Lewis Hamilton pulled a rabbit out of the hat with a moment of self-proclaimed “magic” to put his Mercedes on pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Less than a fortnight after he produced one of the best victories of his career in Italy, Hamilton delivered one of the laps of his life to stun the opposition at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The twisty slow-speed track is a venue which is supposed to suit Ferrari, with Hamilton’s championship rival, Sebastian Vettel, having been the favourite to take the glory under the 1,500 floodlights thatlight up this 3.15-mile circuit.
But the German, 30 points behind Hamilton in the championship, could finish only third. Hamilton will be joined on the front row by Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.
Hamilton headed into the shoot-out for pole without troubling the top of the order in any of the three practice sessions. He then only scraped through to the second phase of qualifying after finishing 14th in the opening running.
Yet, the Englishman somehow ended it all on top – delivering the ‘V’ sign for victory – after finishing three tenths of a second clear of Verstappen, and a mighty six tenths ahead of Vettel.
To emphasise the brilliance of his performance, Valtteri Bottas, using identical Mercedes machinery, was 0.687sec down on Hamilton in fourth. No wonder the Brit’s race engineer, Pete Bonnington, told hisdriver it was an “epic lap”.
“Wow,” said an emotional Hamilton moments after getting out of his car. “That felt like magic. I don’t know where it came from.
“I am super overwhelmed. I am absolutely overwhelmed. My heart is racing. I might have an anxiety attack in a second.
“There wasn’t a moment in the lap where I ran wide, or there were any problems. I was just perfectly to the limit. It felt special and one of the best laps that I can remember feeling.”
Hamilton now has 79 poles, 11 more than any other driver.
His qualifying displays this year at Melbourne, Silverstone, and most recently Spa-Francorchamps were impressive, but this was his one-lap performance of the year, and one that would appear to edge him ever closer to a fifth championship.
It was such a good performance, it made Toto Wolff go on the team radio to congratulate him, something the Austrian never usually does.
“It’s stardust,” Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, said. “I can’t explain what happened. Lewis is just an exceptional individual, and an exceptional driver.”
"Today was teamwork. I think from Lewis’s side, for me, the stardust. The most epic lap I’ve ever seen from him.
"I never go on the radio, it’s the first time I went on the radio to him, today. Because I hadn’t seen anything like this before. We knew exactly what split times that car was able to do – sector one, sector two – and when the purple times kept cropping up, it was surreal."
When talking about what he said on the team radio to Hamilton, Wolff revealed he said the following: “Lewis this is Toto, this was the most epic lap I’ve ever seen around here.”