Lewis Hamilton eyes Singapore 'long game' after Mercedes upstaged
Championship leader starts Singapore GP fifth, four slots behind title rival Vettel; Hamilton hoping for strong start and strategy
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 30/09/17 8:37am
Lewis Hamilton admitted he was surprised by title rival Sebastian Vettel's surge to pole position as Mercedes' Singapore GP fears were realised in qualifying.
Despite saying he "threw the sink at it" around the demanding street circuit, Hamilton could only manage fifth on the grid as Mercedes were comfortably outqualified by Ferrari and Red Bull.
Hamilton, whose slender three-point title lead over Vettel looks likely to be overhauled on Sunday, admits he must now play the "long game" in an attempt to work his way to the podium.
Despite winning two of the last three Singapore GPs, Mercedes' dominance of F1 in recent seasons has never transferred to the same extent at the night race and the superior pace of their two chief rivals so far this year has left them with a big challenge to overcome.
"We knew coming here it would be difficult," Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. "Every year it's been difficult for us generally.
How the top runners will line up
|1. Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari|
|2. Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|3. Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull|
|4. Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari|
|5. Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes|
|6. Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes|
"We knew today would be tough but I didn't anticipate Ferrari would be as strong as they were. I thought Red Bull would be as quick as they were.
"We remain hopeful. I got everything I could out of the car. I gave it everything and more. I threw the sink at it and squeezed every bit of it."
Despite outpacing team-mate Valtteri Bottas by an impressive margin of six tenths of a second, Hamilton himself qualified the same time behind pole position.
The Englishman last finished on the podium in Singapore three years ago and, if he is to do so again, he will require a more unpredictable race than the last two seasons, when the top three finished in grid order.
"This is a c*** track for overtaking," Hamilton bemoaned. "It's usually a long, long train.
"The start is an opportunity, strategy is an opportunity, Safety Cars. We'll have to play the long game - it's a marathon not a sprint."
Hamilton claimed the lead of the 2017 World Championship from Vettel for the first time a fortnight ago at Monza, a race in which Mercedes routed Ferrari on the Italian team's home ground.
Singapore was always expected to favour Ferrari over Mercedes, but Hamilton was still impressed by their rivals' Saturday performance after what had appeared to be a troubled Friday.
"I don't know where Ferrari have picked up that pace," he added. "We have some races coming up where I think we'll be strong."