Lewis Hamilton has claimed a surprise pole position for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix on a circuit where Mercedes was expected to struggle.
The Englishman set his best time on his first run in Qualifying 3 before aborting his second flying lap when it became clear his initial effort would be good enough for pole.
Second fastest was Max Verstappen, the only driver to get within touching distance of Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel more than half a second off Hamilton’s lap in third.
Ferrari headed out in Qualifying 2 on the slower purple striped ultrasoft tyre, hoping to escape the session on a better race tyre as the Italian squad thought ahead to Sunday.
Hamilton set the early running on the pink, hypersoft tyres, his initial lap almost a second faster than anyone else could manage before both Red Bulls got going.
Verstappen went quickest, with Daniel Ricciardo less than a tenth slower than Hamilton and just over a tenth away from his team-mate.
Ferrari’s gamble proved too much of a risk, with both Vettel and Raikkonen heading out for a second run in the closing minutes on the hypersoft tyres.
Sitting 15th as he started his second lap, Raikkonen immediately went faster to progress into the final phase with a time more than a second quicker than he’d first managed with a 1:37.194 to go provisionally fastest.
Vettel also improved, though his lap was almost ruined by Romain Grosjean in the final corner who was preparing to begin his own flyer.
The German had to clear three cars towards the end of his lap, though was still able to record the fifth best time of the session, albeit seven tenths down on Raikkonen’s best.
A late lap looked to have seen Alonso improve only for the McLaren driver’s time to end up 11th fastest.
The Spaniard was joined on the sidelines at the end of Qualifying 2 by Carlos Sainz, Charles Leclerc, Marcus Ericsson and Pierre Gasly.
Grosjean was the only driver to remain in the garage as Qualifying 3 got underway, Raikkonen impatient to begin his first lap as he carved his way beyond Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg to get track position at the head of the train.
A wild end to his flying lap saw Raikkonen set a 1:37.403 out of the gates, only to be bettered by Hamilton with a 1:36.015 almost immediately.
Neither Bottas nor Vettel could get within half a second of Hamilton’s lap, which was more than three seconds faster than the 2017 pole position time.
As the bulk of the field was wheeled into the garage to prepare for their second runs, Grosjean headed out for his single effort which proved good enough for just eighth by the end of the session.
Raikkonen was again the first among the three leading teams to begin his final flying lap.
A solid first sector was followed by another personal best from the Finn at the second split, crossing the timing beam at 1:36.794 to set just the fifth fastest time.
Vettel was also slow on his final lap, losing out in the middle third of the lap as he failed to improve on his initial time.
Aside from Raikkonen, none of the front runners could improve, leaving Hamilton on pole from Verstappen, Vettel, Bottas, and Raikkonen.
At the other end of the grid, Kevin Magnussen, Brendon Hartley, Stoffel Vandoorne, and the Williams pairing of Sergey Sirotkin and Lance Stroll all found themselves eliminated after Qualifying 1 and will fill the back five places on the grid.
Sunday’s 61 lap Singapore Grand Prix gets underway at 2210 AEST.
Results: Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Renault||1:36.334|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Renault||1:36.996|
|7||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:37.985|
|8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:38.320|
|9||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:38.365|
|11||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Renault||1:38.641|
|13||Charles Leclerc||Sauber Ferrari||1:38.747|
|14||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:39.453|
|15||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso Honda||1:39.691|
|16||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:39.644|
|17||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso Honda||1:39.809|
|18||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Renault||1:39.864|
|19||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Mercedes||1:41.263|
|20||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:41.334|