Sebastian Vettel just about held on to take pole position for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix after a gamble late in the session very nearly handed pole position to Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Vettel — who set a time of one minute 42.841 — had been dominant all session and, with a margin of about six-tenths of a second over his closest challenger, opted to stay in the pits in the dying minutes of qualifying while his rivals headed out for their second runs.
A few anxious seconds followed as his teammate Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean all took advantage of an improving track to go quicker than the reigning world champion at different parts of the lap.
But in the end Vettel’s time was enough to give him pole by just 0.091 of a second from Rosberg, with Romain Grosjean in the Lotus a further tenth of a second adrift in third. “I knew that obviously we had a cushion, that’s why we decided not to run again.
But the thing you don’t know is how much the track improves,” said Vettel, who has won the last two races here and could become the first triple Singapore winner.
“I’m sure there was a little bit of track ramping up plus the fact that if you run again you get a better feel for the tyres, for the track and you get a little bit more out of yourself. But we thought it’s good enough. In the end it was good enough but, it was probably a bit close,” he added.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn wished his drivers Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were able to make Vettel pay for his unaccustomed gamble.
“It was a brave move from Sebastian and Red Bull to sit out the final run, and it just paid off for them, but it would have been nice to have given them cause to regret it,” he said.
Behind the top three, the second Red Bull of Webber qualified fourth ahead of the Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Vettel’s title rival Fernando Alonso, who heads into this race 53 points behind the Red Bull driver in the overall standings, only managed seventh with Jenson Button, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Gutierrez rounding out the top ten.
Meanwhile, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta did not have a decent qualifying run and ended up in 15th and 17th places respectively.