Mercedes' Strategy Piles Pressure On Vettel

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OMNISPORT

Singapore, like it was 12 months ago, has been predicted by many to be Ferrari's race. And it still could be. Certainly, when Sebastian Vettel smashed the lap record in free practice three, the signs were all positive for the Maranello.

But yet again it is Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton - fresh from victory in Monza last time out that opened up a 30-point gap over Vettel in the drivers' standings - who are smiling.

The gamble to run supersoft tyres in Q1 almost proved costly when Hamilton limped through in 14th, but the world champion produced a near flawless lap on the hypersofts to take what many considered an unlikely pole.

A year ago, Hamilton was the beneficiary of both Ferraris crashing out following a collision with Max Verstappen and the Briton will be wary of getting overly excited just yet.

He may have help in the form of Verstappen, who starts second and only enhanced predictions that the low-speed circuit would benefit the Red Bulls.

One thing is for sure, Vettel - who starts third - needs his fortunes to change quickly if he is to keep pace with Hamilton in the title race.

'MAGIC' HAMILTON FULL OF TRICKS AGAIN

Never, ever write off Lewis Hamilton. With some questioning if his travel and fashion exploits in Shanghai and New York in between races was wise and then seeing pundits predicting Ferrari and Red Bull to impress, the Briton will have been desperate for a performance in qualifying.

And boy did he deliver.

"That was a hard qualifying session, that lap felt like magic I don't know where it came from but it all came together. I'm overwhelmed," he said.

"It was really special, I don't think there was a bad moment in the lap, it was just perfect."

DESPONDENT VETTEL MUST GO AGAIN

There was no masking Vettel's disappointment at only starting third on the grid after what he described as a "messy" session.

But he has little time to mope and the German must find a way to overtake Hamilton to stay in title contention.

"It was a messy qualifying session and there was too much time missing so we didn't get any better than third," he said.

"It's never ideal if you have a mini race in the out lap. There were a lot of other cars around but you can’t blame it on that. Both laps weren’t great. I think we have a good car so let’s see.”

"Tomorrow raises a different story, but for sure I'm not happy with today. Qualifying wasn’t as smooth as it should’ve been, other people did better than us."

THE GRID

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull)
7. Sergio Perez (Racing Point Force India)
8. Romain Grosjean (Haas)
9. Esteban Ocon (Racing Point Force India)
10. Niko Hulkenberg (Renault)

STANDINGS

Drivers

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 256
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 226
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 164
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 159
5. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 130

Constructors

1. Mercedes 415
2. Ferrari 390
3. Red Bull 248
4. Renault 86
5. Haas 76

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Sebastian Vettel

WEATHER FORECAST

Rain and the threat of thunderstorms are forecasted for Sunday, but by the time racing starts at just after 8pm local time the skies should be dry.