Singapore. The surprise struggles of Mercedes in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying could be the shot in the arm Formula One needs after a worryingly predictable spell, McLaren's Jenson Button said on Saturday.
The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton, the reigning champion and current leader in the standings with a 53 point cushion, and Nico Rosberg could only manage fifth and sixth under the Marina Bay floodlights as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel took pole.
It meant Mercedes's run of consecutive poles ended at 23, one shy of the record set by Williams in 1993, while Hamilton also missed out by one on equalling Ayrton Senna's record of eight consecutive poles by a driver.
The third row starting position was a disappointment but the bigger surprise was the size of the deficit on Vettel, almost 1.5 seconds, from a car which has dominated for two years.
Button, who won the drivers' championship with Brawn in 2009, said the sight of both Ferrari and Red Bull qualifying ahead of Hamilton and Rosberg was welcome.
"I think it is the shot in the arm that the sport needs right now and it's great to see a mixed up grid at the front, I think it's good for everyone — including Mercedes," he told reporters after qualifying in 15th.
"Maybe it's a one-off, but who knows maybe it is going to continue. But there is no reason why it should continue."
Button, 35 and hoping for an extension to his six-year stay with McLaren, said the Mercedes' struggles in Singapore were reminiscent of his title winning year with Brawn, where he won six of the first seven races before encountering issues.
With overtaking opportunities scarce around the narrow, 23 turn street circuit in Singapore, Hamilton and Rosberg face a tough task to make it 11 wins from 13 races this year on Sunday.
Button, though, expected the duo to bounce back in Japan next week.
"I think, when we go to Suzuka you will see them strong again but it is whether they have the advantage that they have enjoyed for 32 races straight," said the Briton.
"Hopefully they are not going to have the advantage going forward, hopefully there is going to be more of a fight. I think it is better for the whole sport."