Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton admits he got nervous when he wasn’t able to get a clean lap in Q1 of the Singapore GP but was relieved with the magical pole lap in Q3 then after.
With the limited tyres at hand, Mercedes had to go for the ultrasoft compound with Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the first part of qualifying which almost caught them out as the gap between ultrasoft and hypersoft tyres was evidently huge.
Bottas was 12th with Hamilton only 14th – two places away from getting knocked out. Even though the Williams drivers were of no threat but the likes of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne were capable of a Q2 result.
After the scare though, it was plain sailing into Q3 where Hamilton was able to eke out a brilliant lap of 1m36.015s to take pole with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel only third. “I definitely was a little bit concerned,” he said to the media.
“But we were aware that we came here with the wrong tyre strategy in the sense that others had more hypers than us so we needed to get rid of a soft in P3 I think it was. Already from practice we weren’t best prepared.
“Others started on softer tyres in P1 and also in P2 and P3 is where we had that. So we definitely lost some running because the tyres are massive, massive – you could see it’s two or three seconds or whatever it was between the tyres.
“Then we got into qualifying, we believed that in order to give us hypersofts in Q2 and Q3, that’s [ultrasoft] the tyre we went out on and we definitely didn’t expect to be on the pace that we were but the delta between the tyres was even bigger.
“I couldn’t go quicker so I was definitely a little bit nervous, but then we went back out and I’m not quite sure why the Ferraris did the run on that tyre [in Q2] – I don’t know if they had four new sets of hypers – probably unlikely.
“So that’s probably why they had to take another tyre, probably, but you could already have seen from our run that you were not going to get through there, so that just leaves me to believe that they probably just didn’t have an extra tyre.
“But the Q2 was good and once we got to Q3 it was nice but the extra run that others got, I think they had an advantage going into qualifying just by having the extra run on the hypersoft,” Hamilton explained.
The British driver relished the pole lap as he didn’t expect the position heading into the session. He felt the lap was ‘magic’ and that he could achieve whatever he wanted to prior to running it – admitting that he couldn’t repeat it on his second run.
The pole position helps him with a better chance in the race with the 30 points advantage as Vettel will have to clear the feisty Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen in order to catch Hamilton and pass him without taking extra risk considering the gap he has.
The German was disappointed with the ‘messy’ session as he couldn’t nail the lap like teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who was only fifth. The team tried a different strategy in Q2 going on the ultrasoft tyres but it didn’t work.
Following the session, some of the radio messages indicated of an in-decision between the team and the driver as they eventually chose the safer option to qualify on the hypersoft making it as a same strategy for the start of the race on Sunday.
“For us the qualifying didn’t go the way I think we planned it to be,” said Vettel. “Not just in terms of result – obviously we were hoping for more than third on the grid – but I think that’s one thing. I think obviously the gap is quite big, which is one.
“I think Lewis had a really good lap, so congrats to him for the lap. I’m sure it was a good one. But I don’t think he was unbeatable but for us today, the way we composed qualifying, I think it was difficult to get a rhythm.
“I was struggling in Q1, Q2, Q3. As I said before, I think other people did a better job. That’s including Lewis’ lap as an individual but also them as a team. And obviously it’s not what we wanted today to get third,” he added.