Sensational Massa obliterates Lewis to seal first ever Singapore ‘night’ pole
The lights shone in Singapore, and so did Felipe Massa to devastating effect. The Brazilian set a searing pace around the city’s spectacular Marina Bay to clinch pole position for the maiden race by a colossal margin of over half a second to his championship protagonist Lewis Hamilton.
A mere single point separates Massa and Hamilton in the drivers championship, and in something of a reversal of roles it was the former that was looking the more composed of the two as he blitzed the bumpy street circuit en-route to his fourth pole position of the season.
Hamilton was lucky to have had a shot at the top spot at all. The Briton scuppered his first flying lap in Q2 by running wide at Turn 1 and was on the brink of being eliminated.
Another scrappy lap in the closing stages saw him pace only eighth quickest with several drivers still with laps in hand. Was he feeling the pressure after his appeal hearing in Paris? When Kazuki Nakajima and Timo Glock demoted Hamilton to tenth, all the McLaren driver could do was look on and wait to discover his fate.
“I don’t think I was the only one that was worried,” said Hamilton, “It was a little bit nerve-racking for sure. I remember that the first lap I did wasn’t particularly fantastic. I was being a bit cautious and I lost a bit of time through Turn 5.”
Neither Coulthard or Webber could muster up a lap quick enough to dethrone him though and he scraped into the final shoot-out by a mere tenth of a second.
“We’ve been competitive all weekend, so I think we’re in a good position for the race,” conceded Hamilton.
Kimi Raikkonen wrestled his way to third quickest after battling with the handling of his Ferrari, while a return to form from BMW Sauber saw Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld take fourth and sixth respectively, separated by Heikki Kovalainen in the sister McLaren.
Italian Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel continued his run of form by hustling his Toro Rosso onto the third row of the grid in seventh, ahead of Timo Glock in eighth.
Massa though had his Ferrari hooked up around the Singapore street circuit better than anyone, and even allowing for a lighter fuel load held a significant advantage over his rivals.
“The car was just perfect and so nice to drive,” enthused Massa afterwards. “I managed to do a perfect lap but that is always helped when you have a perfect car and no mistakes, so that is always a great achievement.”
“It’s just a great feeling. I came to the last corner thinking ‘don’t make a mistake, don’t go over the limit’ – because everything can always be worse than it actually is – so I was just taking it corner by corner, not making a mistake, and when I got to the last corner I was thinking ‘maybe I can take it easy’, but I couldn’t.
“It’s so fantastic when you’re taking the best out of the car, it’s one of the most incredible feelings you can feel as a racing driver, and when you achieve what you want its a great achievement.”
One man that should have been in the mix in the fight for pole was Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard was left visibly devastated when his R28 packed in before he could set a time in the second qualifying session. It was a bitter pill to swallow for the Renault driver who dominated the opening practice sessions in Singapore.
Things weren’t much better for Nelson Piquet, who finds himself under serious pressure to hang onto his seat for next year after struggling to escape the cluthes of Q2.
The absence of the Renault’s from the top ten shoot out enabled the Williams duo to get both their cars into the mix with Nico Rosberg taking ninth ahead of Kazuki Nakajima.