Singapore GP qualifying: as it happened!

Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Singapore GP qualifying session.

The talk here is of one thing and one thing only, really: the epic championship battle that has twisted and turned up and down. What will happen today? Everybody’s best guess is that the Red Bulls will be competing for pole. The car is quick despite speculation it might not be after the new flexible wing tests.

Sakon Yamamoto will not participate in qualifying today, the HRT team saying that he is unwell. Waggish Eddie Jordan suggests ‘the cheque didn’t arrive’. Mischievous. But the real question is why Christian Klien is replacing him and not Karun Chandhok.

“If he finishes the next five races on the podium he’ll be world champion,” Eddie Jordan says of Mark Webber. Not a mathematician myself, but I reckon that’s what they all are aiming at.

2.54pm The night is a dark one in Singapore as we approach 10pm local time. There’s no sign of rain but it is humid – around 80% they reckon. The track shines from an above view, like a white ribbon around the city.

2.56pm “Red Bull are the team to beat,” says Martin Brundle. They queue up now to get out of the pitlane and it’s Liuzzi at the head of the line, followed by Petrov and Schumacher.

3.00pm And they’re off. Schumacher is of course new to this track, a possible disadvantage you might think. He just had a massive sideways moment through turn one, beautiful to watch but an unhappy experience for his rear tyres.

3.04pm It does look slippery out there. Lewis Hamilton is struggling for grip it seems, even if he’s not trying particularly hard at the moment. Bruno Senna is fighting his HRT, eager to outdo his new team-mate and semi-proven pedaller Christian Klien.

3.06pm Button goes fastest with 1.48.254. Schumacher, despite his troubles, lies third at the moment. Make that fourth, as Alonso goes very quickly round. The times of course will tumble as we continue through the session. And then Vettel trumps the lot with a lap almost a second quicker than Button’s.

3.11pm Vettel goes quicker still. And then Felipe Massa stops on track, which produces the yellows and finally a red flag to stop the session as he is parked smack bang in a danger zone. The F10 is taken away.

3.12pm As people are already musing, Felipe Massa’s problems will have ramifications for Fernando Alonso’s title bid. In all probability, given he is out and will start down at the back, the Brazilian now won’t be able to take points off the other competitors. Very convenient for Red Bull and McLaren.

3.15pm Session restarts with just over ten minutes remaining of Q1. Nico Hulkenberg makes the streets echo first with the sound of his Cosworth V8.

3.17pm Michael Schumacher just got out of his car. A bit strange, because he is only seventh fastest as we speak and by no means secure. Maybe he’s just popping to the bog.

3.19pm There is a dry line here, but off line it’s very greasy. When they get it a little wrong, they get it very wrong, basically. Sparks fly from Virgins and Toro Rossos as they battle to avoid the drop.

3.23pm Bruno Senna spins, but gets it going again. Schumacher’s coffee break has been explained – with Felipe Massa out, he would have to be very unlucky to go out. He had already set a time that will beat the six new cars. Alonso is now fastest.

3.25pm The session ends, with Glock, Kovalainen, di Grassi, Jarno Trulli, Klien, Senna and Massa out in that order. Senna is making a final effort…but can’t improve. Klien has done a fantastic job to outperform his team-mate there.

A shot of Alonso sweating profusely in the Ferrari is apt. He has “suffered a big blow”, according to Eddie Jordan. The pressure on him to take pole and dominate has just increased through Massa’s problem.

3.33pm The second session starts with the Renaults and the Toro Rossos leading them out. Felipe Massa shrugs to camera down in the Ferrari pit. It wasn’t his fault, poor bloke.

3.35pm Alonso radioes that he has found ‘something strange with the map of the engine.’ All Ferrari fans will be praying he doesn’t have a similar issue to Massa. Meanwhile, Liuzzi misses the chicane that his team-mate took off over yesterday.

3.37pm Vitaly Petrov spins at the same point as did Senna, but the Russian is unluckier (or perhaps going quicker) and tonks the wall. That’s a broken right rear suspension arm, is my diagnosis. He won’t be taking part any more.

3.39pm Fernando Alonso is having an ongoing radio discussion about what to do about this minor engine issue. He’s still out on track as we speak. Hamilton sets a 1.46.042, which, we are informed, is the fastest ever lap of this track. Vettel is still looking dangerous.

3.42pm Fernando Alonso has been in and gone out again. He lies eighth fastest at the moment so he will need to improve. He radioes that everything is now ok. That’s good then.

3.45pm And Alonso goes fastest. So there is categorically no problem. Nothing else is happening.

3.47pm Michael Schumacher just scrapes into the top ten as the session dies. The battle for the tenth place is between Alguersuari, Sutil, Kobayashi and Liuzzi. Kobayashi gets it. So out goes Alguersuari, Hulkenberg, Petrov, Buemi, Heidfeld, Sutil and Liuzzi, in that order.

3.51pm Q3 is about to start, and Kamui Kobayashi has done a very good job in the Sauber to make it into the top ten shootout. The rest are the usual suspects.

3.53pm Button leads the protagonists out for the final session. This is a really delicious ten minutes in prospect. All the top five drivers who have a shout for the championship really really want this pole position.

3.56pm Eight of the ten cars competing for pole are on track right now. Button’s smooth style is put to the side as he visibly attacks the corners on his first hot lap. There’s no doubt that McLaren are quick here, but you’d have to back Vettel for overall one-lap pace. Wouldn’t you?

3.58pm Alonso is fastest with four minutes left. Vettel has not performed yet, he’s down in seventh. Hamilton and Webber are second and third as it stands.

4.02pm They are now sizing up their final runs. Vettel is just about to start his hot lap. He’s very quick through the first sector, two tenths up on anyone. He’s also good through the second, and Alonso is also flying. Vettel’s not as quick as he goes over the line! Alonso doesn’t beat his own time…but it’s enough! Hamilton is…not a threat, and neither’s Webber…what can Button do? Only fourth. It’s pole for Alonso, from Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Webber. Barrichello was sixth, followed by Rosberg, Kubica, Schumacher, and Kobayashi.

4.05pm Alonso will be really happy with that. The man it’s not looking so great for is Mark Webber down in fifth, but he is also leading the championship. Check back tomorrow for a minute-by-minute race report.