Vettel grabs Ferrari's first pole position since 2012 German GP
Vettel secures first pole for Ferrari since 2012 but refuses to write off Mercedes in today's race
He yelled in celebration even before he got out of the car last night, after topping the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix qualifying session, as if he had already won the race proper.
Other than the jubilation of grabbing pole for tonight's race, it was, perhaps, understandable why Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (left) was so exuberant last night.
The four-time world champion will start in pole position for the first time in Ferrari colours after joining the Prancing Horse at the start of the season, and it was also the storied Italian team's first pole since Fernando Alonso's at the 2012 German Grand Prix.
"Unbelievable. I know it is only Saturday and the main job is tomorrow but I had to enjoy the moment," said Vettel, 28, at the post-qualifying media conference.
"The car was fantastic to drive and got better through qualifying. I am surprised by the margin, but it just came together.
"I really had a near-perfect lap at the end."
Vettel, a three-time winner of the Singapore Grand Prix, made full use of his familiarity of the Marina Bay street circuit, and his confidence in negotiating it, to clock the fastest lap of 1min 43.885sec.
Asked by The New Paper how much his previous wins factored in qualifying last night, Vettel said: "I think it's crucial that you are confident around the track.
"It is a street circuit, the better you feel, the closer you can get to the walls, the quicker you can be.
"I think it is a circuit where the driver can make a difference. If he feels comfortable... I've always loved this track since we first came here.
"It's an extreme challenge, but it's the sort of race where you are excited, not scared, but nervous before you start."
While the narrative leading up to qualifying was on the dominant Mercedes, and Lewis Hamilton equalling the late Ayrton Senna's record of eight straight pole positions and 41 grands prix wins, it was a dismal night for the Silver Arrows, who qualified out of the top three.
World champion and championship leader Hamilton managed only fifth place (1:45.300), while teammate Nico Rosberg (1:45.415) was sixth.
The Singapore race will mark the first time since June last year that a Mercedes car will not start the race in pole, and the first time since the 2013 US Grand Prix that they are not among the top four at the start of a race.
"To be perfectly honest, we don't mind," said Vettel of Mercedes' poor qualifying session last night.
"I don't know, it's a surprise... they have the strongest package this year. They must have some issues, not feeling comfortable at all."
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo finished second in qualifying with 1:44.428, while Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen (1:44.667) completed a great night for the Italian team by placing third.
The Iceman said he struggled with braking, but added: "In the end, the result is okay for me, seeing how difficult it has been for me today.
"We should be okay tomorrow... I will try to have a strong race and finish 1-2 tomorrow."
After topping the second and third practice sessions, Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat had to settle for a career-best fourth on the grid tonight after relinquishing his wlead to Vettel in the second qualifying session last night.
The 21-year-old Russian said: "As the lights go off, we will try and overtake the Ferraris."
But, beyond the threat of the Red Bulls, Vettel is not discounting the Silver Arrows from bouncing back to prevent him from winning an unprecedented fourth Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel said: "I wouldn't rule them out, it's not the easiest of circuits to overtake but, if you have the pace, eventually you'd come through.
"I expect them to be strong tomorrow."
Qualifying results (top 15)
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:43.885
- Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:44.428
- Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:44.667
- Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) 1:44.745
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:45.300
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:45.415
- Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1:45.676
- Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) 1:45.798
- Felipe Massa (Williams) 1:46.077
- Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:46.413
- Nico Huelkenberg (Force India) 1:46.305
- Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 1:46.328
- Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:46.385
- Carlos Sainz Jr (Toro Rosso) 1:46.894
- Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:47.019.
Mercedes: a massive step rearwards
Mercedes have all but given up hope of winning the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix after a lacklustre performance in yesterday's qualifying that they struggled to find an explanation for.
After taking pole position in 23 consecutive races dating back to the middle of last year, the seemingly unstoppable team were shuffled back to the third row of the grid after being outpaced by the Ferraris and Red Bulls.
Mercedes and their rivals were left in a state of disbelief after world champion Lewis Hamilton qualified fifth after taking pole position in 11 of the previous 12 races this year and his teammate Nico Rosberg was sixth.
"Shock is probably not the right word because we need to stay calm and analyse what happened, but we are very surprised," said Mercedes Motorsport head Toto Wolff.
"We have been very good for two years now and never put a foot wrong and, this time, it was a massive step rearwards and we need to concentrate on our strengths and get it right for Suzuka."
Mercedes still have a huge lead in the constructors' championship but the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda said they would need to discover why they dropped off the pace so dramatically.
"We really have to sit down now carefully and understand what we did wrong because the car is no different, the engine is the same, the tyres are the same," he said.
"Something we must have done wrong here in Singapore, what we did not understand and we have to find the answer." - Reuters.
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