F1 2012 Singapore Grand Prix qualifying: Hamilton battles for pole position
PUBLISHED: 09:40 22 September 2012 | UPDATED: 15:31 22 September 2012
FORMULA 1 driver Lewis Hamilton battles for pole position in qualifying for the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix this afternoon (Saturday).
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)
The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire was fifth fastest in second free practice around the Marina Bay circuit on Friday as Sebastian Vettel set the pace for Red Bull.
However, the 2008 F1 world champion is quietly confident about McLaren’s Singapore chances ahead of qualifying for the night race, although it remains close between the top teams.
Speaking after second practice, Hamilton said: “My race pace didn’t feel great from inside the cockpit, but my engineers tell me it was quite promising.
“We’re in the top five, but it’ll be a very tight battle for pole position tomorrow [Saturday]. We’re looking at set-up and balance to improve our long-run pace, but today’s performance isn’t a bad place from which to start.”
McLaren at the Singapore Grand Prix
* Wins: 1 (2009)
* Poles: 1 (2009)
* Fastest Laps: 1 (2011)
After finishing second on the FP2 timesheets, Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button said: “There’s still a lot of work to do – but, if we can fine-tune the balance, we should be competitive.”
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh is also looking for strong qualifying results from his two drivers.
Talking after second practice on Friday, he said: “Like all street circuits, the track will rubber-in overnight, and we should find ourselves in a better position for what’s likely to be an extremely closely matched qualifying session.
“This is a good starting position for the rest of the weekend – let’s hope we can maintain our momentum.”
Sunday’s Singapore race starts at 8pm local time, two hours after darkness has fallen over the city state, and is the only night grand prix on the 2012 Formula 1 calendar.
To enable visibility, the 5.073km Marina Bay circuit is lit up by 1,500 halogen lamps, giving a luminosity of 3,000 lux – as bright as daylight.
The track is the third and final street circuit of the year, following on from Monaco and Valencia, and runs in an anti-clockwise direction.
The cars negotiate its tight and twisty confines – 14 left-handers, nine right-handers – in maximum downforce trim and the key to a quick lap is to have good traction and a neutral car balance.
"We’re in the top five, but it’ll be a very tight battle for pole position."
Of the circuit, Button said: “The Marina Bay track is unique. There are a couple of long straights, so it’s very fast, but all the corners are generally taken in second or third gear, so you’re trying to find the best set-up compromise – particularly as you need good end-of-straight speed for overtaking into Turn Seven.
“That’s the best opportunity for passing as it also comes at the end of the DRS zone.”
The Singapore GP is the longest race of the year, taking close to two hours to complete its 61 laps.
This makes it physically tough for the drivers, who have to cope with the 30-degree heat and 70 per cent tropical humidity, while wrestling their cars around the busy, stop-start layout. As a result, they expect to lose up to three kilos’ fluid loss during the race.
Car 4: Lewis Hamilton
* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)
* GPs: 103
* Wins: 20
* Poles: 23
* FLs: 11
* 2012 points: 142 (2nd)
Having won the Italian Grand Prix last time out, Hamilton is looking for back-to-back F1 victories to maintain his title momentum.
“We’re now inching closer to the finishing line – and this is where it starts to get exciting,” said Hamilton, who took the chequered flag in Hungary and Monza.
“I enjoy the Marina Bay circuit in the same way that I like racing at the Hungaroring – it’s a darty track that requires you to really be on top of the car to get the best from it.
“It requires more finesse, though: most of the braking zones are approached at very high speed, and the walls are never far away. Factor in the heat and humidity and it’s a very challenging weekend.”
Hamilton has won the Singapore Grand Prix once – in 2009 – while Jenson Button’s best result came last year when he finished second.
Both McLaren drivers will be hoping to return to the podium on Sunday.
Button said: “I had a really enjoyable race at Singapore last year. My car was completely dialled in and I was able to push to chase down Sebastian [Vettel] during the closing laps.
“This year, I hope we’ll once again have a package that will enable us to fight at the front.”
Hamilton added: “Although I had a fantastic win there back in 2009, I’ve not had the greatest of results in Singapore recently.
“I got a puncture and retired after tangling with Mark Webber in 2010 and I was delayed after touching wheels with Felipe [Massa] last year.
“Both those races were unlucky for me – I think I need a better roll of the dice this time around!”