton and Rosberg. Bottas, Verstappen, Felipe Massa and Romain Grosjean completed the top 10.
Hulkenberg was the first driver eliminated in Q2, failing to progress alongside his Force India team-mate Sergio Perez, who was 13th – separated by Alonso’s McLaren. Sain Jr was 14th but hit the wall at Turn 19, damaging his car. Button was slowest of the runners in the second session, having only just made it through.
The Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Ericsson found themselves in the Q1 drop-one, alongside Maldonado’s Lotus. Manor’s Stevens and Rossi completed the result. Both have grid penalties for gearbox changes but it does not alter the result.
It was an intriguing and exciting qualifying session, partly thanks to the change in the pecking order in Singapore. With unusual conditions, a stunning backdrop and a mixed up grid, we should be set for an exciting race.