Sebastian Vettel sat out the final qualifying runs in Singapore and hung on to pole position after rivals failed to beat his time.
Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber all came close, but in the end the gamble paid off. Unusually Vettel was confirmed as the polesitter for Sunday’s race while standing in front of a TV monitor after what was an impressive display of confidence.
“It’s a weird feeling,” he admitted. “You stand in the garage when there’s roughly two minutes to go in the session and you know that it’s too late. But then it’s much worse when you see the others at the final attempt and you know there’s nothing you can do. I was watching the sector times very closely with obviously Romain, Nico and Mark in particular. Mark started with a purple sector one, very close in sector two, then Nico had a purple sector two, then Romain had a purple sector two.
“Then fortunately my last sector was strong enough to just stay ahead. It was very close in the end with Nico. That’s a great feeling then, obviously, because it could go wrong but very happy obviously with the result. The car’s been phenomenal all weekend. Yesterday I think the gap was a bit of a surprise. Today’s been more what we expected – especially with Mercedes being very close behind.
“I knew that obviously we had a cushion which is why we decided not to run again, but the thing you don’t know is how much the track improves so I’m sure that there was a little bit of track ramping up plus the fact that if you run again you get a better feel for the tyres, for the track and you get a little bit more out of yourself, so we thought it was good enough and in the end it was good enough. But yeah, it was probably a bit closer. Both of them, Nico and Romain, had a very strong middle sector but fortunately my last sector was strong enough to keep them just behind.”
Vettel admitted that despite being on pole, his Sunday might not be so straightforward, given the challenges of Singapore.
“It’s one of the toughest races we face all year. I would say the toughest – physically and mentally – because it’s so long. One lap is so long, there’s so many corners, there’s hardly any room for mistakes, it’s very bumpy and we’re all sweating pretty much even though we only did a couple of laps in qualifying.
“So the heat obviously and the humidity plays a factor. It will be very tough. Surely pole is the best position to start from – very happy with that as it is tricky to pass on this track. But because it is such a long race I think there is plenty of opportunities for all of us. Usually we get a safety car at some stage in the race. Yeah, as I said, happy to start from pole, try to have a good start and then settle into a nice rhythm and see what we can do.”