Vettel’s first pole position since Brazil 2013 also snapped a qualifying dry spell for Ferrari stretching back to Germany 2012.
Vettel has won twice so far this year, and is the only non-Mercedes driver to top the podium with Hamilton grabbing seven victories and Rosberg three. Nonetheless his pace was good and it was quite representative of qualifying.
While this race was likely to be only a temporary aberration to Hamilton’s otherwise dominant season, Vettel was not giving up hope of challenging for the championship.
It could have been worse for Hamilton, but with Mercedes bizarrely out of sorts at this testing street circuit, Rosberg could manage only fourth.
The Briton, who has a 53-point lead in the championship over teammate Nico Rosberg with six races remaining after Singapore, fell to 16th over the next laps before his team opted to call him in. Of course, that might lead one to believe that the race lacked excitement, which isn’t the case at all.
[LEWIS LOSES: Lewis Hamilton forced to retire in dramatic Singapore Grand Prix].
“If there was no safety vehicle we could have been close for the undercut but the two safety cars came at pretty crucial times”, Ricciardo said.
The Singapore Grand Prix 2015 takes place on Sunday, and even before the race has begun it has already been the most surprising grand prix of the year so far.
Then on lap 27 came a potentially pivotal moment in the title race.
Senna’s tally of 41 wins from 161 starts could also be equalled this weekend, but Hamilton isn’t optimistic he can match his hero.
Mercedes attempted to resolve the problem – but failed to find a solution. On lap 33, a space was cleared in the Mercedes garage and he retired.
He said, “It’s really nice to be back up here on the front row; it’s been a while and it’s a bit of coincidence that it’s Seb and I together, but it should be a good race”.
If we have more weekends like this, yes, Vettel said. He then suddenly burst away to put a two-second gap on Ricciardo in the space of one lap. But I wouldn’t rule them out tomorrow.
The German shouted over the team radio that there was a man on track as race stewards instantly unfurled their yellow flags, ordering the drivers to slow down.
CCTV footage showed the man climbing feet first through a hole on the right-hand side of the track, walking slowly across the first half of the track before realising Vettel was exiting Turn 13 and running to the other side of the track.
Button, though, expected the duo to bounce back in Japan next week. I knew it was impossible for anyone, for Daniel, to go 40-odd laps on the prime tyre because it would just fall apart at the end. He finished one place ahead of his team-mate Will Stevens.
Sergio Perez took P7 for Force India ahead of Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz & Romain Grosjean.