Lewis Hamilton admitted it was an unexpected surprise to secure his third pole in four race for the latest round of the F1 season in Singapore.
Hamilton had endured a tough start to the weekend in Friday practice but a change of chassis overnight led to an upturn in fortunes when the current champion posted the quickest time during final practice.
The Briton then led the way in the first stage of qualifying and was again quickest after the first run in Q3 before the top ten returned to the track to complete their final qualifying runs. When Rubens Barrichello then went into the wall exiting turn five and brought out the red flags, a 16th career pole was secured and Hamilton admitted it had been a pleasant surprise.
“It's an absolutely fantastic result,” he said. “We came here with several technical upgrades, and we didn't know if we'd be up there – particularly after Friday practice, which wasn't spectacular for me. My pole lap was very relaxed: the car has just got better and better as the track has evolved, and I think I would have gone faster on my final lap if the session hadn't been aborted.
“I didn't expect to be on pole today, but our pace has been really good. We'll need to see what fuel loads everyone else is running, but I feel quite confident in what we're doing and I'm in the best position for the race tomorrow.”
While Hamilton benefitted from the red flag in Q3, the same couldn't be said for team-mate Heikki Kovalainen who could only post the tenth quickest time as he was unable to get a lap on the quicker option tyres due to the early stoppage.
“This is a very disappointing result for me,” the Finn said. “In the first two sessions, things went smoothly – although my laptimes weren't as competitive as I was expecting. For Q3, I didn't get a good enough lap in during my first run as I'd been running the harder tyre, which wasn't quick enough. I also made a couple of mistakes, but I was focusing my efforts on my second run – which would have been on a set of new option tyres.
“It's going to be a tough race tomorrow: starting from ninth will make things very difficult, but there's nothing I can do about that now, so I'm just going to absolutely go for it tomorrow.”