TOP TEN: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull), Sergio Perez (Force India), Romain Grosjean (Haas), Esteben Ocon (Force India), Nico Hulkenburg (Renault). Hamilton's seventh pole of the season represented a very special effort around the floodlit city streets of Singapore that left him shaking his head in disbelief afterwards.
Hamilton's hypersofts were swiftly changed for a new set of tires - softs, which would allow him to run to the end of the race - and he returned to the track comfortably ahead of Vettel. The British driver had nailed an extraordinary lap to take pole.
Dutchman Verstappen lapped in 1:39.912 to edge out Vettel by 0.085 seconds but the German will be looking for an improved third practice session and qualification on Saturday as he seeks to rein in Hamilton with seven rounds remaining.
"It's not what we wanted today to get third".
Vettel, who had looked dominant in practice, has struggled to stamp his authority on the title race in a Ferrari regarded as superior to all of his rivals.
The result was a fourth win in five races for Hamilton, arguably all of which Vettel could and perhaps should have won himself.
The good news for Vettel is that, as in 2010 and 2012, he has the fastest auto on the grid this year.
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There has, however, been a safety auto period in every race in Singapore since it joined Formula One in 2008 and it was deployed on the opening lap after Sergio Perez pushed his Force India team mate Esteban Ocon into a wall after Turn Three.
"I think it's realistic to think a podium "shoey" could come in 2020", Ricciardo told Sky F1's Paul di Resta, in an interview which will air in Sunday's Singapore GP race show, from 11.30am.
Clearing Verstappen's Red Bull, who starts second, is vital. "Just disappointing we didn't get the maximum out of our package". I wasn't convinced we would make it to the end of the race, but pitting again was no option. "I'm really happy with it".
Hamilton pitted a lap later but instead opted for the soft tyre - as did the rest of the leading drivers with the exception of Ricciardo.
"You call it mistakes, but if you look in Formula One, everybody is making mistakes", the Ferrari boss said.
"I have obviously had a lot of years of experience so I am not going to let anything get in my way".
"I don't want to count off a podium next year but I think realistically it has to come under some circumstances, if it's a bit of a insane race like Baku 2016 or something".