Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton produced one of the best laps of his career to take a surprise pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s first lap in final qualifying, described by his race engineer as “epic”, was enough despite failing to improve on his second run.
“That lap felt like magic,” the world champion said. “I don’t know where it came from. I am overwhelmed.”
His title rival Sebastian Vettel was third behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Hamilton excels; Vettel struggles
Hamilton said his lap was “one of the best I can remember”.
It came out of the blue – he was 1.3secs faster than his own previous best lap of the weekend, and the scale of his achievement became clear as his rivals crossed the line.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas was 0.7secs behind, Vettel 0.6secs off and Verstappen, surprisingly pipping the Ferrari, 0.3secs.
Vettel, who is 30 points behind Hamilton in the championship and came into the weekend as favourite, was downcast.
“We wanted to get pole and we didn’t,” the German said. “It was a bit of a messy qualifying session, there was too much time missing.”
Hamilton could not improve on his second run – and aborted his final lap before it was even halfway through.
But although Vettel set a faster first sector than anyone on his final attempt, neither he nor Verstappen could improve and the positions were set.
Bottas took fourth, slightly improving on his final lap to end the session 0.687secs slower than Hamilton, with the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen fifth and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo sixth.