Felipe Massa will start Formula 1’s first ever night race in Singapore from pole position after taking pole position by over half a second.
Lewis Hamilton will join him on the front row despite suffering a scare in the second part of qualifying where he was almost eliminated for the second race in a row.
The Force India mechanics faced a race against time to get Giancarlo Fisichella on the track following his crash in practice. He did manage to get out – but went off again at turn three, although it looked as though it may have been caused by a mechanical fault.
The McLarens were quickest to start with as Ferrari lagged behind – Kimi Raikkonen near the bottom of the times following his spin in free practice three. But Raikkonen was right back on the pace with his second lap, the fastest of the weekend so far, edging out Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton.
Jenson Button made it out of the bottom five in his Honda but Sebastien Bourdais failed to accompany Sebastian Vettel into Q2, lapping 1.3s slower than his team mate.
David Coulthard made it into the second part of qualifying with a last-gasp improvement to put Piquet Jnr in the bottom five by 0.009s.
Bottom five drivers’ times for part one
16. Nelson Piquet Jnr 1’46.037
17. Sebastien Bourdais 1’46.389
18. Rubens Barrichello 1’46.583
19. Adrian Sutil 1’47.940
20. Giancarlo Fisichella no time
Fernando Alonso went out early in Q2 with a car failure, ending his session and leaving him 15th on the grid next to team mate Piquet.
Lewis Hamilton also had a problem early on, missing the second corner and aborting his first attempt at a lap. Meanwhile the Ferraris took over the top of the time sheets with Felipe Massa ahead of Raikkonen.
Heikki Kovalainen then split the Ferraris with Sebastian Vettel taking fourth. But Hamilton was struggling, locking his brakes several times on his laps and managing only eighth. As other drivers improved Hamilton was left on the brink of elimination – falling to tenth, and just 0.1s away from being eliminated.
Neither of the Red Bulls made it through and both were beaten by Jenson Button, who put his Honda 12th. Jarno Trulli took 11th while team mate Timo Glock made it into the top ten.
Bottom five drivers’ times for part two
11. Jarno Trulli 1’45.038
12. Jenson Button 1’45.133
13. David Coulthard 1’45.212
14. Mark Webber 1’45.298
15. Fernando Alonso no time
The top ten for the final session featured the McLarens, Ferraris and BMWs as usual, plus both Williams, Timo Glock and Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel was the first to do a lap bu his 1’46.614 was quickly beaten by Raikkonen. Hamilton went 0.4s faster than Hamilton but Massa edged him by just over a tenth of a second. Kovalainen meanwhile could only manage tenth.
On the second round of laps Raikkonen briefly took second but Hamilton found a lot of time in the final sector to grab provisional pole position.
That too proved fleeting as Massa was faster than everyone in every sector, taking pole position by over 0.6s.
Top ten drivers’ times for part three
1. Felipe Massa 1’44.801
2. Lewis Hamilton 1’45.465
3. Kimi Raikkonen 1’45.617
4. Robert Kubica 1’45.779
5. Heikki Kovalainen 1’45.873
6. Nick Heidfeld 1’45.964
7. Sebastian Vettel 1’46.244
8. Timo Glock 1’46.328
9. Nico Rosberg 1’46.611
10. Kazuki Nakajima 1’47.547