Lewis Hamilton may need more magic to win Singapore GP
Hamilton to start on pole position ahead of Verstappen and Vettel; Race start 1.10pm, coverage underway at 11.30am on Sky F1
By Pete Gill and James Galloway in Singapore
Last Updated: 16/09/18 12:05pm
Lewis Hamilton believes he will need another conjuring trick to win the Singapore GP after landing a shock pole position with "a magical lap".
On a tight and twisty Singapore circuit which was expected to hurt Mercedes, the world championship leader produced what Sky F1's Martin Brundle hailed as "the lap of the season" to beat Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel to pole.
Astonishingly, Hamilton's lap was four seconds faster than his best lap in qualifying at Singapore a year ago when he was just fifth quickest - although Pirelli's hypersoft tyres were not available 12 months ago.
But having won the Saturday battle, Hamilton knows he will need to produce more magic if he is to win Sunday's war of attrition in what is considered to be the toughest race on the calendar.
"It is the most challenging circuit for us in the year," said Hamilton. "It's Monaco on steroids really, being that it's a lot longer, a lot more corners."
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Two weeks ago, Hamilton won the Italian GP from third on the grid after his fast start caught out Vettel and the Mercedes driver knows a quick get-away will be critical to his victory hopes on Sunday.
"It is very hard to overtake here," Hamilton told Sky F1. "I think it's the fourth-hardest. We truly believed we would be behind Red Bull and Ferrari but we pulled something out of the bag today."
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Vettel's unhappiness was public and pronounced after qualifying but, mindful of Ferrari's race-pace in Friday's race simulations, the German is confident he can prevent Hamilton increasing his championship lead.
"It is very close," said Vettel. "Everyone has been up top at some point this weekend."
But Vettel had already made his displeasure at Ferrari's performance plain, telling Sky F1: "The gap is a surprise. But l don't think it reflects the true performance. For us, it wasn't as smooth as we wanted it to be.
"As l said, it wasn't ideal - you can figure out what l mean. We should have done better. We had the ingredients but we didn't put it together. Pole was definitely there to grasp."
Vettel finished over half a second behind Hamilton while Red Bull's Max Verstappen took second to secure a front-row starting berth alongside Hamilton.
"The car was working really well - we made a really big step from all the practice sessions into qualifying," said Verstappen.
"Even with the problems we had - the car falling into false neutral, weird things with the engine when I was going on power it was cutting out and even in Q3 I had that problem - I'm very happy to still be second.
"I don't know [if we can win]. It all depends on the start. If we can take the lead there then you have a good chance and then it depends on Safety Car coming in. Starting second gives a better opportunity than fifth or sixth.
"They don't know what's going on [with the engine] but in the race it should be better as you're not running on full power."
Verstappen continued: "It's just when you go to the limit of the engine where we seem to struggle this weekend with it, with driveability and torque mapping and stuff. For example on Friday in the long runs I didn't have the problem. And if it breaks, it breaks."
Will the Safety Car continue its 100 per cent record?
While the Singapore street track offers precious few overtaking opportunities, the race has still served up unpredictability in its first decade on the calendar.
That has often proved largely thanks to the Safety Car, which has appeared at least once in all 10 previous Singapore GPs.
And Valtteri Bottas, who starts fourth in the second Mercedes, admits even the best-laid plans for what should be a one-stop race are usually scuppered when the race is neutralised.
"We saw in P2 long runs that pretty much all the teams had issues with graining, including us," said Bottas of the hypersoft tyre, which all the top 10 on the grid start on.
"More than 10 laps will be difficult. It's possible as the track is evolving through the weekend so from Friday to Sunday it can be quite a big difference with the tyres. So the main job is getting that to last and not to open up the graining early.
"I think it's going to be one stop for everyone…but whatever you normally plan for this race the plan goes into the bin when the first Safety Car comes out!
"So the main thing is to be dynamic and reactive."
Sky F1's Singapore GP schedule
Sunday, September 16
11.30am: Pit Lane LIVE!
12.30pm: On the Grid LIVE!
1.10pm: The Singapore Grand Prix LIVE!
3.30pm: Paddock LIVE!
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Watch the spectacular floodlit Singapore GP live on Sky Sports F1 as the title run-in intensifies. The race begins at 1.10pm on Sunday, September 16 with build-up from 11.30am. Get Sky Sports F1.