Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from the front having given McLaren its fourth successive pole position today at the Marina Bay Street circuit, something the team last achieved back in 1999.
Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had vied for top spot through much of free practice and early qualifying, but Hamilton established the Q3 benchmark after he, Vettel and the second McLaren of Jenson Button all emerged together. Button laid down a marker but, as he has done in almost every session, Hamilton blitzed that to put himself out front. Vettel, perhaps having had to back off too much to find a gap, came in more than a second slower than the Briton's 1 minute 46.362 seconds target time.
The trio remained at the head of the field as their rivals opted only to set sector times on their first outing, before everyone re-emerged for another shot at top spot in the final few minutes. This time Hamilton was running last on the road and, while Williams' Pastor Maldonado threw a curveball to the pack by leaping into second place, no-one else could improve enough to dislodge the McLaren.
Points leader Fernando Alonso meanwhile rose to third near the end in his Ferrari, while Mark Webber and Paul di Resta both only managed fifth place, behind Button. When Vettel appeared, however, expectations were raised - only for the German to fail to beat Maldonado and at least grab a place on the front row. Button, too, came up short, although he did move back into fourth, leaving Hamilton untouched even before he completed his second flying lap. That that effort was better than anything anyone else had managed simply marked him out as the new man to beat on raceday. His eventual pole lap was also incidentally nearly half a second up on Maldonado.
Behind the top five, di Resta will share row three with Alonso, ahead of Webber and Lotus driver Romain Grosjean – although Webber may get a five-place penalty if found guilty of obstructing Timo Glock in Q1. The Mercedes' of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg opted not to set a time in Q3 and will line-up ninth and tenth.
Nico Hulkenberg was just on the wrong side of the cut-off at the end of Q2 and will start in P11 in his Force India, just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn struggled in his Lotus and twelfth was not exactly what he would have wanted to keep his championship hopes alive.
Hulkenberg and Raikkonen were joined in the group of seven not progressing any further by Felipe Massa, Sergio Perez and the Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. Bruno Senna was also out of luck, but his fate was largely of his own making after clouting the wall before he had even set a time.
Of the remaining runners, Kamui Kobayashi might have, briefly, enjoyed life at the front of the F1 grid in Belgium, but he was left with an altogether more sour taste in his mouth in Singapore as he failed to progress through the first phase. The Japanese driver was dropped back into the danger zone with a couple of minutes left, but proved unable to find the two tenths he needed to escape again before the chequered flag. The Sauber ace joined an otherwise familiar line-up in the bottom seven, with both cars from Caterham, Marussia and HRT lining up beneath him, although it wasn't Heikki Kovalainen at the head of the 'new' teams, but rather Vitaly Petrov. Narain Karthikeyan also out-qualified team-mate Pedro de la Rosa again too.
To see the full times from qualifying for the F1 2012 Singapore Grand Prix - CLICK HERE