Singapore GP: Alonso outduels Vettel to win pole
The Ferrari driver, having won from pole position two weeks ago in Italy, left Vettel and his team boss Christian Horner bemused by outpacing the fastest RB6 by half a tenth.
Vettel, 23, called his Q3 effort "messy", as Horner told British television BBC: "He touched the barrier on his final lap and that was the difference today."
In the sister Red Bull, championship leader Mark Webber qualified fifth, having not looked comfortable between the walls of the city layout so far this weekend.
"We underperformed," admitted Horner. "We should be two or three tenths up the road."
In contrast, it was a notably focused session for Alonso, who grappled with having to change some settings from the cockpit following teammate Felipe Massa's earlier gearbox failure.
"We made some safe changes in the car to avoid any risk," said the Spaniard, whose team initially believed Massa's problem was engine-related.
Alonso told his team on the radio: "No words, fantastic job today."
He will have a clear run to turn 1 on Sunday at 8pm local time, alongside fellow front row sitter Vettel.
"I think we had the car to be on pole but we have a very good car for tomorrow," insisted the German.
Lewis Hamilton (3rd, 1:45.571): "I guess I'm pretty happy with third place on the grid. However, you can always do better, and I reckon we had a decent chance of pole today. My first lap in Q3 was a good, clean lap - but I was too close to Jenson. I could feel his wake ahead of me, so I lost a little bit of downforce, particularly in the last sector. On my final lap, I got the gap, but I didn't get the lap - but that's motor racing. Still, it's great to know we're a real force here in Singapore. We didn't know how fast we'd be this weekend - so to find out that we're only a couple of tenths off pole is a great result for the whole team. Our starts have been pretty good too, so we can both hopefully jump at least one guy ahead of us tomorrow. In other words, we can fight for a win from where we are."
Jenson Button (4th, 1:45.944): "Q3 was very tough: I pushed very hard, because I was the first car out of the pitlane and we wanted to make sure we were able to fit two runs in; but in the first sector I damaged the rear tires a little. After that I struggled a bit. So, for the second run, I thought I'd take it a bit slower on the out-lap, and drive the first sector a little easier, but I didn't have enough tire temperature when I got to the first sector - so I struggled. But the second and third sectors were both very good - I just didn't nail the first sector, and that cost me a few tenths. But fourth isn't too bad; we're a lot closer to the Red Bulls than we feared we might be. The Ferrari looks quick, but I'm reasonably happy - much happier than I was after my qualifying here last year [Jenson qualified 11th for the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix - ed]. For tomorrow, the start will be the key. My aim will be to pass Sebastian [Vettel]. The Red Bulls' pace off the line hasn't been great recently, and I also think we can have a good race because our pace on high fuel has looked good around here."
Martin Whitmarsh, Team Principal: "Both Lewis and Jenson performed brilliantly here in Singapore tonight. We're within a couple of tenths of the pole, we made a lot of good progress yesterday and today, and we feel we've got a very good race car for tomorrow. Bearing in mind our comparatively lackluster pace at Monaco and the Hungaroring, two relatively slow circuits, I'm very encouraged by our performance here in Singapore, which is also a comparatively slow circuit. That improvement is the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of very good people, and I thank them all. As for the race, we now feel we can take the fight to anyone, and that's what we intend to do tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (7th, 1:46.443): "I feel that we should have done slightly better in qualifying today however seventh position is still ok, especially as I found the soft tire quite difficult to drive and lacking rear grip. We are starting from the clean side of the grid so it will be important to have a good start. We need to keep scoring points in the remaining races so that will be our aim."
Michael Schumacher (9th, 1:46.702): "Our target was to get into Q3 which we achieved so I'm reasonably happy with our qualifying performance today. We tried various set-ups throughout the sessions and whilst they paid off at some points, they did not at others. But it was a lot of fun driving the track at this time of night and it really is a special experience. It is definitely different to drive in the artificial light but it doesn't compromise your performance at all. Starting from ninth place means starting from the presumably better side of the grid so the plan must be to try and gain some positions at the start and go from there."
Ross Brawn, Team Principal: "We're reasonably happy with our performance so far this weekend. We weren't as comfortable with the car yesterday but the engineers and drivers did a great job overnight to find some improvements and we have probably qualified where we should be with the car that we have. We could perhaps have squeezed a little more out of Q3 but it is still a decent result. Nico and Michael are starting from the good side and the car is handling fairly well and seems to be pretty easy on the tires. So we're in a good position to have a strong race tomorrow and well done to the team for getting the most out of the car today."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Seventh place for Nico and ninth position for Michael with both drivers split by less than three tenths of a second is a respectable team effort with the technical package that we currently have and the team did a good job overnight to resolve the issues that we were struggling with yesterday. Michael did well on his first visit to this special and challenging street circuit and Nico again achieved the best possible qualifying result for us. The race will be very long and tough with the five World Championship contenders starting in front of us. Our drivers will be positioned on the clean side of the circuit where more grip is available so hopefully this will help them to gain places at the start."
Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 1:45.457): "I think we could have been on pole today, the car was good enough. Unfortunately Q3 was a bit messy, my first run was a waste of time as I misjudged the gap to Michael, I caught him very quickly and lost grip. On the second run the most important thing was to get a lap in, as I didn't have a proper time yet. The second sector was not great, through Turns 11, 12 and 13 and I hit the wall slightly. I tried to recover in the final sector, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough and that was it for today. We are second, but it's a very long race tomorrow. No one knows what will happen with the weather, if it rains after midday, the track won't dry completely, so we will see."
Mark Webber (5th, 1:45.977): "I knew the front row was going to be very competitive today, but I'm disappointed to be off the second row. I don't think I could have done a lap to get on the front row; so it could be worse, but it could be better. We will keep hanging in there as it's a long race tomorrow and we'll see how it goes. I was having trouble getting the rhythm around here; there are a few places where I know I lost time on most of my laps because I wasn't fast enough. Ferrari did a good job and Sebastian has been fast all weekend. Fernando got the pole and fair play to him. Let's see what we can do from there tomorrow."
Christian Horner, Sporting Director: "Second and fifth is a good starting position for tomorrow, but ultimately it's frustrating after we showed such promise in the practice sessions. Sebastian was on a good lap, but dropped time on the exit of Turn 12, which left him with a lot to do in the final sector. We missed the pole by the smallest of margins today. Mark didn't have a particularly clean first run, which left him with a lot to do on the second run and unfortunately fifth was his optimum today. It's a long hard grueling race tomorrow; we know we have a competitive race car, so we look forward to tomorrow's race."
Fabrice Lom, Renault: "This qualifying result is a disappointment after the performance we showed yesterday and in P3 and we expected better. Second and fifth are not bad positions, but they're lower than we expected. We now have to focus on the race and bounce back from this position to secure the maximum points and not lose too many to our opponents."
Fernando Alonso (1st, 1:45.390): "Every pole position is important, but clearly, starting from the front in a race like this and at this point in the season is very important and gives one hope of being able to bring down the gap in the classification even more. Setting two pole positions in a row, at circuits as different as Monza and Singapore is a real boost, because it means that the car can be really competitive at every type of track. It was certainly not an easy day, but in qualifying we managed to get the very best out of the car, while I don't think our main rivals could say the same. Honestly, I thought that the Red Bulls, which had dominated the weekend so far, would be out in front and that third was a realistic target but instead I am on pole: it's almost like an Easter surprise! There was a tense moment in Q2 when something did not work as it should have done with the engine mapping, but once it was reprogrammed, everything was back to normal. The start will be very important tomorrow, but even more so will be the need to maintain total concentration for the 61 laps of a very long race that will be extremely demanding both physically and on the car. Track conditions will play a key role, because we have seen that some sections remain damp for a long time, so just a bit of rain even a few hours before the start, could change the situation. We must run our own race and I am sure we can bring home a good result: we are in the best possible position to succeed."
Felipe Massa (24th, No Time): "I had a problem with the gearbox which seized unexpectedly, without giving any warning and so I had to stop out on the track: now we have to understand exactly what happened. We will change the engine as a precaution, also taking into account the fact I am last on the grid. I'm expecting to have a very complicated race, especially as we are at a track where overtaking is very difficult, but it's true that anything can always happen: rain, safety car, who knows! I am very disappointed of course because today we had a very competitive car, as Fernando proved. I like this track but it seems that it does not bring me much luck..."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "This was a day of truly contrasting emotions. We are very disappointed that a technical problem meant Felipe basically took no part in qualifying: tomorrow, he will face a very difficult race, as indeed will Fernando, although the outlook for him is very different, starting from pole position. He put in an exceptional qualifying performance, getting the very most out of the car and finding that little something extra to go quickest in Q3. Tomorrow, it will be important to get a good start and to make the right choices, especially with a question mark over the weather and the safety-car: above all, we have to bear in mind that reliability is the crucial element."
Chris Dyer: "What happened to Felipe is very disappointing. Fernando demonstrated the full potential of the F10 and it would have been nice to see both cars fighting for the top places. Unfortunately, there was a problem on the gearbox, the cause of which we have not fully identified yet, which meant Felipe had to stop out on track on his first timed lap. Fernando was really fantastic in qualifying: in Q3 he did two timed laps, both of which would have been good enough for pole, that were exceptional given what had happened up until the start of qualifying, as he had never managed to put together a clean lap on the soft tires. The team did a great job to produce a car capable of fighting for pole. Tomorrow we can expect a very tough race on a track that does not pardon any mistakes. The management of the tires will be interesting, as the degradation seems a bit more marked than in recent races, which means we might see some different strategies to usual."
Rubens Barrichello (6th, 1:46.236): "First of all I'd like to say thanks to the team for bringing new components to this race which have worked. Of course expectations were pretty high, but I think we have matched our ambition today and we have the basis for a good race tomorrow."
Nico Hulkenberg (12th, 1:47.674): "It was a totally frustrating session for me tonight. It's pretty inexplicable, the car has been good all weekend long and we have been consistently in the top ten very comfortably. On the first run in Q2 on prime tires, I got backed up by Sutil, then there was a yellow flag. So when I boxed for options I was still confident we could bank a good lap, but the car balance was like night and day. I am not sure if we had a problem, but we will fight on. Although overtaking is not easy, incidents do occur here, so possibilities still exist and the car remains fast."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "It was a great qualifying performance from Rubens tonight, showing that the improvements that we have on his car are working well. Unfortunately Nico missed Q3 by less than a tenth - such a shame because he's been quick all weekend. But it's not over yet and a street circuit can throw up many surprises in the race."
Robert Kubica (8th, 1:46.593): "Robert: I think we need to stay realistic at this stage of the season because the top three teams are still pushing very hard to develop their cars, while we only brought a small upgrade here. Mercedes and Williams have also been at a very similar pace to us for several races, so we knew we would be fighting in the second half of the top ten today and that meant it was difficult to achieve much more than P8. The car is lacking overall grip, and sliding front and rear, but I was quite happy with my lap. Our timing meant we only did one timed lap in Q3, so it was all or nothing, and I think I got nearly all the potential out of the car."
Vitaly Petrov (13th, 1:48.165): "Vitaly: Looking at the times, it would have been possible for me to get into Q3 today, but I made a mistake on my first run in Q2. I had gone through Q1 on the prime tires, and was pushing hard on the options when I went too deep on braking for turn five, lost control of the car and hit the wall with the right rear wheel. The corner was still damp from the rain this afternoon, like it has been most of the weekend, and it just caught me out: it was my mistake. I know that it's going to be a tough race tomorrow, especially because overtaking is so difficult here in Singapore."
Eric Boullier, Team Principal: "We endured a frustrating qualifying session this evening. With Robert, our approach to Q3 was too conservative. We didn't feel that there was time to do two runs, which meant everything rested on a single timed lap, and that certainly cost him some lap time - although we cannot hide from the fact that our package does not seem ideally suited to this circuit. Vitaly had done a good job this morning to recover from a tricky first day of practice, and it was a shame to see him hit the wall because he had a realistic chance of sneaking into the top ten."
Alan Permane, Chief Race Engineer: "Ultimately, our car didn't have the pace to deliver the results we had hoped for in qualifying. Robert once again delivered a mistake-free qualifying session that took the car to its maximum, and did an excellent job. It was a shame to see Vitaly make a mistake when he was pushing hard in Q2. He experienced a tough time yesterday, but had improved a lot in third practice and was looking stronger. We know it's a long race tomorrow so we will have to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself."
Adrian Sutil (16th, 1:48.899): "It was a very frustrating session for us overall. The first segment went OK, out on the hard tires and able to get in the top ten, but then when we switched to the soft for Q2 we couldn't find much of an improvement. We had less grip than on the hard tire and I got into some traffic on my outlap and the flying lap was compromised. It just all went wrong so I'm disappointed. It's going to be tough tomorrow as overtaking is hard but if there's a safety car or anything unexpected we'll do our best to take advantage of it."
Vitantonio Liuzzi (17th, 1:48.961): "A very disappointing outcome to the session for us. We had the pace in Q1 but then in Q2 on the first lap of my second run I had problems with the front brakes. It was very strange as we've not had this problem over this weekend. Unfortunately because of this issue I lost the best of the tires on what would have been a better lap. We will start at least 16th after the penalties to some of the others in front but we will have to hope for something to happen during the race that we can take advantage of as it's very hard to overtake here."
Otmar Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer: "Overall it's not been a great day for us. We were expecting more based on the form we showed yesterday and the general balance of the car, but we hit a couple of problems that took us by surprise in Q2. We start further down the field than we would have hoped so we will have to look at all possible strategies for tomorrow's race. As we've seen in previous years anything can happen with the walls so close so we still hope to be able to make up some ground."
Jaime Alguersuari (11th, 1:47.666): "It's a shame I didn't quite make it to Q3 in the end, because overall, my weekend has gone well right from the start. I don't think we can be unhappy with what we have achieved and I am pleased with this performance, also because the team has made a good step forward with the car. I am surprised to be this high up the grid, because in today's free practice we had a problem with the car set-up, but we were able to correct it for qualifying. After what was my best performance of the season, I would like to send my best wishes to my regular chief mechanic Alberto Gavarini who is back home in Italy, having had a road accident. This is a very demanding track physically, with the heat and the fact there are no long straights to give you breathing space, but I feel good and I am looking forward to tomorrow's race, as I think this is the best chance we have to score points, especially as the car is better balanced in race trim than it was for qualifying, so we can be optimistic."
Sebastien Buemi (14th, 1:48.502): "Qualifying did not go well for me today and I seemed to be stuck in traffic on every lap and the one clear lap I got was spoilt by yellow flags. The main problem I had was a serious lack of grip. Jaime did a very good lap whereas this morning I was going better than him, so I am not really sure what happened, but obviously, I am disappointed. As for the race, overtaking is never easy on a track like this, but fourteenth on the grid is not a disaster. It is a long race here, so if we don't make any mistakes, have a good strategy and the pit stop goes well, then who knows what we might be able to achieve in the way of a result. It will also be tough physically, so it will be important to be well hydrated."
Giorgio Ascanelli, Technical Director: "Jaime missed out on Q3 by what I estimate was two milliseconds per corner! I think the team has done a good job and, first in Monza and now here, the car has made a step forward. That is not because of new developments, but rather that we have worked out how to run it better. The drivers did a decent job and Jaime drove fantastically well: he could have made Q3 but he still has a bit to learn, in terms of managing to get the most out of the car and therefore set his time on the first lap of a run, although I am sure it will come for him soon. This is our best qualifying performance of the season, so I cannot be unhappy and for tomorrow, we should have a good race pace, particularly with Jaime."
Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 1:50.915): "Qualifying today was quite difficult to be honest. The traffic made it really tricky as there were cars on slow laps when I was on a quick one, and I think I missed my best opportunity on the second set of tires which were brand new. I gave it my best shot, and I think the last lap was about as good as I could have done today, so at least I split the Virgins and got pretty close to Timo. It's still game on for tomorrow, and I think we're in good shape for the race, so we'll see what happens."
Jarno Trulli (21st, 1:51.641): "I'm pretty disappointed with how it went tonight. This morning's practice was pretty good but on the first run in qualifying on the options I couldn't find any real grip so I switched to the primes. I think I got the most out of the car I could by the end of Q1 - braking obviously plays a big role here, and I've been struggling with the rear end locking all weekend, so I hope it improves tomorrow."
Tony Fernandes, Team Principal: "I don't think we got the best out the car today, but it is what it is. Honestly, I'm reasonably happy, as I thought we might not have been quite as close to Timo as we ended up - he goes very well here and I think that if the traffic hadn't played its part Heikki might have been able to get past him. As development on this year's car stopped back in July and we put our resources into the 2011 car, we always knew the competition would become closer as the season drew to an end, with our closest rivals continuing to bring upgrades to each race. With that in mind, the fact that Heikki is as close as he is to Timo means we can not be too disappointed. Jarno also did a good job today, after a tricky weekend for him on a track he does not favor, and they are both pumped up to fight tomorrow, so there's all to play for in the race."
Mike Gascoyne, Technical Director: "A pretty disappointing qualifying session today. Jarno has not been happy with the balance on the tires all weekend and that carried through to qualifying. Heikki was generally happier on the option tire but unfortunately he was held up on what would have been his quickest lap. Despite that I think the race pace of the car is strong and we look forward to a better performance in the race tomorrow."
Christian Klien (22nd, 1:52.946): "It's great to be back and I am very happy about my qualifying result from today. I was a bit nervous before the session but then I was completely concentrated on doing the best lap time possible. I could improve constantly during the weekend and we achieved our aim completely. We are ready for anything that can happen tomorrow, and I hope to achieve a good result again."
Bruno Senna (23rd, 1:54.174): "It was hard to drive today. In the third practice, we had understeer and in qualifying, it changed to oversteer. But tomorrow is another day and we hope that the track conditions will improve again. We are trying to do better tomorrow and I am looking forward to my first night race."
Colin Kolles, Team Principal: "Today we are quite happy with the qualifying result. Christian Klien got more and more used to the car and felt more comfortable than yesterday. He could improve continuously all over the weekend and due to traffic on his fastest lap in third practice, he could even have done better. He did a very good job. Bruno Senna could use the option and prime tires well and was pushing very hard today. I am sure he will show a good performance again during the race. Tomorrow is going to be a tough as it is very hot and humid here and the drivers need to be very concentrated not to do a mistake."
Kamui Kobayashi (10th, 1:47.884): "I am very happy. I managed to do a couple of good laps in qualifying. In free practice on Friday I didn't find it easy. For me the track was new and it obviously is a challenging one, as well as a special one with the heat and the lights. But I also wasn't happy with the car in free practice. The team did a great job in improving it, so in qualifying it was good and I think my result is the best we could achieve today."
Nick Heidfeld (15th, 1:48.557): "I am not completely happy. I hoped for more and I think I didn't get the most out of the car. But perhaps this wasn't realistic considering the fact I only drove this car yesterday for the very first time with these tires. There is a lot to learn and I'm sure we will be benefitting from it soon. I'm not too pessimistic for the race, because the long runs in free practice under race conditions were quite good. Let's see what we can do tomorrow."
Peter Sauber, Team Principal: "For Nick it was the first qualifying in this car and with these tires, neither of which he knew. The result is okay. Tenth for Kamui was a surprise for all of us after the first three practice sessions. Congratulations for a great result! This was the "overture" to Kamui's home race in Japan in two weeks time."
James Key, Technical Director: "Overnight we made several set-up changes to the car, with these mostly being mechanical to try to improve the balance we had yesterday, which seemed to be inconsistent for both drivers. There was an improvement to the cars this morning, but we still had a few issues on Kamui's car to address. That was dealt with for qualifying. Nick was happier with the car but was struggling a bit with traction, which, as well as the curbs, has been our biggest problem. We weren't too sure where we were after third free practice. Kamui put in an outstanding lap in Q2 to make it into the top ten qualifying. It was always going to be tough to do that here today, but he extracted the full potential out of the car and the tires, so it was a great lap. For Nick it was fairly close, but he only had a single lap to get his time because he had a problem on his first lap. He had to learn incredibly quickly this weekend, so the way he got back into qualifying after such a long time was a good job. We saw great work from the team and a fantastic lap from Kamui. I expect we can fight for points tomorrow."
Timo Glock (18th, 1:50.721): "I'm very happy with our performance today, both as a team and from my point of view. The car was not easy to drive but I got everything I could out of it today. We were using the soft tire a little too hard, especially at the rear, so maybe if it had stayed consistent we could have squeezed another tenth or two out of the car. Overall though a good performance to be the best of the new teams once more and now I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I really like this circuit, especially when the conditions are drying, so I hope for a similar track in the race and we will see what we can do."
Lucas di Grassi (20th, 1:51.107): "A very good qualifying performance from us, with me finishing in front of one Lotus. Even though I missed out on one of the practice sessions it feels like my best qualifying of the year. It's a very difficult track so every time I get in the car I'm still improving, a tenth here, half a tenth there. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."
John Booth, Team Principal: "A very satisfying day. Both car crews worked well to solve the issues of yesterday and tune the car balance for qualifying despite the tricky conditions today. Timo has been on top form all weekend and put in a great qualifying session to head the new teams throughout. Lucas also did a great job to make up for lost time yesterday and was unlucky to be pipped by Kovalainen right at the end. Both cars have run reliably this weekend and we look forward to an exciting race tomorrow."
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