Hamilton opened a 30-point cushion over Vettel with a surprise win in Monza two weeks ago and while Ferrari are regarded as having a superior auto, the Briton set the second-fastest time of the day just 0.011 seconds back in his Mercedes. But Hamilton's masterclass in qualifying was exceptional as he recorded one of the best pole positions of his career - described as epic within his Mercedes team.
"Kind of a rookie error from myself, but that doesn't happen too often".
Hamilton's title rival, Sebastian Vettel, was almost 2 seconds behind Raikkonen in 9th.
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It was quite a transformation in mood for Verstappen, who during third practice (P3) earlier in the evening ranted - once again - on team radio about the unreliability of his Renault engine.
"I didn't have a wheelspin, I didn't have a snap anywhere, the auto was just underneath me and I managed to maximise every corner. and I do feel like I got absolutely everything possible on that lap", Hamilton added. We were half a second behind these guys and I was thinking there's no way I'm going to be able to find half a second.
"I'm spent, " Hamilton said moments after victory, crouching down by his auto.
"I know we have good race pace but on a street circuit Qualifying is so important", he said.
Openly coming into the Singapore Grand Prix weekend saying that damage limitation was at the top of the agenda, Mercedes and Hamilton had zero expectations of taking pole position.
Vettel's troubles began during the frantic middle sector of the second session as drivers looked to set their fastest laps on the high-grip hyper-soft tires before switching to slower compounds for race simulations.
It afforded him a more relaxing race than expected - heat aside - given Ferrari's advantage during practice this weekend.
Hamilton won this race from the third row a year ago when Vettel, Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen collided before Turn One but there was no repeat of such drama this time after the drivers got off to a clean start at the head of the field.
Once he had fended off Verstappen's attack, Hamilton cruised to victory, the Dutchman held at arm's length, and Vettel cruising similarly behind.
The good news for Vettel is that, as in 2010 and 2012, he has the fastest vehicle on the grid this year.
At the rain-soaked German GP in July, Vettel looked certain to win but crashed while leading, gifting Hamilton an unexpected victory.
"For us it was a bit of a messy qualifying", he said.