Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix

Formula One: Hamilton smashes lap record as he claims pole

Above: Lewis Hamilton celebrating his hard-won pole in what he called "a hardcore qualifying session". Left: Fans at the Liam Gallagher concert. The singer thrilled the audience with his hour-long set at the Padang stage.
Lewis Hamilton celebrating his hard-won pole in what he called "a hardcore qualifying session". ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, JOYCE FANG
Above: Lewis Hamilton celebrating his hard-won pole in what he called "a hardcore qualifying session". Left: Fans at the Liam Gallagher concert. The singer thrilled the audience with his hour-long set at the Padang stage.
Fans at the Liam Gallagher concert. The singer thrilled the audience with his hour-long set at the Padang stage.ST PHOTOS: ARIFFIN JAMAR, JOYCE FANG

Mercedes driver close to elimination before taking first place in dramatic qualifying session

While the Marina Bay Street Circuit radiates glitz and glamour, under the intense floodlights lies arguably the most demanding track in the pinnacle of motorsports.

Fresh from claiming pole position - and breaking rival Sebastian Vettel's lap record of 1min 39.491sec set last year - at the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix last night, Lewis Hamilton hailed the twisty 23-turn river of tarmac as Formula One's toughest.

"This track is epic, it's so difficult. It's the toughest track of the year... Monaco on steroids, really," the Mercedes driver said, referring to one of F1's most glamorous settings. "This track is beautiful. I can't wait until tomorrow."

He certainly had an eventful qualifying yesterday. From staring elimination right in the face, the 33-year-old stormed to pole position with some sensational driving.

The Mercedes man had been on the brink of missing the cut in the first period of qualifying owing to worn tyres, but he fought back to take first place on the grid for today's night race after a flying lap of 1:36.015, ahead of Red Bull's Max Verstappen (1:36.334) and Ferrari's Vettel (1:36.628).

"Wow, that was a hardcore qualifying session. That lap felt like magic. I'm super overwhelmed. I'm really happy," said a delighted Hamilton, who won in Singapore in 2009, 2014 and last year.

He had only just squeaked into the second period of qualifying after finishing 14th in the first, where the five slowest drivers from the grid of 20 were eliminated.

 

But after changing tyres from supersofts to hypersofts, which offered the highest level of grip, Hamilton tamed the 5.065km circuit, leaving Verstappen and championship rival Vettel trailing in his wake.

Hamilton said of the change of rubber: "That last session, it was about playing all those bits you found in practice and (putting) it into a puzzle. I managed to maximise on pretty much every corner."

Hamilton leads the Drivers' World Championship standings on 256 points, 30 more than the Ferrari ace.

Another overjoyed driver was 20-year-old Verstappen, who is on track to get his first podium place in Singapore. The Dutchman said: "This feels like a victory. To be second is unbelievable and this shows we have an amazing car."

Over at the Padang, the circuit park's biggest stage, American alternative rock band The Killers kicked off their set at 10.15pm, soon after the last action of the night ended.

Led by charismatic singer Brandon Flowers, the band had the crowd singing along to songs from their five-album discography.

These include early hit Somebody Told Me from their 2004 debut album to show-opener The Man from their most recent album released last year.

At one point, Flowers pulled up from the audience a fan who briefly upstaged the band by playing drums on 2006 track For Reasons Unknown.

Earlier in the night, British singer and songwriter Liam Gallagher swaggered his way though an hour-long set at the same Padang stage.

While he played newer songs such as For What It's Worth off his debut solo album released last year, the biggest reception from the audience was reserved for songs like 1995 hit Wonderwall by his popular former band, Oasis.

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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 'Hamilton smashes lap record as he claims pole'. Print Edition | Subscribe