Formula One: Sebastian Vettel laments 'messy' qualifying as he starts on second row

Despite starting on the second row in the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is optimistic that he can still get the better of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton tonight, and claw back the 30-point deficit between them in the d
Despite starting on the second row in the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel is optimistic that he can still get the better of Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton tonight, and claw back the 30-point deficit between them in the drivers' championship.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

German struggles for pace in qualifying as rival Hamilton grabs pole with stunning lap record

He cut a sullen figure after last night's qualifying, sitting beside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton in the media conference room, while the Briton was discussing the intricacies of Max Verstappen's jersey top.

It was clear that Sebastian Vettel was not happy with his spot on the second row for tonight's Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, and it was easy to see why.

All through the week, rival drivers and team officials had tipped his Ferrari team to flourish at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, and it was going well for the Prancing Horse, when Vettel's team-mate Kimi Raikkonen set the flying lap of 1min 37.194sec in yesterday's second qualifying session.

But after Hamilton set a sensational lap record of 1:36.015 in his Mercedes to start the third and final qualifying period, the 31-year-old German could not respond and had to settle for third in 1:36.628.

Red Bull's Verstappen was second (1:36.334) despite having issues with his car, while Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas (1:36.702) and Raikkonen (1:36.794) were fourth and fifth respectively.

"Not ideal," said Vettel, a four-time world champion and also a quadruple winner in Singapore. "It was a bit of a messy qualifying for us and, at the end, there was too much time missing."

He and Ferrari have come under scrutiny this season, for numerous driving errors as well as the team's race management, forcing team principal Maurizio Arrivabene to launch a staunch defence of the Scuderia on Friday.

But the mistakes continued. Vettel grazed the wall at Turn 21 during Friday's second practice session, and was sixth after Q2, after his team sent him out for his flying lap amid heavy traffic on the circuit.

He said at the media conference: "It was difficult to get a rhythm through (all three qualifying sessions) and other people did a better job - as an individual and as a team.

"That (the result) was not what we wanted today."

In contrast, Dutchman Verstappen, 20, was thrilled with his position, after facing issues with his engine the entire night. He narrowly missed out on becoming the youngest pole-sitter in F1 but said: "It was totally unexpected. From Practice Three, I was shaking with anger, but now I am just shaking with happiness.

"I feel like I have done my best qualifying ever. We just have to make sure we have a clean start and then everything is possible."

While seven in 10 pole-sitters have gone on to win the Singapore Grand Prix, Vettel is optimistic that he can still get the better of Hamilton tonight, and claw back the 30-point deficit between them in the drivers' championship.

He said: "The race will be a different story and tomorrow things will be different. The gap (in qualifying) is quite big, but I am not worried about that because I don't think that shows how strong we are.

"Lewis had a good lap so congratulations to him... but I don't think it was unbeatable."

There was no secret, said Hamilton. "I didn't have a wheelspin, I didn't have a snap anywhere, the car was just underneath me and I managed to maximise every corner. I do feel like I got absolutely everything possible on that lap."

SINGAPORE GP

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 16, 2018, with the headline 'Vettel disappoints again'. Print Edition | Subscribe