Hamilton’s pole position for Singapore in 2018 was a decisive blow in the title race against Sebastian Vettel.
Ahead of F1’s visit to the Marina Bay Street Circuit, many expected Ferrari and Red Bull to hold the advantage over Mercedes.
During the hybrid era, Mercedes typically struggled in Singapore – and many expected the same in 2018.
It wasn’t the case as Hamilton’s first attempt in Q3 of a 1m36.015s stormed to the top of the timesheets, three-tenths ahead of Max Verstappen.
The lap wasn’t beaten as Hamilton claimed pole before securing the win on Sunday to move closer to his fifth world title.
“That lap felt like magic,” Hamilton said. “I don’t know where it came from.
“The pressure was at its highest for that Q3 run and l just hit every point perfectly. That was the one lap where it all flowed beautifully. It felt incredible.”
Toto Wolff was in awe of Hamilton’s lap, stating after qualifying: “I think from Lewis’ side, for me the stardust, [it was] the most epic lap I have ever seen from him.”
There’s no doubt that Hamilton’s lap was sensational – up there as one of the best in his F1 career – but there’s a valid argument to say it’s overrated.
The ‘shock’ factor of Hamilton taking pole on a track where Mercedes expected to struggle potentially exaggerates how good a lap it actually was.
Mercedes did secure a front row-lock out in Hungary earlier in the season – a high downforce track with similar characteristics.
Plus, Hamilton’s margin over teammate Valtteri Bottas was also substantial in 2017 and 2019.
In 2017 it was 0.624s, 0.687s in 2018, and 0.738 in 2019.
The gap remained fairly stable across all three visits to Singapore – so perhaps Mercedes just had the best car in 2018?
Even looking at Singapore 2018, Verstappen was only three-tenths off pole despite an engine cutout.
“On my final run, I tried to push a bit more and I was another two tenths up,” Verstappen explained.
“Then I arrived to [Turn] 16/17 and when I had to short shift again the engine just cut out, so I had to abort.”
More impressively, without the issue, Verstappen – in weaker machinery – would have been a very close match for pole.
Perhaps Verstappen’s lap was the best from Singapore 2018?
Generally-speaking, Singapore has often produced some memorable pole laps over the years.
A number of Vettel’s deserve more credit – and are debatably better than Hamilton’s.
His 2013 lap was so good he remained in the pit lane for the end of qualifying given his 0.6s margin over Nico Rosberg.
Similarly in 2015, he stormed to Ferrari’s first pole of the year by over 0.6s.
Perhaps the most underrated Singapore pole lap ever was Nico Rosberg’s from 2016, nearly 0.6s clear of Daniel Ricciardo, with Hamilton only managing third.
There’s no doubt that Hamilton’s 2018 Singapore pole lap was spectacular – it was a shock and very decisive in that year’s title race – but claiming it’s the ‘best qualifying lap ever’ puts it in the overrated category.
Something can still be overrated and amazing – just to be clear.
Even looking at Hamilton’s mass collection of pole laps – 2018 Australia, 2020 Styria and 2023 Hungary are all probably ahead as his best ever.