Pole gives Hamilton chance to cut Alonso’s lead

2012 Singapore Grand Prix pre-race anlaysis

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The last three Singapore Grands Prix have all been won from pole position.

That puts Lewis Hamilton in the best position for this weekend’s race. But with tyre degradation expected to be high and the ever-present threat of a disruptive safety car appearance, he can afford to take nothing for granted.

The start

With a short run to the first corner and little grip on the dirty side of the track, the pole sitter has to make a real mess of his start to lose the lead before turn one at Singapore. That’s exactly what happened to Luca Filippi in Saturday’s GP2 feature race.

Pole position is a vital advantage at Singapore and Hamilton will be eager not to waste it. He did just that at Melbourne earlier this year, handing victory to his team mate, but his recent starts have been much better.

He will be wary of the feisty Pastor Maldonado starting alongside him. Hamilton has been hit by the Williams driver once already this year.

With Fernando Alonso starting fifth, Hamilton has an opportunity to make major gains in the championship – one he will be determined not to miss out on.


The top eight drivers will all start the race on super-soft tyres. These offer a significant performance advantage over the soft tyre but they don’t last long. Last year the front-runners began pitting around lap ten and we could see a similar situation here.

The drivers who qualified in the top six positions all made three scheduled pit stops while several of those behind opted to make two. After getting the super-soft tyre out of the way, the soft was the preferred tyre for most of the race.

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery suggested the super-soft may be more widely used this year: “With such a speed advantage from the super-soft tyres, the teams were looking after those in particular. We saw them being used for multiple runs, so that the drivers can save new sets for the race.”

However the teams remain unsure how long they will last. Vettel said: “Hopefully by the time we pit we have a big gap to the guys who are maybe on a different strategy. I think it’s difficult to know now how long we will be able to stay out.”

Last year’s race was also shaped by the appearance of the safety car halfway through. All the teams will be alert to the potential for the safety car to disrupt their plans as there hasn’t been a Singapore Grand Prix without one yet.

An early safety car appearance would be bad news for those at the front, as it would mean them falling further back into the pack when they emerge from the pits. Overtaking at Singapore is tricky, even with the advantage of fresher tyres and a DRS zone.

Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1’48.2851’46.665 (-1.620)1’46.362 (-0.303)
2Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1’49.4941’47.602 (-1.892)1’46.804 (-0.798)
3Sebastian VettelRed Bull1’48.2401’46.791 (-1.449)1’46.905 (+0.114)
4Jenson ButtonMcLaren1’49.3811’47.661 (-1.720)1’46.939 (-0.722)
5Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’49.3911’47.567 (-1.824)1’47.216 (-0.351)
6Paul di RestaForce India1’48.0281’47.667 (-0.361)1’47.241 (-0.426)
7Mark WebberRed Bull1’48.7171’47.513 (-1.204)1’47.475 (-0.038)
8Romain GrosjeanLotus1’47.6881’47.529 (-0.159)1’47.788 (+0.259)
9Michael SchumacherMercedes1’49.5461’47.823 (-1.723)
10Nico RosbergMercedes1’49.4631’47.943 (-1.520)
11Nico HulkenbergForce India1’49.5471’47.975 (-1.572)
12Kimi RaikkonenLotus1’48.1691’48.261 (+0.092)
13Felipe MassaFerrari1’49.7671’48.344 (-1.423)
14Sergio PerezSauber1’49.0551’48.505 (-0.550)
15Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1’49.0231’48.774 (-0.249)
16Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso1’49.5641’48.849 (-0.715)
17Bruno SennaWilliams1’49.809
18Kamui KobayashiSauber1’49.933
19Vitaly PetrovCaterham1’50.846
20Heikki KovalainenCaterham1’51.137
21Timo GlockMarussia1’51.370
22Charles PicMarussia1’51.762
23Narain KarthikeyanHRT1’52.372
24Pedro de la RosaHRT1’53.355

Had Sebastian Vettel been able to replicate his Q2 time in Q3, he would be starting from the front row.

“I think the pace was there to do better than what we did in Q2,” said Vettel. “But in Q3 we just couldn’t pick and in the end I was even struggling to repeat the lap I did in the beginning.”

Kamui Kobayashi missed out on Q2 having struggled with his set-up: “We have tried everything but could not get rid of the huge oversteer.

“I have no confidence in the car and this is really the last thing you want to have to cope with on such a street circuit.”

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton28.381 (1)41.268 (1)36.713 (1)
Pastor Maldonado28.579 (5)41.408 (3)36.817 (2)
Sebastian Vettel28.449 (2)41.427 (4)36.874 (3)
Jenson Button28.547 (3)41.438 (6)36.954 (4)
Fernando Alonso28.758 (9)41.391 (2)36.994 (5)
Paul di Resta28.577 (4)41.437 (5)37.227 (9)
Mark Webber28.643 (6)41.720 (8)37.033 (7)
Romain Grosjean28.783 (12)41.643 (7)37.024 (6)
Michael Schumacher28.700 (7)41.728 (9)37.395 (12)
Nico Rosberg28.716 (8)41.952 (14)37.275 (10)
Nico Hulkenberg28.758 (9)41.867 (12)37.350 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen28.871 (14)42.038 (15)37.169 (8)
Felipe Massa28.762 (11)41.846 (11)37.712 (13)
Sergio Perez28.922 (15)41.790 (10)37.792 (14)
Daniel Ricciardo28.854 (13)42.086 (16)37.828 (15)
Jean-Eric Vergne29.038 (17)41.935 (13)37.876 (17)
Bruno Senna28.938 (16)42.331 (17)37.852 (16)
Kamui Kobayashi29.371 (19)42.476 (18)38.086 (18)
Vitaly Petrov29.355 (18)43.057 (19)38.434 (20)
Heikki Kovalainen29.542 (20)43.211 (20)38.384 (19)
Timo Glock29.573 (21)43.275 (21)38.522 (21)
Charles Pic29.715 (22)43.388 (22)38.659 (22)
Narain Karthikeyan29.832 (23)43.626 (23)38.914 (23)
Pedro de la Rosa29.916 (24)43.730 (24)39.362 (24)

Button was not as happy with his McLaren’s set-up as his team mate: “I didn’t really feel comfortable with my car, the rear went away from me quite quickly, and I struggled to look after the tyres over a lap.”

Speed trap

PosDriverCarSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Lewis HamiltonMcLaren294.9 (183.2)
2Nico RosbergMercedes294.5 (183.0)-0.4
3Jenson ButtonMcLaren293.8 (182.6)-1.1
4Nico HulkenbergForce India293.7 (182.5)-1.2
5Sebastian VettelRed Bull293.6 (182.4)-1.3
6Felipe MassaFerrari293.5 (182.4)-1.4
7Michael SchumacherMercedes293.4 (182.3)-1.5
8Mark WebberRed Bull293.4 (182.3)-1.5
9Paul di RestaForce India293.0 (182.1)-1.9
10Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso292.9 (182.0)-2.0
11Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso292.6 (181.8)-2.3
12Fernando AlonsoFerrari292.2 (181.6)-2.7
13Sergio PerezSauber291.9 (181.4)-3.0
14Bruno SennaWilliams291.1 (180.9)-3.8
15Pastor MaldonadoWilliams290.5 (180.5)-4.4
16Heikki KovalainenCaterham290.3 (180.4)-4.6
17Vitaly PetrovCaterham290.2 (180.3)-4.7
18Kimi RaikkonenLotus289.6 (179.9)-5.3
19Kamui KobayashiSauber288.5 (179.3)-6.4
20Pedro de la RosaHRT288.5 (179.3)-6.4
21Romain GrosjeanLotus286.6 (178.1)-8.3
22Narain KarthikeyanHRT286.3 (177.9)-8.6
23Charles PicMarussia284.3 (176.7)-10.6
24Timo GlockMarussia283.4 (176.1)-11.5

2012 Singapore Grand Prix

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Image © McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “Pole gives Hamilton chance to cut Alonso’s lead”

  1. Wow, Hamilton quickest in all three sectors, fastest through the speed trap and a half second up on Maldonado in Q3. He will have to really screw up to not come home with the victory, let alone a podium.

    If McLaren can keep up this form, Hamilton will reel in Alonso. Austin and Brazil are going to be intense!

    1. Yeah, unless Ferrari can improve, it will be a matter of when, not if. Hamilton, despite being in a McLaren is whole career, has rarely looked so dominant as he is currently.

    2. You have to wonder how much he has taken out of his tyres as well. I have a feeling he really needs to be wary of Mr Maldonado though…

    3. @adam-tate That’s exactly what I thought when I saw his sector times. Quite superb!

  2. Wow! The MP4-27 looks fast in LH’s hands. Pole and the fastest speed …. not bad at all. I must give credit to JB, he is trying his best atm.

  3. Good job by Lewis. I hope that brush with the wall on his last run won’t come into play tomorrow.
    For Maldonado’s sake, i hope he will not be too ambitious into the first corner, and indeed the race also. It’ll be nice for him to bring home some good points, never mind that the stewards will be keeping a very beady eye on him tomorrow, and will be looking for an opportunity to give him his comeuppance.

    Regarding Lewis’s contract issue, can’t Witmarsh at least attempt to give an impression of being happy with Lewis’s pole? He looked utterly dejected. Things must really be abysmal at McLaren. For my own part, i believe Lewis’s relationship with Martin Whitmarsh, Jenson Button, some of his mechanics, and even Ron Dennis, has broken down irreparably. Hence, the frosty reception by Ron and Martin to Lewis’s win at Monza, and Lewis’s general demeanor at Monza and indeed Singapore.

    It really is my impression that either Lewis has already signed for Mercedes, or is leaving for an undisclosed team; hence his words after the Monza victory thanking the team and the engineers for the wonderful opportunity he was given. Sounds like a parting farewell to me.
    If he hasn’t signed for another team yet, he will be utterly stupid to stay at McLaren. He will never be a No.1 driver there (at least not while Whitmarsh continues his love in with Button), he is being offered 2/3rds of his current salary, and will always be continuously undermined.

    McLaren have a history of failing to manage very ambitious drivers – Senna, Montoya, Alonso, and Hamilton. Hell, they even problems with Kimi. It is as if there is an overiding obsession with controlling (from Ron, no doubt) drivers at all costs, and clipping the wings of drivers they see as overeaching there importance by any means necessary.
    His current salary offer is not simply due to the economic climate, but an attempt by Ron to bring Lewis down a peg or two. If anything, McLaren probably have backers with the deepest pockets in the whole of the padock.

    McLaren is certainly the best place for Button – he is not overly ambitious, toes the company line, and he plays the intra team politics quite well. If Lewis had any modicum of sense, he would leave; if he hasn’t done so already.

    1. You haven’t even mentioned the car …? Mclaren have the best car atm with minimal reg changes for 2013. That is worth something.

      Not sure if Lewis is the kind of driver that wants #1 rather than equal status. he’s already said he doesn’t like team orders even at end of season, he believes if you deserve title you should be ahead of your team mate anyways

    2. Though I don’t disagree much with your views on the McLaren team structure I very much doubt that we will see Lewis leaving for 2013 already, the reason being that there is nowhere else to go. Lewis has said it over and over – in fact he has always said it – he just wants to win. Mercedes is in no state to win races and I just don’t believe that any figure on a pay check could ever make him interested in such an inferior team.

      Realistically he would consider offers only from Red Bull and Ferrari and while both Red Bull seats are already occupied I don’t believe any of us consider the remaining Ferrari seat much of an option anyway. Fernando already prematurely left a top team because of Lewis and would never allow Lewis as his team mate but I certainly doubt that Lewis would have much interest anyway. Of course it would be cool to see him prove an old point by beating Fernando as second fiddle but seriously – it’s not going to happen.

      The only remotely good option left would be Lotus but it would still seem like quite a step down – especially considering how McLaren has improved in the latter half of the season. In order for Lewis to switch to Lotus – or Mercedes for that matter – I think he would have to be VERY unhappy with his current position and if things are not perfect he doesn’t come across as unhappy to me. Heck, he even get’s along well with his non-egotistic team mate.

  4. Hopefully Raikkonen can salvage something like a podium from this race.
    If only to keep as many contenders around as possible for a final race decider.

    1. Hear hear!

    2. If Lotus gets their strategy right, who knows… Tyre-friendly cars like Lotus and Sauber should have an upper hand in race at a track like this.

  5. Regarding the safety car, if anyone can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s McLaren. I can just see them messing up strategy and focusing on getting Jenson through the pack, and even to win the race, rather than on consolidating Lewis’s position at the front.

    1. …Regarding the safety car, if anyone can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, it’s McLaren. I can just see them messing up strategy and focusing on getting Jenson through the pack, and even to win the race, rather than on consolidating Lewis’s position at the front…

      I can´t agree more!

  6. As long as Maldonado keeps calm and there isn’t any safety car before first pits it looks like pretty straight-forward win for Lewis.

    1. As long as Maldonado keeps calm

      Don’t you think that’s asking a bit too much?

      1. LOL!

        But seriously, we’ve got to hope Gro’s ban will act as the deterrent it was intended to be…

        1. looking at the way he behaved in italy i think he got the message.

          1. True, he didn’t crash into anyone there.

    2. @thenikii, So you have Alonso pitting on lap 9 and Massa crashing on lap 10 ?

      1. hopefully not, that would be Christmas for conspiracy theorists, Ferrari wouldn’t do such a thing even at the darkest day and with a nice lead in championship it would be complete nonsense. Alonso will probably be in his damage limitation mode and will settle with 3rd, what would still leave him with 25+ point advantage

      2. @hohum can count on Ferrari for that …

        Can’t see Senna reaching the finnish line, he hasn’t been able to do more than 20 laps without clipping a wall, he would be my bet for the first safety car or a special Narain. And of course Maldonado can’t be rule out of this one.

  7. Hamilton will be Maldonado’d in the first corner.

    1. Vettel is also in danger too – especially If he jumps Maldonado at the start, expect carnage on the run down to T4 trying to repass Vettel.

      1. I hope not. Solely because I’m hoping this is the race where we finally get the Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso podium

    2. should that happen I don’t think it’s just Hamilton and Maldonado who will be affected. I’d say it’d be up to Vettel, Button and Alonso as well unless those guys are able to use the runoff

  8. There will be a SC. So Hamilton needn’t put away the rabbits foot. But good gravy he looks quick. Button if he cant keep the tires on for a lap is in big trouble. Vet may make it interesting but he has got to deal with crashtor. Maybe its his turn now.

  9. Superb pole by Hamilton but credit to Maldonado seriously. The guy has speed and will fight for the first corner.. Let’s hope it doesn’t end in tears.. I can imagine will be on tip-toes….

  10. Does anyone think that Maldonado is similar to Jody Scheckter in terms of driving style (causing huge crashes and not giving a single ****) ?

    1. maldanado is in his second season in F1, Jody Scheckter is a world champion, Scheckter wouldnt have become champion by causing crashes, anyway maldanado doesnt cause crashes, hes just involved in crashes no F1 driver wants to crash on purpose

      1. You know, Maldonado is the one f1 driver I can think of in recent times who actually HAS c\hit other cars on purpose

    2. Totally agree with this. Jody causing carnage at Silverstone 1973 comes to mind. Like Jody, Pastor has the pace. But also like Jody, he needs to calm down to turn that into a title-winning campaign.

      1. @journeyer
        Serious question but why do people keep saying Pastor “has the pace”?

        Because he’s on the front row? What’s to say that in someone else’s hands that car wouldn’t have been on pole?

        The reality is that we have nothing to judge Pastor’s pace against. Bruno, despite his name and $$$, is not a Formula 1 level driver ESPECIALLY around Singapore. In 2010 was Senna not more than a second a lap slower around here than his teammate, who was just starting his first race for years: Christian Klien?

        I am HIGHLY suspicious that in different hands that Williams could be challenging for the championship like Raikkonnen is in the Lotus. The fact that they are behind Force India is simply outrageous, and is entirely due to the gulf in talent of those two teams’ drivers.

        I don’t expect to see Maldonada or Senna racing in Formula 1 next year.

        1. Dude, trust me if Williams really thought the car has much more pace than Maldonado has demonstrated on his best days, Senna would’ve been long gone. Really. I mean, do you want $5mil or a continuous existence at the front and get race win bonuses? So, I think you’re wrong about Maldonado. Williams are the sixth fastest team in F1 currently (maybe 5th just ahead of Mercedes) and Maldonado is a fast driver. Australia, Spain, Valencia and Singapore is a testament to that. He just has to remain consistent and level headed and I think he’d move to Ferrari someday.

        2. @mhop

          I am HIGHLY suspicious that in different hands that Williams could be challenging for the championship like Raikkonnen is in the Lotus. The fact that they are behind Force India is simply outrageous, and is entirely due to the gulf in talent of those two teams’ drivers.

          A championship would be a big ask but I do agree with you. That Williams is a genuinely good car as proved by Maldonado’s race win, but they have lost so many points due to numerous crashes and silly incidents. Senna has been a bit more consistent recently but he hasn’t been as fast.

          Just working it out in my head, Pastor could be 10th in the championship and Williams could have been nibbling at Sauber’s heels in the constructors. But if Barrichello had remained with the team this season, they could have been much further up.

  11. All I have to say is that many of the cars behind Hamilton might be better or equal in race trim . Just remember Hungary impressive pole but not so much in the race. Vetted and the lotuses were faster than him. He won because the track layout helped him.

    1. I think that Lewis was cruising in Hungary because there was no way that Raikkonen, Grosjean or Vettel could pass him.
      Mclaren should be fine in race trim, especially after Hamilton’s impressive long run yesterday.

    2. I think you understate the importance of pole in a narrow street circuit. And also in the context of these Pirelli’s. Do you suppose cars chasing ones in front of them will have a better degradation than whoever will be in front?

  12. So it was oversteer for Kobayashi then. I was wondering what his problem, it looked quite severe.

  13. Smells like 2008 in here….Hamilton is marching towards a championship that seems to be his destiny.

  14. I’m guessing plan A for the top 8 will be two stops, SS, soft, soft. But it may be important to keep the super softs for longer than 10 laps. In Monaco, Webber demonstrated that by driving slowly, you can keep the super softs quite long, although Singapore seems much harder on the tyres. In case a switch to a three-stopper becomes necessary, it’s a shame for McLaren that they (and Lewis) didn’t dare to let Hamilton sit out the second run in Q3. Yes, Vettel was still a threat despite his rubbish first run, but were they really expecting Lewis to better his first run? Perhaps he should have taken a leaf out of Prost’s book by donning jeans and walking around the pit lane saying: well, if he manages to beat this time, then he deserves the pole.

    With regard to Pirelli’s expectation that the super soft may be the better tyre because of the big performance difference, I doubt this will actually turn out to be the case. In FP2, I think very few managed to get even a second good lap out of the super softs; a performance advantage over a single lap is pretty useless. Also, will the track rubbering in favour the less grippy soft tyres?

  15. Hamilton to win WDC from Alonso in Brazil by overtaking Massa on last corner?

  16. Lots of variables coming into the race: weather; safety cars; Maldanaldo! (hopefully after double penalty at Spa he will be sensible). Expecting Alonso to be ahead of Button by first corner. Tyres may last longer today as happened before on race day. Always seem to be a Q2 casualty who does well, when spare new tyres are a premium look out for RAI! Really looking forward to this race.

  17. I think Maldonado might do an upset here: drive a clean race and hound Lewis throughout, getting the undercut at the 2nd round of pitstops. I know, far-fetched, but my prediction anyways.

    Battle for 3rd will be led by Vettel, but I think we might see Kimi, Romain or Michael get 3rd after some crazy accident or safety car intervention.

    1. :D Your prediction is really funny Himmat.

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