Sebastian Vettel tore up the F1 script and denied Lewis Hamilton a slice of history as he grabbed pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix with a brilliant performance on Saturday. The Ferrari driver gave himself a great chance of a race win and smashed Mercedes' long-running domination of qualifying when he led the timings by more than half-a-second.
Mercedes cars have been on pole for the last 23 races but they struggled with their grip on the arduous street circuit, with Hamilton down in fifth and Nico Rosberg sixth. Championship leader Hamilton missed out on equalling Ayrton Senna's record of eighth straight pole positions, and will now struggle to match his idol's tally of 41 wins from 161 races.
With Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat starting ahead of him, Hamilton will have to fight past both Ferraris and both Red Bulls to get to the front of the pack. "It's a surprise. I thought yesterday they were sandbagging, also this morning because there's no doubt they have the strongest package this year," Vettel said of Mercedes.
"They must have some issues, not feeling comfortable at all is the only explanation." The four-time world champion clocked 1min 43.885sec on the demanding Marina Bay lay-out to front the F1 grid for the first time in nearly two years. Ferrari's first pole position since Germany 2012 made Vettel the strong favourite for Sunday's race, with five out of seven races in Singapore won from the front of the grid. Mercedes have been slow all week but any thoughts they were bluffing evaporated in a difficult session for the championship pace-setters. Hamilton was briefly quickest in Q1 but he was otherwise not in the reckoning, and had to pit during Q3 after scraping his underbody along a kerb.