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NICO TO START 200TH RACE FROM POLE - Rosberg rampant, Ricciardo rocks but Vettel fails
Singapore, 17 September 2016 - Nico Rosberg, just two points behind Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, will start the 2016 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX from pole position - his first in the Lion City.
More food for thought, then: nine top talking-points from the Qualifying day for the ninth Singapore Grand Prix:
Rosberg has only ever been on the Singapore podium once but he has put down a marker for his first race win here with a stunning lap of 1:42.584. 'For sure one of my top three laps ever!' said an elated Rosberg after his 29th career pole position. 'I knew I really had to give it everything and really pull one out of the bag, and I did, which was really cool.'
In the end the German finished half a second ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who will start from the front row for the second year running. Dan the Man will hope that magician Dynamo, a guest in the Red Bull garage, will work enough magic to give him the race win he longs for on Sunday.
Rosberg's teammate Lewis Hamilton is third on the grid after a difficult day with two lock-ups at Turn Seven in FP3 and a ragged start to his final qualifying lap. 'It's not been my weekend so far,' Hamilton admitted. 'Nico did a great job and showed the true potential of the car.' Apart from his normal competitive fire, one other factor may drive Hamilton on Sunday. The Englishman is on the brink of the 50th Grand Prix victory of his career and would love to earn it by ending Rosberg's current two-race winning streak. Nico has seven wins in 2016, Lewis six and that two-point lead is looking increasingly fragile.
Strategy now rears its ugly head: Ricciardo set his best lap in Q2 on Pirelli's Supersoft (Red) tyre, Rosberg on the Purple Ultrasofts so they will start the race on those. Rosberg came with 4 Soft, two Supersoft and seven Ultrasoft sets; Ricciardo with two Softs, four Supersofts and seven Ultrasofts. Will that make a major difference in the race as they juggle their remaining sets? Not worried, said Rosberg - 'but I'll be keeping an eye on him!'
It seems extremely unlikely that Vettel can win a fifth Singapore GP. The first real Formula One shock of the weekend arrived when Vettel's Ferrari failed to make it through Q1. Early in the session Seb radioed in to report 'something broken' on the car. He pitted - and didn't come back out as the team struggled to detect the problem at the rear of the car. Vettel has been on pole three times here but will now start from the back tomorrow.
Next up: Romain Grosjean's miserable weekend got worse when the Frenchman lost control of his Haas VF-16 at Turn 10 in Q2, hitting the barriers hard. Earlier, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez performed very well to finish 13th in free practice, Grosjean was going ballistic in the cockpit. Halfway through, he radioed with another deleted expletive about his brakes; entering pit lane at the end of the session he went further, saying 'This is the worst car I've driven for a very, very long time.' That's how it feels when you are over one second and five spots behind your teammate...
With just three points between Williams and Force India the stewards had an important decision to make. Grosjean's Q2 accident triggered yellow flags, under which drivers are forbidden to overtake. Felipe Massa duly lifted off, and he and Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas finished out of Q3. 'I couldn't do my lap,' said the Brazilian, who was the first Singapore pole-sitter but is taking part here for the last time. 'Actually I had two yellow flags, at Turn 10 and Turn 16, while I was improving, but I slowed down. Maybe some other cars didn't...' One who perhaps didn't was Sergio Perez in the Force India, who appeared to overtake Massa - and Force India have both cars in the top 10.
The most eye-catching participant in the opening Formula One session of the day was, just for a change, the slowest on track: 10 minutes into the one-hour session a long lizard took a leisurely stroll across the circuit at Turn 3. He had a careful look before he crossed: as there was a Red Flag at the time it was all clear... One question arose as he slithered away: was he on slicks or wets?
The red flag culprit was Manor's Pascal Wehrlein, whose rear wing shed an end-plate after backing into the barriers. Wehrlein was clearly not in a charitable frame of mind. This is teammate Esteban Ocon's 20th birthday, but the German gave the young Frenchman no presents, just an extra workload that he had to shoulder on his own throughout the final free practice session. They finished it 21st and 22nd respectively.