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STUNNING SEB TAKES THIRD SINGAPORE POLE

Lewis loses chance to equal idol’s record

19 September 2015, Singapore - Sebastian Vettel stunned the Marina Bay crowd with his first pole for Ferrari, his third in Singapore and the 46th of his glittering career ahead of Sunday’s 2015 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX.

Vettel, 28, crushed the opposition with a lap of 1 minute 43.885 seconds, almost two seconds quicker than the 2014 Singapore pole, as neither Mercedes could make it on to the front row of the Marina Bay grid.

Looking for his eighth successive pole to match the 1988-89 record of his great idol Ayrton Senna, world championship leader Lewis Hamilton was unable to respond, finishing the one-hour qualifying session only in fifth place with Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg alongside him.

‘I’ve always loved this place since we came here,’ said Vettel, who has set up the chance of a third victory with Ferrari’s first pole in 61 races with Ferrari. ‘Obviously it’s only Saturday and we know the main job is coming tomorrow, but I had to enjoy the moment when I heard that we made it.

‘The car was fantastic to drive and just got better through qualifying. I’m surprised by the margin but it just came together – I really had a near-perfect lap at the end. It puts us in a great place for tomorrow.’

With the Silver Arrows blunted, it was Red Bull Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo who claimed the other front row spot alongside Vettel.

‘Firstly it’s nice to be back up here,’ beamed Ricciardo. ‘To have no Mercedes up here is a surprise to everyone, I thought they were playing a few card games yesterday but they’re obviously not particularly comfortable round here this weekend so it’s good to capitalise on that. It would be nice to be back here tomorrow.’

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen will start from third, the Finn’s second consecutive top-three qualifying effort with Daniil Kvyat alongside him in the second Red Bull on the second row.

‘I’m a bit surprised to be in this position after how difficult it felt all day,’ admitted Raikkonen, ‘but that was good and we have to try and do a good job tomorrow and get two cars on the podium.’

While the expected challenge from Williams has failed to materialise, Valtteri Bottas fought hard for seventh on the grid and team-mate Felipe Massa will start immediately behind him in ninth.

Max Verstappen recovered from handling problems in his Toro Rosso earlier in the day to secure eight place, with the Lotus of Romain Grosjean claiming the final spot in Q1 and 10th on the grid.

Both McLaren Hondas made it into Q2, but that was as far as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button could progress. Still, 12th was the best qualifying performance of the Spaniard’s season so far. The Force Indias of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez also failed to make it through, the Mexican unfortunate to come across yellow flags when Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso hit the wall at Turn 19 right at the end of the 15-minute segment.

The two Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson were eliminated in Q1, the 18-minute first segment of qualifying, along with Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus and the two Manor Marussias of Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi, who will become the first American to race in F1 since 2007.

With pole denied him, two-time Singapore winner Hamilton will now find it harder than ever in the 161st race of his career to claim a 41st Grand Prix victory and match Senna’s own tally – also from 161 starts. Vettel meanwhile has taken a serious option on a fourth Singapore success of his own.