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'Unexpected' Pole Makes Hamilton Race Favourite
Singapore, 26 September 2009 - Lewis Hamilton will start Sunday’s FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix from the 16th pole position of his career and the McLaren-Mercedes star’s third in the last four races.
Hamilton, 24, had already posted the fastest time of the weekend so far when an accident to Rubens Barrichello's Brawn-Mercedes brought Saturday's one-hour qualifying session to a premature halt with just seconds of the final 10-minute shoot-out remaining.
Both the Brazilian veteran and Red Bull Renault youngster Sebastian Vettel had looked in with a chance of claiming pole, but in the end Hamilton's time of 1 minute 47.891 secs was good enough while Vettel also secured a front row spot ahead of Williams-Toyota's Nico Rosberg.
"We definitely didn't expect to be on pole today," said Hamilton, whose team made numerous changes to the McLaren overnight. "There's never a doubt in my mind that I can get in and drive the car and be quickest, but you have to try and balance the car as well as possible and you can easily go down the wrong route."
That was certainly the case for the title-chasing Brawn duo: as well as Barrichello's late mishap, they saw leader Jenson Button fail to make it into the top 10 for only the second time this season - but the second time in three races.
Disappointed by the loss of his final flying lap, Vettel remained upbeat about Red Bull's Championship chances despite the 26-point gap between him and Button: "We're not giving up," insisted the 22-year-old German. "We're here to attack and this is what we do. Anything is possible still."
Compatriot Rosberg, runner-up here last year, agreed: "It's a pretty cool track," said the son of 1982 World Champion Keke. "It's very difficult, but I enjoy it and I enjoy coming here, it's a really great city. I had a great time last year and I'm looking forward to an even stronger race this year."
The 2008 race-winner, Fernando Alonso, is sixth on the provisional grid but the positions from fifth downward will change as Barrichello, in addition to his crash, had already had to have a gearbox change and gets a five-place grid penalty as the previous box had not been used for four consecutive events.
In a hugely entertaining 10-lap Formula BMW Pacific race earlier in the day, recently crowned European Formula BMW champion Felipe Nasr, the 17-year-old who is appearing as a guest driver in Singapore, showed his class with a 4.2-second winning margin over Rio Haryanto, the young Indonesian who currently leads the Pacific title chase.
USA driver James Kovacic was third, while teenage Zimbabwean prodigy Axcil Jefferies walked away unharmed from a spectacular roll-over on Turn 21 of the closing lap.
The 61-lap 2009 FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix starts at 20:00 on Sunday.