Singapore GP: Sebastian Vettel expects Lewis Hamilton to respond

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Highlights: Sebastian Vettel takes shock pole in Singapore
Singapore Grand Prix on the BBC
Venue: Marina Bay Circuit Date: 18-20 September
Coverage: Highlights on BBC TV, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live and sports extra, online, mobile, the BBC Sport app and Connected TV

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel says he expects a challenge from Mercedes at the Singapore Grand Prix despite their struggles in qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were fifth and sixth, ending a run of 23 poles for Mercedes, as Vettel took Ferrari's first pole since July 2012.

He said: "I wouldn't rule them out for the race. They must have some issues.

"It's not the easiest to overtake but if you have the pace you come through. So I expect them to be strong."

Vettel is joined on the front row by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat third and fourth.

Hamilton said he still hopes to be able to fight for a victory that would make his career record equal to that of his idol Ayrton Senna - 41 wins from 161 grands prix.

'It's exciting to have this kind of fight'

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton has won seven times in 12 races so far this season

Hamilton, who heads into Sunday's race (at 13:00 BST on the BBC Sport website and on Radio 5 live) with a 53-point championship lead over Rosberg, said his goal for the weekend remains unchanged.

"I'm just going to approach it the same as I do every race - I want to win," he said.

"There's no reason you can't win it from fifth but the guys ahead have been quick all weekend and you've got to assume that's going to be the same tomorrow, but I go ahead with the mentality of trying to win still."

Hamilton said Mercedes' problems were down to a lack of grip from the tyres.

Singapore qualifying: 'Perfect day at the office' for Vettel

"I don't know really what we got wrong," said Hamilton.

"To be honest, it's exciting to have this kind of fight. It was the first time having to go into qualifying trying to pull even more out of the car, and therefore sometimes making mistakes, so it was really challenging.

"But for some reason the tyres weren't working; you warm up the tyres like everyone else and then you finish your lap and you see someone else a second up the road."

Vettel said he was surprised by Mercedes' lack of pace, adding that when he saw them struggling in practice he suspected they were disguising their potential.

"I thought yesterday they were sandbagging and also this morning, because there's no doubt they have the strongest package this year," the four-time champion said.

Daniel Ricciardo
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo shows the strain of the punishing heat and humidity in night time Singapore

"They have a very good car, sorry, a very good power unit, which we know. It usually puts them very high up and difficult to beat."

Ricciardo, meanwhile, said a victory for him was "not impossible", adding: "We put ourselves in the best position for it.

"If our long runs from yesterday are any sign, then, yeah, we've got a chance. I'll be going for it. We haven't been this far at the front for a long time, so I will try to capitalise."

Singapore GP is a modern classic

Singapore has been on the Formula 1 calendar only since 2008, but already it has become a modern classic.

Singapore qualifying: Hamilton and Rosberg stumped by lack of speed

The key was to hold the street race in the south-east Asian city state at night.

The combination of futuristic skyscrapers across the cityscape, colonial buildings lining the circuit and the lighting on the paintwork of the cars is stunning.

The tight and twisty track does not always produce the greatest race, but as a challenge it is among the toughest in the sport - the combination of tropical heat and humidity, the bumpy track and the longest event on the calendar tests the drivers to their limit.

Qualifying results

Singapore Grand Prix coverage

Spandau Ballet
1980s new romantics Spandau Ballet performed in a concert after qualifying
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel secured Ferrari's first pole since the 2012 German Grand Prix
Downtown Singapore
The race in downtown Singapore is one of the most visually arresting of the season