Vettel's loving it
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel claims pole at Singapore Grand Prix in record time
He finished Friday's practice round mired in midfield as he came in 11th out of 20 drivers.
In yesterday's final practice session, the Ferrari No. 5 scraped the wall at Turn 19.
But by the end of the Singapore Grand Prix qualifying, four-time Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel was shouting: "It was unbelievable! I love this track!"
And for good reason as he showed just why he is the man in to beat in Singapore when he clocked a track record lap of 1min 39.491sec to claim his third pole this season, as well as the initiative for today's race.
The 30-year-old, who won here in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015, said: "I was lucky on the final lap.
"I kept going until I approached the last corner and had huge vibrations, but luckily there was only one corner left.
"I pushed as hard as I could. I felt Red Bull would have something in their pockets, then I was very relieved when I crossed the line. I looked at screens and waited for the call.
"The weekend so far has been a bit up and down, yesterday was difficult, this afternoon was difficult but tonight it came alive."
Vettel classily credited his team, including junior drivers Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovanazzi, for the blistering lap.
"It has been phenomenal," said the German who is three points off Mercedes leader Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings.
"The car wasn't behaving the way we wanted it to, but it has been pretty special, the amount of effort overnight, the support from Maranello.
"Charles has been in the simulator - it swaps between Antonio and Charles - they answered a lot of questions as we didn't have time remaining. The guys here, I don't know when they went to bed."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen, a fortnight shy of his 20th birthday, will feel aggrieved to miss out on becoming F1's first teenage poleman after clocking 1:39.814, as team-mate Daniel Ricciardo (1:39.840) sits third, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen (1:40.069) rounding off the second row.
With the tight Marina Bay Street Circuit featuring a season-high 23 corners, overtaking will not come easy, which is no wonder Hamilton quipped he was "holding on to the reins for dear life" after qualifying fifth in 1:40.126 along with team-mate Valtteri Bottas (1:40.810) for the third row.
The 32-year-old Briton, a three-time F1 world champion added: "I didn't think I'd be this far off. This is a horrible track for overtaking. It's going to be a long slog tomorrow.
"We knew coming here it would be difficult. Every year it's been relatively difficult for us.
"I definitely didn't anticipate Ferrari would be as strong as they were. I thought Red Bull would be as quick as they were, but we still remained hopeful.
"I got everything I could out of the car, I gave it everything and more, literally threw the sink at it. Squeezed every single bit out of it."
While they face long odds - seven out of the last nine previous Singapore GP pole sitters went on to win the race - the chasing pack is not losing hope, and fans can expect to see action when the lights turn green today.
Verstappen said: "It is promising, but a shame we couldn't put it on pole. The final lap wasn't great.
"During the race it will be difficult to pass him so we will have to see in the first lap."
Ricciardo said: "I am still confident we will get victory. We have a good package. Seb turned it on in qualifying but we will be back.
"Today I will accept a little bit of defeat but there is still a lot to play for. It is on cusp of one or two stops, so it could be exciting."
Hamilton added: "I think it's going to be very difficult. The start is an opportunity, strategy is an opportunity, safety cars, who knows.
"I'm just going to be playing the long game. It's a marathon not a sprint. I just hope that I can pick some people off, at least get past a Ferrari at the start - that would be really helpful."
But Vettel knows better than to be complacent.
"We have a long race. There are a lot of things that can happen," he said.
"Grid position here is crucial but still it is a long race. The fact that our car was good this evening is promising for tomorrow.
"I'm not bothered where others are. There are a lot of things we need to get right."