Lewis lights up the Marina Bay Street Circuit with a simply spectacular pole lap
Third practice took place under a stunning Singapore sunset and saw Lewis end the session in third place with a best time of 1:38.588 from 14 laps. Valtteri came in just behind in fourth, with his best effort a 1:38.603 from 17 laps
Aside from a slightly tense final minute of Q1 where Lewis' gamble on progressing with the UtraSoft tyres looked braver than first imagined, both drivers ran smoothly through to a hotly contested Q3 shootout
Lewis set a quite phenomenal time of 1;36.015 with his first flying lap of the final Qualifying session which would not be beaten by any driver on their second runs - himself included
And so, Lewis claimed his 79th career pole position in emphatic style by a full three tenths of a second - his fourth at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and seventh of the 2018 Formula One season
Valtteri achieved his best ever Qualifying result in Singapore and will start tomorrow's Grand Prix from fourth on the grid, behind Max Verstappen in second and Sebastian Vettel in third
What Did We Learn?
"It is difficult to put into words how it feels on days like this," said Technical Director, James Allison.
"It is overwhelming on so many levels, first and foremost to have the privilege of being here to watch a lap of such rare quality by a driver at the peak of his powers, on a circuit that punishes even the slightest error. It was a breath-taking performance by Lewis.
"Until Q3, it had been a fractious qualifying session: we got through Q1 by the skin of our teeth after being overly brave running the UltraSoft tyre, and spent most of Q2 trying to get our pulses back until control before the final push.
"On a more profound level, this circuit has been a monkey on our team's back for several years, and it is hard for anyone who does not work in the sport to understand just how much thought, analysis and effort have gone into understanding why we have been weak here.
"So that makes it all the more special to have a day like today, when Lewis puts us decisively on pole position with the car handling sweetly. But that sense of satisfaction lasts only for a moment, now our attention turns to what really counts - tomorrow's race."
What We’re Saying
"That was an incredible, horrible session - just a rollercoaster of emotions from start to finish!" said Toto.
"We nearly dropped out in Q1 after sticking to the UltraSoft tyre, which was a nerve-wracking wait to make sure we didn't shoot ourselves in the foot at the first opportunity. Then Lewis produced one of the most incredible qualifying laps I have witnessed to take pole position.
"I just have to say a big thank you to all the team back at base in Brackley and Brixworth, who have worked so hard to understand our problems at this circuit and to improve on our weaknesses.
"It's incredibly encouraging to see the step forward in understanding we have made, with Valtteri splitting the Ferraris and Lewis right at the sharp end of the grid by a healthy margin.
"Now we need to put aside the happiness from today because we haven't scored any points yet this weekend. The real job comes on Sunday and, like we have seen in recent races, the balance can swing very quickly. We will keep our heads down, focus on the job and make sure we deliver tomorrow."
"That lap just started perfect and it just kept going - it felt magical," said Lewis.
"It felt like one of the best - if not the best lap I've ever done. It's what my brother and me would call a 'sexy lap'. I only had that one lap in me today, I just couldn't go any faster afterwards.
"This track is all about confidence, confidence in your braking points and the stability of the car, you only have a few laps to build your steps towards it. As soon as you lose it, it's very hard to build back up to it. So I'm grateful that I had the extra two laps on the HyperSofts in Q2 as I could try and understand the tyre a bit more. In Q3, it really felt like each corner was on the limit, but no more, I didn't have any wheel spin or any of that.
"I think the races have generally been quite strong for me this year, so I hope this will continue tomorrow. I'm going to work hard tonight to make sure the start is good. After that it will be all about looking after the tyres; making the HyperSofts last long won't be easy, but we're all in the same boat, so it should be interesting.
"The Ferraris and the Red Bulls in particular had good long-run pace, so we have a fight on our hands tomorrow. But I'm just so grateful that we did a better job today and so grateful for the support from everyone in the team today; this journey that I'm on with Mercedes and the entire team is just a remarkable experience."
"P4 is obviously not ideal, I can't be happy with today's result," said Valtteri.
"Everything was going pretty well from FP3 all the way up to Q2, but then the others could find big chunks in Q3 and I couldn't, I just didn't really feel the track improvement. Lewis put in a great lap, but seven tenths is obviously a big gap, so I will need to have a look and analyse what exactly the issue was.
"The long-run times between Ferrari, Red Bull and us looked fairly comparable, so it's a shame I couldn't qualify higher and attack from the front row. We are definitely more competitive here than we were last year. The car has been improved and we also chose the right set-up direction. So I'm optimistic for tomorrow; it's a new day and at least one Ferrari will start behind me.
"We still have a long race ahead of us and I will push hard to try and get ahead of Sebastian. With three teams in the mix, everything is possible. It's difficult to overtake on this track, so both the start and the strategy will decide who wins this race."