F1 2012 Singapore Grand Prix: Cautious Hamilton chases victory from pole
LEWIS Hamilton bids for back-to-back Formula 1 victories today (Sunday) after claiming pole position in qualifying for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix.
The Italian Grand Prix winner from Hertfordshire dominated qualifying at the Marina Bay circuit ahead of F1’s night race.
Despite speculation over his future with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, 27-year-old Hamilton was nearly half a second quicker than his closest rival.
Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, who has clashed with Hamilton a number of times on track this season, will start alongside the McLaren man in a tasty looking front row.
After clocking a Q3 lap time of 1m 46.362s, Stevenage-born Hamilton said: “I’m very happy with pole position. It’s been a good weekend so far, but there are no points for today [Saturday], and it’s going to be a long, tough race, so I still need to be cautious.”
Singapore Grand Prix facts
* Race distance: 61 laps (192.208 miles/309.316km)
* Circuit length: 3.152 miles/5.073 km
* 2011 winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 61 laps in 1hr 59m 06.757s
* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing) 1m 44.381s (174.962km/h)
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari F2008) 1m 45.599s (172.740km/h)
Red Bull’s reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel and McLaren star Jenson Button will start third and fourth respectively on the Singapore grid, with Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari fifth.
Hamilton said: “I hope we’ve done the work we need to do to put us in a strong position for tomorrow – the key will just be to stay out of trouble and look after the tyres.”
He also thanked the McLaren team – “my team” – for developing a race-winning car.
“Our guys at the factory have done an incredible job to bring our upgrades to the track this weekend,” added Hamilton. “In previous years, we’ve often been playing catch-up on development throughout the season, but, this year, we’re right there.
2012 FIA F1 World Drivers’ Championship standings
After Italian Grand Prix (top six only)
1 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 179 pts
2 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 142
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) 141
3 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 140
5 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 132
6 Jenson Button (McLaren) 101
“I’ve always believed that if we could start the season strongly, we’d be able to pull ahead. We’ve been there or thereabouts all season, but now I think we’re starting to see the real strength of my team pull through.”
McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh praised 2008 world champion Hamilton for claiming the team’s fourth consecutive pole position.
Speaking after qualifying, Whitmarsh said: “Lewis has been in fantastic form all weekend, and today he showed a tremendous turn of speed to take a superb pole position here in Singapore this evening.
“Yesterday [Friday], too, he looked impressive, showing strong long-run pace in the free practice sessions.
McLaren’s Singapore Grand Prix pole
* 153rd pole for McLaren
* 28th pole for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
* 24th pole for Lewis Hamilton
* 6th pole of the season for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
* 4th successive pole for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes
Whitmarsh added: “Lewis will be looking to win, of course – and, as long as he gets a clean start, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t do just that.
“We never under-estimate our opposition, and undoubtedly tomorrow’s race will be a long and difficult one, but you’d have to say that we’re in a pretty good position: firing on all cylinders, in fact!”
Hamilton’s teammate, Button, struggled a bit in qualifying but is looking for a podium today (Sunday).
He said: “It’s going to be tough for everyone on Sunday evening, but you can overtake around here. Starting from fourth means you can hope for the best – a win – but the pace just wasn’t quite there for me in qualifying. I hope it’s better in the race.”
The 2012 Singapore Grand Prix starts at 1pm UK time.