SINGAPORE, (Reuters) – World champion Lewis Hamilton put McLaren on pole position for today’s Singapore Grand Prix after title contender Rubens Barrichello crashed in the dying seconds of Saturday’s qualifying.
The Briton lapped the floodlit 5.067km Marina Bay street circuit in one minute 47.891 seconds to top the timesheets, with the final session red-flagged with just 26 seconds remaining on the clock.
“It’s absolutely fantastic and I am very happy for the team,” Hamilton told reporters. It was his second pole in a row, third in four races and 16th in 49 career starts.
“Throughout the weekend we have constantly been performing upgrades, so we didn’t really know how fast we were. Friday practice didn’t go that well so to come here today and do so well is a testament to the team as they worked through the night,” he added.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel and Williams’ Nico Rosberg, who was quickest in the second part of qualifying, will start second and third respectively after Barrichello’s crash prevented either from trying to beat Hamilton’s time.
Brawn’s championship leader Jenson Button, 14 points ahead of team mate Barrichello with four races remaining, qualified 12th. Barrichello, who hit the wall heavily at Turn Five, will start two places ahead of him.
The Brazilian qualified fifth but incurred a five place penalty for changing his gearbox after the final free practice session.
Hamilton had complained that sections of the track were dangerous prior to yesterday’s final free practice but the 24-year-old Briton was all smiles when he addressed the media afterwards.
“The lap was good, I was very relaxed,” Hamilton added. “The car has got better and better over the weekend. The circuit has evolved and got a little bit grippier. I was able to go faster so we will see what happens with the strategies.”
Vettel trails Button by 26 points and although overhauling the Briton in the title race looks a distant prospect, the German was on a quick run before Barrichello’s accident halted proceedings.
“It’s great to be back qualifying near the front. Especially as this is a street circuit,” Vettel said.
“The whole weekend the car was really good and although the flag came out we did well and were able to keep pushing.
“It’s a long race tomorrow (Sunday), 61 laps and I believe it will be tough but we have what it takes to challenge for the win.”
Coming into the weekend, Brawn needed 14 points more than the Red Bulls to secure the constructors’ title in their debut season but the team will now be looking at a damage limitation exercise rather than a push for glory.
“It’s not a good position to be in,” Button said. “It is tough, and yeah, I am worried I am not going to be able to get any points.”
Team principal Ross Brawn was even more pessimistic.
“It’s a disastrous session for us,” the Briton said. “We underestimated the competition in Q2 because we used one old set (of tyres), then one new set, and didn’t get the car balanced well on the new set.”