World champion Lewis Hamilton claimed pole for the Singapore Grand Prix as current title leader Jenson Button suffered a “disastrous” qualifying session to be back in 12th on the grid.
Hamilton’s McLaren is well-suited to the tight Marina Bay street circuit and he took top spot with a time of one minute 47.891 seconds. “The car over the weekend got better and better,” Hamilton said. “We will see what happens with the strategy but we are in the best position, starting from the front row. “We really didn’t expect it, so it’s a surprise.” Button did not make it to the final session of qualifying for the top 10 drivers after suffering handling problems in his Brawn GP and making a hash of his flying lap. Teammate Rubens Barrichello, who trails him by 14 points in the championship race, qualified fifth fastest, but will drop five places to 10th on the grid after having a gearbox change. The Brazilian rounded off a sorry evening under the floodlights for the Brawn team by crashing into the wall to bring the qualifying to a premature end. It left second-placed Sebastian Vettel in a frustrated second place as he looked well set in his Red Bull to wrest pole from Hamilton when it was callled off.
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Nico Rosberg of Williams was third fastest, ahead of Mark Webber for Red Bull. Button, who won six races at the start of the season, has seen his lead whittled away in recent rounds and his nervy display under pressure will hardly inspire confidence as he looks to succeed fellow Briton Hamilton as world champion. “12th place is disastrous really,” he told BBC Sport. “But we will take it on the chin and make the best of it tomorrow,” he added. Fernando Alonso, who won in Singapore in highly-controversial circumstances for Renault last year, will start fifth on the grid after Barrichello’s demotion with Timo Glock in sixth for Toyota. The Sauber pair of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica will share the fourth row with Heikki Kovalainen of McLaren sharing the fifth row with Barrichello, who will look to make up further ground on Button on Sunday.