Dominant Vettel takes pole for Singapore GP; Hamilton 5th

SINGAPORE — Sebastian Vettel showed his mastery of the Marina Bay circuit to take pole position on Saturday for the Singapore Grand Prix, while championship rival Lewis Hamilton struggled throughout and finished fifth.

Max Verstappen qualified in second place ahead of Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen steering his Ferrari to fourth place ahead of Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Vettel’s 49th career pole came on the track where he holds the record with four wins and six podiums overall, and his superiority showed in a lap record of 1 minute 39.491 seconds.

“I think I need to calm down. The car was amazing,” Vettel said. “It’s an amazing track if you feel the car is coming alive.”

He would have gone even faster, had he not nudged the wall on his final attempt.

“It wasn’t a brush, it was a hit,” Vettel said. “I was lucky there was only one corner left.”

It is a crucial pole for Vettel on one of the three hardest tracks to overtake on in Formula One.

His joy was evident as he let out a high-pitched shrill for several seconds, before shouting “Grande Lavoro!” (Great work!) in Italian. He is now in a great position to claw back Hamilton’s three-point lead and reclaim first place in a title fight that looks set to go to the wire, with six races left after Singapore.

“I’m still full of adrenaline,” said Vettel, who had placed only 11th in Friday’s second practice. “The car switched from off to on … Yesterday we had a scrappy session and lost the car.”

Red Bull dominated all three practice runs, with Verstappen posting the fastest time in the third and final practice and Ricciardo setting lap records in Friday’s two sessions.

“I still believe I can win it. Today I’ll accept a little bit of a defeat,” Ricciardo said. “I thought pole would be on, but we couldn’t quite run with (Vettel) in that last qualifying.”

Hamilton complained of problems with his tire temperatures, while Bottas simply could not find any rhythm.

Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) qualified seventh ahead of McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, with Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz. Jr. completing the top 10.

The 5 kilometer (3.1-mile) track, with its 23 corners, greatly reduces speed and was expected to favor Ferrari over Mercedes.

But not to this extent.

Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff shook his head as he looked on anxiously from the team garage.

He has cause to worry.

Vettel’s impressive streak at the night race includes three straight…

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