F1 championship leader Sebastian Vettel wins pole position in Singapore
Red Bull star has nervous wait after deciding to post only one lap in qualifying
Mercedes' Nico Rosberg comes closest, qualifying second at Marina Bay
Vettel's closest title rival Fernando Alonso will start seventh on the grid
Call it confidence, or call it arrogance – but whatever it is, Sebastian Vettel certainly has it.
Already 53 points clear in his bid for a fourth consecutive world Formula One title, and seeking his third successive race victory, the Red Bull driver did not even bother trying to set a second lap in final qualifying for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.
So assured was the German that he was quickest on Saturday at Marina Bay, a grueling street circuit where he has triumphed under lights the past two years, he sat in the team garage and watched his rivals try in vain to beat his leading lap time.
“It was weird standing in the garage with roughly two minutes to go,” the 26-year-old told reporters.
“It then became much worse with the others making their final attempt and there’s nothing you can do.”
However, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg fell just short of Vettel’s one minute 42.841 seconds, with the German clocking 1:42.932.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean was third fastest in 1:43.058, and the Frenchman will be joined on the second row of the grid by Vettel’s teammate Mark Webber (1:43.152).
Webber was fastest in the first sector, Rosberg quickest in the second and Grosjean in the third, but Vettel’s burst in the final section gave him the 41st pole position of his career
“I watched the sector times closely with Romain, Nico and Mark, but fortunately my last sector was strong enough to stay ahead of Nico,” said Vettel, who was fastest in Friday’s second practice and edged Grosjean in Saturday’s final warmup.
“In the end it was a great feeling because it could have gone wrong. Yesterday the gap to the others was a surprise, but today was more what we expected.”
Rosberg is seeking his first podium placing since winning the British Grand Prix five races ago in late June.
“Seb has been really quick all weekend,” the 28-year-old said. “It was very close in the end. One tenth (of a second) more would have been possible, but second is still a good result.
“We’ve good race pace and I’m very confident for tomorrow.”
His teammate Lewis Hamilton, who won the race in 2009 for McLaren, was fifth fastest ahead of Felipe Massa – who again out-qualified his Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso.
Alonso, the Singapore victor in 2008 and 2010, was seventh – while Kimi Raikkonen, who will join the Spaniard at the Prancing Horse next year, will start in 13th after failing to reach Q3 for Lotus as he struggled with a back problem.
Alonso, who is second overall, and fellow title hopefuls Hamilton and Raikkonen will need significant improvements on Sunday if they are to stop Vettel extending his lead in the drivers’ championship.
It had been reported that McLaren wanted Alonso to return to the team where he had one unhappy season in 2007, but he said after qualifyingn that he hoped to end his career at Ferrari.
“I’ve spent the last four races saying I want to stay at Ferrari and maybe extend the contract when they would like,” the 32-year-old said.
“We are working very closely on arriving at that situation. To sit together and to try to do it, that’s my desire, and the team has expressed to me more or less the same desire when we talk about this.”
Raikkonen said he would start on Sunday, despite problems with a trapped nerve.
“This morning was very bad,” the Finn said. “I couldn’t really try, so we probably didn’t get done what we wanted with the car, but at least we got it on the grid and we’ll see what we can do in the race.
“It was good we drove in qualifying in the end, but it was not that nice.”
McLaren’s Jenson Button qualified eighth ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniel Ricciardo, who will replace fellow Australian Webber at Red Bull next year.
Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez completed the top 10, with the Mexican beating teammate Nico Hulkenberg for the first time this year. He will start the race with a choice of tire compounds after declining to set a time in Q3.