MCLAREN’S LEWIS HAMILTON claimed his fifth pole position of the season in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday to strengthen his bid for a second world title.
The Briton settled a thrilling session with a lightning lap of 1:46.362 early in Q3 which proved uncatchable by the other drivers. The 2008 champion was nearly half-a-second quicker than Pastor Maldonado of Williams.
Red Bull’s defending world champion Sebastian Vettel will be on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s race alongside Jenson Button, Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate.
Championship leader Fernando Alonso settled for fifth, Force India’s Paul di Resta was sixth, Mark Webber was seventh and Romain Grosjean of Lotus, back from a one-race ban over a crash in Belgium, survived some hairy moments to claim eighth.
Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg opted to preserve their tyres for the race and spent most of Q3 in the garage, settling for ninth and 10th places respectively.
Hamilton trails Alonso by 37 points heading into the last seven races, but Saturday’s performance underlines form that has won him two of the last three grands prix — despite intense speculation over his future.
“It’s an incredibly tough circuit for tyre degradation,” said the Briton, who has been linked with a move to Mercedes.
“I think everyone’s going to struggle with that. We just want to get away well at the start (on Sunday) and continue with the strategy we’ve planned.”
In the top-10 shoot-out, Hamilton came out flying to take the early lead and his time was never challenged. Grosjean flirted with another bump and Hamilton also veered dangerously close to the barriers in the closing seconds.
“That means I’m using all the road,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t mean to and I didn’t feel it — hopefully it hasn’t caused any damage.”
Officials announced a five-year extension guaranteeing the race until 2017 after lengthy contract negotiations.