Singapore GP: Lewis Hamilton pole lap 'major Mercedes step up'
By James Galloway in Singapore
Last Updated: 04/12/18 6:09pm
Toto Wolff believes Lewis Hamilton's "incredible" Singapore GP pole position represents a "major step forward" for Mercedes this season at their so-called bogey track.
F1's world champions have habitually cautioned about their prospects on the narrow street circuit and, although they proved competitive here on Friday, their fears appeared to be realised when Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel outpaced them by half a second in final practice.
But a dramatic Q3 served to make a mockery of most paddock predictions as Hamilton surged to a commanding pole as a stunned Ferrari toiled to third and sixth on the grid.
"Lewis produced one of the most incredible qualifying laps I have witnessed to take pole position," said Wolff.
The Mercedes team principal also reserved special praise for the workforce to deliver a more competitive car for Singapore.
"I must really take my hat off to the work that has been done in the UK, at Brackley and in Brixworth, to prepare the car and engine for this race because it was our weakest race track together with Monaco," said Wolff.
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"We were really not competitive in the past and we found the right clues. Again, the difficult days in Spa have given us direction and, at least for a qualifying lap, this team has made a major step forward today and over this weekend generally.
"It was the tough experiences from the past that have shown us the way."
How it nearly went wrong…
While the final qualifying segment ended with jubilant scenes in the Mercedes garage, the climax to the first, Q1, some 40 minutes earlier had left the team's management with their nerves jangling.
Hamilton only made the cut for Q2 by two tenths of a second after the team used the slower ultrasoft rather than the quicker hypersofts in the first session.
"My friend [Sauber team boss Fred] Vasseur sent me a text message that said: 'You know what the difference is between an idiot and a genius? Two tenths," revealed a relieved Wolff.
"That summarises it pretty well!"
Wolff added it was "a nerve-wracking wait to make sure we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot at the first opportunity".