Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes Lewis Hamilton would have been on pole in Singapore without a costly error in the final sector.
After heavy rain fell in the lead-up to, and opening stages of, FP3, the Marina Bay track had dried out considerably by the time qualifying started, but it was not quite ready for slick tyres.
Usually when a pack of Formula 1 cars are unleashed, a track dries out very quickly but the Marina Bay Street Circuit under the lights was proving stubborn in that regard.
Finally come Q3 the majority of the remaining drivers decided the track was ready for dry tyres – a decision which proved correct as the times tumbled heading towards the chequered flag, creating opportunity.
Hamilton was one of the drivers to find himself on provisional pole during that session, flying the Mercedes flag solo after George Russell had dropped out in Q2.
Firmly establishing himself in the pole battle, Hamilton was forced to settle for P3 on the grid, falling just 0.054s short of Charles Leclerc’s pole time.
But if it had not been for a lock-up in the final sector for Hamilton, where Wolff said a big chunk of time was lost, he believes pole was in the bag for Hamilton.
Asked by Sky Sports F1 if Hamilton made any errors on that final lap, Wolff replied: “Yeah, he locked the wheels in the last sector and lost loads of performance – it would have been pole.”
For Hamilton, a first pole of the season continues to elude him, but he has put himself into a strong position to claim a first win of the season on Sunday having won a grand prix in all of his Formula 1 seasons before 2022.
💬 “I was pushing so hard. It was so, so close! I was trying so hard. I really thought maybe… maybe this was the perfect lap.
I am grateful to be on the second row, I’m grateful to the team for continuing to push.
We just get up and fight again tomorrow.”
– Lewis pic.twitter.com/GBC0JOCOIa
— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) October 1, 2022
Wolff made it clear Mercedes must be careful with their expectations, but believes Hamilton can challenge for the win in Singapore.
“The ambition needs to be to win it, but we also need to be careful with our expectations,” Wolff stated.
“Because the [way the] whole qualifying panned out, I think we thought we could make it for pole and then you’re just not there. And you’re disappointed.
“So I think we made a step in the right direction. Tomorrow we can fight for the win.”