F1 Paddock Notebook – Singapore GP Saturday
Recapping a busy Saturday following qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix, Crash.net F1 Digital Editor Luke Smith brings you his paddock notebook.
– Lewis Hamilton charged to the 79th pole position of his Formula 1 career on Saturday in Singapore, extending his lead in the all-time list. He is now 11 clear of Michael Schumacher (68), and 24 ahead of the nearest active driver, Sebastian Vettel (55).
– It was Hamilton’s fourth pole position in Singapore, following previous successes in 2009, 2012 and 2014, and his seventh pole of the season.
– Hamilton admitted after qualifying that he was nervous he could drop out in Q1 after Mercedes got him through the first stage on the Ultrasoft tyre despite a big time gain on the Hypersofts. Hamilton was less than three-tenths of a second shy away from being eliminated, getting through in P14.
– Max Verstappen matched the best qualifying result of his F1 career by taking second place on the grid for Red Bull. He has started P2 in Belgium 2016, Singapore 2017 and Mexico 2017. This came despite a recurring engine issue through qualifying that he said was “like a handbrake” at times. When Verstappen was asked about the issue he’d had, he stressed: “Have!” and said: “If it [the engine] breaks, it breaks. You can’t change it. So we’ll find out tomorrow.”
– Vettel was left disappointed with third place on the grid for Ferrari, extending his run of races without a pole position to four. Vettel failed to improve on his final lap, eventually finishing six-tenths of a second adrift of pole-sitter and title rival Hamilton. Vettel said after the session that it had not gone as smoothly as Ferrari hoped, having attempted to get through Q2 on Ultrasofts.
– Valtteri Bottas was at a loss for his lack of pace compared to Hamilton despite running the same tyre strategy, taking P4 in the sister Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo also struggled to match their teammates for pace at Ferrari and Red Bull, finishing fifth and sixth.
– Toto Wolff said Mercedes had planned to split its strategies in Q2 and run either Hamilton or Bottas on Ultrasofts, only for the scare in Q1 to put the team off doing so.
– Sergio Perez topped the midfield battle for Force India, taking P7 as he finished four-tenths of a second clear of Romain Grosjean of Haas in P8. The team is looking to continue its perfect points record in F1 since being reborn at Spa as ‘Racing Point Force India’, with Esteban Ocon starting ninth in the second car.
– Fernando Alonso was left happy with his qualifying position for McLaren, taking P11 to ensure he has a free choice of starting tyre for Sunday. “To make it work you need to be sixth or seventh or something like that, to have the benefit of the top 10 entrance,” Alonso said. “If you will be ninth or tenth, then you’re better at 11th, and you have a free choice of tyres – that’s the case tomorrow.”
– Carlos Sainz Jr. dropped out in Q2 for Renault in P12, while teammate Nico Hulkenberg was able to make it through to Q3, qualifying 10th. Sainz reported a lack of grip on his final lap of the session that hamstrung his efforts, saying he went “backwards” after Q1.
– Sauber drivers Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson both made it through to Q2 for the second time in three races. Despite finishing 13th and 14th respectively, the pair was split by 0.7 seconds in the final classification.
– Toro Rosso had a difficult day despite high hopes for Singapore as Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley qualified 15th and 17th respectively. Hartley said a couple of minor mistakes on his final Q1 run cost him the 0.15 seconds to Gasly, who advanced to Q2, but both had expected more from Singapore due to the circuit’s perceived suitability to Toro Rosso and the team’s historical record at the track.
– Stoffel Vandoorne struggled to his eighth consecutive Q1 dropout, having touched the wall a couple of times on his final lap, which he called “messy”.
– Pirelli has predicted that the fastest strategy on Sunday is a one-stop, starting on Ultrasofts before pitting on Lap 24 and switching to Softs. As all of the top 10 will start on Hypersofts, their fastest strategy will be switching to Softs on Lap 13, although there is the risk of dropping back out in traffic if they cannot create a big enough gap to those starting on Ultrasofts.
– Former Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley returned to the F1 paddock today with the reborn Force India team. However, he had always been due to come to Singapore, and was purely enjoying the day as a spectator and guest.
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September 15, 2018 at 10:07PM