It's been fifteen months since Mercedes failed to qualify at the front. It's been three entire years since the last Ferrari pole position. Both those things changed in Singapore on Saturday night, as Sebastian Vettel produced an outstanding performance to put his scarlet car right at the front of the field for tomorrow's race.
It's hard to gauge just how superb his pole lap was. Judged against his closest competitor, Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo in second, he was over half a second faster. Juged against his own teammate, Kimi Raikonnen in third, he was closer to a full second. Judged against Lewis Hamilton, who had dominated qualifying this season and was hoping to take a record breaking ninth pole position in a row, Vettel was an incredible one and a half seconds faster. It was some lap.
Mercedes are struggling in the Singapore heat, so Hamilton will line up just ahead of his teammate Nico Rosberg in fifth and sixth on the grid respectively. They seem to be turning the engine down to avoid overheating, which of course leaves them down on power. It remains to be seen whether putting themselves a second and a half behind in qualifying will have saved the engine enough that they can turn up the performance a little in the race. It's difficult but not impossible to overtake here, so Mercedes can't be entirely ruled out just yet.
Temporarily on the up are Red Bull, currently in negotiations with Volkswagen regarding a possible takeover of the team. The tight, twisty, point and squirt nature of the Singapore track suits their well designed but down on power car, with the Renault engine not leaving them trailing as it has done for much of the season. That said, team principal Christian Horner has stated that he believes the Renault engine is costing them around half a second a lap, so that half second gap to Vettel must be causing yet more recriminations behind closed doors.
The best bet for Sunday's race really has to be Vettel. He has been exceptional throughout the weekend, and he's going to be hard to touch if he can maintain his form for another two hours. The best place to back him is at BoyleSports, who are offering a market leading 6/10.
We also think it's worth a look at Daniel Ricciardo. The uncompetitive nature of this year's Red Bull means that even from second on the grid his odds are more tempting that they could be. Providing he can drive strongly he can keep the field behind him and stand a chance of picking up the pieces should anything happen to Vettel. He's also worth backing each way for a top two place, especially when you can pick him up at BetFred at a tempting 9/2.
Finally, is it worth backing Hamilton in this one? We're going to say yes, but only because his odds are now much more tempting than they have been in a long time.
Even so, it's hard to see Mercedes fighting for the win on race day. We think you'd be better off sucking up the shorter odds on Hamilton once again, except this time by backing him for a top three finish. The best place to pick that up is at Coral, who are currently offering an unbeatable 7/4.