Sebastian Vettel scored the 49th pole position of his F1 career for the Singapore Grand Prix after a stern challenge from the Red Bull-Renault pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo while Mercedes struggled with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas fifth and sixth.
Around the twisty 23-turn, 5.065 kilometre Marina Bay Circuit, the power unit advantage enjoyed by Mercedes AMG F1 at the previous two rounds at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza was negated. The Ferrari and Red Bull drivers took advantage of their relatively sweeter handling cars (and with pretty powerful and driveable engines in their own right) to annex the front two rows of the starting grid.
Vettel's sensational time of 1min.39.491sec. was the fastest ever pole position time in either of the three configurations of the circuits used since the debut of the event in 2008. Not to mention almost 3.1 seconds faster than last year's pole position time set by Mercedes' Nico Rosberg. In fact, 13 of the 20 drivers on the grid managed to go faster than the 2016 pole position time.
The former four-time world champion's pole time did not come without drama, however, as he pushed the limits around the street circuit that punishes drivers who lose control of their machines around the confines of the street circuit. Barriers await the drivers who stray rather than run-off areas and Vettel had a brush with a barrier in the final segment of the three-part elimination qualifying that left a visible mark on the car. A slightly harder impact could have caused damage to his car.
But instead, he was rewarded with a time that was 0.323 and 0.349 seconds faster than Verstappen and Ricciardo's best efforts, respectively.
The other Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was a lot more inconspcious, however, as the 2007 world champion was 0.578 seconds off Vettel's time. Hamilton was just 0.057 seconds behind Raikkonen with Bottas almost seven tenths behind his Mercedes teammate.
Nico Hulkenberg put his works Renault F1 car at the head of the fourth row of the grid ahead of Fernando Alonso's McLaren-Honda. An interesting pair as the news of McLaren ditching Honda as an engine partner in favour of Renault had been broken a day earlier.
The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne was ninth while Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso-Renault - who will switch to Honda power next year and Sainz will join Hulkenberg at Renault - completed the top ten.