Lewis Hamilton was on the verge of his first pole position of the year. The four-time Singapore winner was in top form and the timing was right. It could have been a perfect day if it hadn't been for a tumble at Turn 16 and the annoying piercing thing.
Second in Q1, second in Q2: At that point at the latest it was clear that Lewis Hamilton would have a say in pole position. And indeed, right up to the last second of the Q3, it looked as if the Mercedes driver would be able to secure the best grid position for the first time this year. Especially when he drove the absolute best time in the second sector. But then Hamilton lost time again where he had been losing time all weekend. In the last sector he was only fourth best.
Hamilton blamed a crossover at Turn 16 for the 54 thousandths he was missing from Charles Leclerc's pole position. "Then he lost momentum for the following passage," said team boss Toto Wolff annoyed. However, it must be said that Hamilton packed his best sectors into one lap, while the ideal times of Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were well below what they put on the track. Mercedes measurements showed that Verstappen was seven tenths off the best time when he had to abandon his lap.
Mercedes trick with two cooling laps
Hamilton was satisfied nonetheless: "I was hoping for a dream lap like the one from 2018, but our car isn't capable of that." Although the Marina Bay Circuit is one of the better tracks for the Mercedes W13, Red Bull and Ferrari still have advantages. "Hamilton and Russell have to work a lot more at the wheel to get the same times as the drivers of the other two teams," said TV expert Martin Brundle as a track spy.
Hamilton praised his team: "The place on the second row of the grid shows that we won't give up. We knew that we would be better than in Monza, but we didn't think it would go that well." Chief Engineer Andrew Shovlin interjected: "The fact that everyone ended up lagging behind helped us get the tires in their window and keep them there."
Tactically, Mercedes had done everything right. Unlike Red Bull, you put enough fuel in the tank to survive seven laps in a row. And the time in Q3 was such that Hamilton crossed the finish line last of all the top favourites. The plan went like this: A warm-up lap was followed by two fast laps, then two cool-down laps and another fast one, so that in the end there was still enough fuel on board to return safely to the pits. The strategists were certain: "That was the best solution from the point of view of the grip."
Hamilton's expensive nose stud
George Russell saw Hamilton's run to third place on the grid as a spectator.The World Championship fourth missed the promotion to Q2 by six thousandths. Russell blamed technical problems. The accelerator stuck in 10% when lifted, propelling the Mercedes into corners, which isn't exactly confidence-inspiring on a wet track. The same had happened before in the first training session. Brake problems also made life difficult for the 24-year-old Englishman.
Lewis Hamilton had to deal with problems of a completely different kind. The FIA officials had discovered on TV pictures that the seven-time world champion was again wearing a nose piercing that he should have taken off long ago. This is in conflict with the Sporting Regulations, Chapter 3, Appendix L. Hamilton explained to the stewards that he had removed the original nose stud in the requested timeframe, but then developed an infection and doctors advised him to refill the nostril.
FIA doctor Ian Roberts accepted the medical certificate submitted by Hamilton, but the matter had an aftermath. Since the driver is part of the car from the point of view of FIA jurisdiction, Mercedes should have indicated at the technical inspection that Hamilton is again driving with a nose stud. That was not the case. Mercedes has to pay a fine of 25,000 euros for the omission.