Sebastian Vettel’s stationary Red Bull, sat in its pit box, its vital systems drinking iced air in the heat of the Singapore evening said it all: the champion-elect is more confident than ever of the potency of his RB9 and the fact that it will take him one step closer to a fourth straight world title very soon now.
We’ve not seen this before, Red Bull and Vettel choosing to put down a marker early in Q3 and sit it out while the others tried to get close. In the end Nico Rosberg got maybe closer than compatriot Vettel might have hoped — just 0.091 seconds adrift — and Romain Grosjean’s session-closer looked for a while like it might have the right stuff, but neither were good enough. It’s hard not to imagine Vettel steaming off into the distance tomorrow.
The margins — tighter than practice has suggested they might be — won’t worry Vettel. We have to assume that the lap he didn’t run would have been quicker. His time was three-tenths quicker than teammate Mark Webber in fourth, and frankly the Red Bulls are the only cars that have looked to have the Marina Bay circuit sussed. Mercedes are close and Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have both flown at times this weekend, but looked to be giving so much more than the Red Bull drivers. Hamilton starts fifth which won’t please him, the promise of Hungary seeming a long way away now.
Still, Hamilton has a lot less to complain about than his notional co-title challenger Fernando Alonso, who starts seventh — behind Felipe Massa — over one second behind Vettel. He described the performance as ‘sad’. Hard to know whether he was talking about the car or the team of the general desperation he must feel. Faced with the added aggro of dealing with Kimi Raikkonen’s singular approach to racing and communication next year, it makes you believe he might indeed be considering a McLaren-Mercedes next year. At least McLaren, however bad it gets, always feels like a team.
Jenson Button must be putting in some of the performances of his life (the Alonso rumours will help with that) to get a car that’s clearly got ‘Q2’ written all over it into the Q3 rankings. Sergio Perez has not had one of his better weekends and will start his MP4-28 in 14th. That’s right next to Kimi Raikkonen who was unable to get his Lotus anywhere near the pace of his team-mates. He apparently has a back-injury, so that might be the issue. The fact the world knows he’s not being paid might be an issue too. Anyhow who can remember how Kimi drove after his championship year at Ferrari (and that would seem not to include Ferrari themselves) knows nobody does de-motivated better than Kimi.
I hope he proves me wrong from the middle of the pack, where going on Grosjean’s pace he is clearly out-of-position. On that subject, starting tenth is Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber, making his Q3 debut. Or rather not since the team elected not to run in Q3 once the Mexican had delivered the heroics required to make the final ten. It’s a shame then Nico Hulkenberg didn’t, and will start one place behind Gutierrez, suggesting the Sauber’s Monza form was no flash in the plan.
Sauber are the mid-field team of the moment, Force India are not, Paul di Resta adding to his tally of Q1 fails and Adrian Sutil not doing much better.
The fact that it is a street race and a street race under floodlights aside — and admittedly that is a fairly big aside — it’s hard to imagine this will be much of a race. But it’s hot and long and Red Bulls can just occasionally be fragile. It’s wrong to hope that someone might break down, but just this once we might just do that. For the sake of the championship, will you let us do that Sebasti-fans?