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Hamilton beats Rosberg to Singapore pole

SINGAPORE (AP) — Lewis Hamilton claimed pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix by out-qualifying his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg by a mere seven thousandths of a second on Saturday.

Hamilton claimed his sixth pole of the season with a time of 1 minute 45.681 seconds, and it could prove crucial on a tight and twisty Marina Bay circuit which will provide few passing opportunities in Sunday night’s race.

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who is the only genuine threat to the Mercedes pair for the Formula One championship, qualified third — less than two tenths of a second off Hamilton — ahead of his teammate and three-time defending Singapore champion Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso will start from fifth on the grid and Williams’ driver Felipe Massa from sixth.

Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari had engine trouble on the final flying lap and he had to park the car out on circuit, but still qualified seventh, ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Williams.

The top eight cars were separated by just half a second — a remarkably small margin on what is one of the longest circuits on the F1 calendar.

“That was one of the most exciting qualifying sessions I have had for a long time, where there are a lot of people in the mix and you have to be spot on,” Hamilton said. “It will be a good race to watch for the fans tomorrow, there will be a lot going on.”

When told over his radio that he had lost out to Hamilton by just seven thousandths, Rosberg shouted in frustration but had a smile on his face later when lamenting the small margin.

“Seven thousandths is nothing,” Rosberg said. “A little bit here or there and I could have done it.”

Ricciardo was enthused by how little separated him from the Mercedes cars, which have shared 12 of the 13 previous poles between them this season, usually by much more comfortable margins.

“It’s definitely encouraging,” Ricciardo said. “We ended up a lot closer than we thought we would.

“There are a lot of cars within half a second or a second, so it will be a fun race.”

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