Defending champion Lewis Hamilton took his third pole position of the season in Singapore, as title contender Rubens Barrichello brought an early end to qualifying following a crash.
The Brawn GP driver, who had a gearbox change before the session, held fifth on the provisional grid before shunting heavily against the barriers at turn five. With the penalty applied, the Brazilian will start the Singapore Grand Prix in tenth, just two places ahead of his team-mate Jenson Button.
Series leader Button seemed to be struggling with a lack of balance in the BGP-001, with understeer his main complaint. To qualify outside the top ten at this crucial point of the season was not ideal and it will be interesting if he can avoid trouble on the opening laps following this low grid position. The last time Button started a race in the mid-field resulted in a retirement at Spa-Francorchamps.
Sebastian Vettel kept his and Red Bull Racing’s title hopes alive as he joined Hamilton on the front row. The German will be particular encouraged as his title rivals from the Brawn squad could only manage P10 and P12 on the grid.
Nico Rosberg achieved his career-best qualifying result with third for Williams. He even set the quickest lap time of the weekend around the demanding 3.148-mile street circuit with one minute, 46.197 seconds – which was set in Q2.
Red Bull Racing’s Mark Webber completes the second row, with last year’s winner Fernando Alonso fifth for Renault followed by the Toyota of Timo Glock.
The BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica take up row four, ahead of Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren.
As for Ferrari, the team predicted it will be a difficult weekend and so it proved as Kimi Raikkonen could only manage P13 while Giancarlo Fisichella continues to struggle with P18 the best he could achieve. This result marked the first time all season that the Scuderia had failed to get into the top ten.
Kazuki Nakajima (Williams) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota) were both a long way off their respective team-mates and ended up P11 and P15 respectively.
The return to a high downforce circuit meant the end of the fairytale for Force India. After recent front row performances, the team had to settle for P16 and P20 for Adrian Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi.
Sebastien Buemi was the only one of the three rookies to get into Q2, taking a solid P14. His Toro Rosso team-mate Jaime Alguersuari will start three places behind, while Romain Grosjean’s troubled weekend continues with issues over his brakes. The Renault driver will start his first night-time Grand Prix in a disappointing P19.
Qualifying times from Singapore:
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:47.891
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:48.204
3. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:48.348
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:48.722
5. Alonso Renault 1:49.054
6. Glock Toyota 1:49.180
7. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1:49.307
8. Kubica BMW-Sauber 1:49.514
9. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:49.778
10 Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes 1:48.828*
11. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:47.013
12. Button Brawn-Mercedes 1:47.141
13. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:47.177
14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:47.369
15. Trulli Toyota 1:47.413
16. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:48.231
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:48.340
18. Fisichella Ferrari 1:48.350
19. Grosjean Renault 1:48.544
20. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:48.792
*Five-place grid penalty after changing a gearbox