After a troublesome set of practice session Lewis Hamilton was on the back foot, combined with the fact Ferrari and Red Bull are not as far behind as usual in Singapore anything can happen in the formation to the grid.
Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein headed out first onto the circuit in the first part of qualifying, and was quickly followed by Rosberg’s Mercedes going out on the purple marked Ultrasoft tyre which included a practice start at the end of the pitlane. Lewis Hamilton also went out early on the Ultrasoft tyre in the second Mercedes. It was a scruffy first lap by Nico Rosberg, with the German setting a 1:45.3, Hamilton a tenth faster than his teammate. Fellow early runners included Romain Grosjean and the two Renault drivers although two and a half seconds off the Mercedes.
Jenson Button’s first lap put him in third, 1.2 seconds away from the Mercedes, although that didn’t last long. Impressively Gutierrez was only just behind the Britain in the Haas, but was deposed by Perez and then Hulkenberg in the Force India’s. Massa also put a great lap in to go ahead of both Force India drivers, impressive considering how much Williams have struggled over the weekend, and Valtteri Bottas a tenth behind Hulkenberg.
Fernando Alonso went third, just a couple of tenths off the Mercedes drivers confirming that they didn’t have great laps early in the session, with his countryman Sainz in fourth for Toro Rosso, even he just three tenths away from the leader. It wasn’t as great for Kvyat though in 12th. Coming out of the pits later, Raikkonen went fastest with Max Verstappen slotting into second just marginally slower.
Vettel said over the radio that there was a problem with the car, sitting 21st in the order with 7 minutes remaining. Ricciardo was flying in the Red Bull, consistently setting purple sectors on his hot lap and completely obliterated the field to go seven tenths faster in the low 44’s. Not only that, he was a second faster than the Mercedes drivers. Vettel’s ailing Ferrari wasn’t quick enough, despite staying out on the circuit and then aborting his fast lap and will start 22nd on the grid this weekend.
The Haas drivers were having a competitive start to the qualifying hour, Gutierrez improved to 7th with Grosjean in 9th.
Those at the bottom of the order included both Sauber drivers and both Manor’s, but not even Williams in 10th and 12th felt they were safe and returned to the track with a couple of minutes of the session remaining. Sainz, who had set his fastest time on the supersoft tyre elected not to go out again, with the top six also staying in the pitlane for the rest of Q1.
Daniil Kvyat was first past the chequered flag, going fifth fastest and ahead of his teammate in the Toro Rosso. Button also improved to fifth, with Ericsson not improving in 16th and neither could Palmer or Magnussen. Nasr was only 18th in the Sauber with the Manors at the back of the field improving, but not making it ahead of the Renault. Perez improved to 5th as well.
Those out in the first part of qualifying included Vettel, Wehrlein, Ocon, Magnussen, Palmer and Nasr.
Mercedes were once again out early at the start of the second session, Rosberg ahead of Hamilton on the road with both drivers going out on the ultrasoft tyre. Red Bull went out on the supersoft tyre, a different approach to Ferrari and Mercedes. It was a 1:43.0 for Nico Rosberg, much faster than the first session, with Lewis Hamilton four tenths slower than his teammate. The British driver lost a lot of time in the middle part of the lap. Sainz and Kvyat went third and fourth, which were then split by Bottas. It wasn’t a great lap by Kimi Raikkonen in the sole remaining Ferrari, a second down on Nico Rosberg.
Going in a different direction on tyres, Ricciardo went third in the Red Bull, with Verstappen then a couple of tenths slower – although both of them ahead of the Ferrari. Perez only went 12th fastest and over half a second down on his teammate who had set the 7th fastest time.
With minutes remaining in the session, those in trouble went back out onto the circuit. Marcus Ericsson who was in 16th decided not to go out for another run given that he was two seconds down on his nearest challenger. Everyone else apart from the top five went out again, led by Fernando Alonso. At the same time, Romain Grosjean went off in the Haas and there was a puncture for Jenson Button pulling off the circuit which was caused once again by hitting the wall.
The yellow flag meant that nobody was able to improve on their best times, leaving Bottas, Massa, Button, Gutierrez and Ericsson out of Q2.
It was Nico Hulkenberg who went out first in a delayed Q3, with the pitlane busy with everyone going out onto the circuit. Raikkonen didn’t follow the crowd though, electing to wait. It was a scruffy lap by Ricciardo, Rosberg going a second faster than the Red Bull. Sainz went third, before being deposed by Verstappen, and Hamilton who was seven tenths slower than his teammate. Raikkonen was faster than both the Red Bull drivers who had their own dramas during their own lap. The benchmark from Rosberg was a 1:42.5, with Perez down in ninth two and a half seconds away.
Rosberg and Hamilton left the garage together for the second run, with Max Verstappen following. He had complained that his first run was compromised by his out lap preparation, once again coming out behind others. He overtook Hamilton on the outlap, with the Mercedes going wide slightly into the first corner. With times not really improving, Ricciardo improved to second and Verstappen only fourth. Rosberg retained third with Kvyat in sixth and Perez staying tenth. Raikkonen, the last driver to cross the line couldn’t improve either and stayed fifth.