SINGAPORE – Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday despite skipping the last section of qualifying.
Vettel already has a big lead in the Formula One drivers' championship standings. He gambled on the last flying lap under the lights at Marina Bay to save a set of super soft tires for Sunday's race.
Vettel is closing in on a fourth straight world championship. He is aiming for his third straight victory at Marina Bay, where pole sitters have an advantage on the tight and twisty circuit.
"It's tricky to pass on this track, but because it's such a long race there are plenty of opportunities for all of us, and usually we get a safety car this race," Vettel said.
His strategy on Saturday looked questionable when Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Red Bull teammate Mark Webber and Lotus' Romain Grosjean all began strongly on their final laps and threatened to knock Vettel out of top spot.
Vettel was chewing his fingernails while watching the monitors in the garage. He pumped his fist when he saw his time had stood up. Rosberg finished a tenth of a second behind in second place.
Grosjean, Webber and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton were third through fifth. They were, all within a half second of Vettel, who notched his fifth pole position of the season.
"I knew we had a cushion, that is why we decided not to run," Vettel said. "The thing you don't know is how much the track improves. It was very close and it's not the best feeling when you are standing there and watching."
Ferrari pair Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso qualified in sixth and seventh place, with McLaren's Jenson Button eighth, Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo ninth and Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez a career-best 10th.