"I think it was trickier than we expected but then this is what can often happen between qualifying and practice", Raikkonen told media after qualifying.
Winning from pole on one of the hardest tracks for overtaking in F1 was nothing special in itself. It was perfectly on the limit, it felt like one of the best laps (I've done).
The German four-time world champion used his superior Ferrari power to outdrag Verstappen down Raffles Boulevard and just managed to nip past the Dutchman before the safety vehicle brought a temporary halt to hostilities on the first lap for the third year in succession in Singapore. A fifth title already looks to be well within his grasp but after this weekend and on such form, even this once seemingly insurmountable target has begun to look achievable.
"It is not a disaster so I am not completely upset but for sure we wanted to get pole".
Considering Vettel makes more mistakes than Hamilton, a 40-point gap looks a huge advantage with only six races left.
"I feel super blessed", he said.
Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest, ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who dominated the first practice session on Friday but were more than a second slower than the Ferraris on Saturday.
Verstappen started last year's race on the front row of the grid, but could not capitalise as he was caught in a tangle with Sebastian Vettel and Raikkonen which ended their races at the first corner.
"I think the team had a great strategy", he said. "We just struggled to get the balance on the hypersofts, the pink tyre, absolutely nailed". I'm not concerned. I think we can find a good balance for the evening - that's when qualifying takes place.
The race returned to its steady rhythm, but Perez was providing some action further down the field.
When the race re-started, Ferrari gambled on pitting first for new tires by bringing in Vettel first.
The need for speed: The people of Singapore are the fastest walkers on the planet, at an average of 6.15kph Hamilton's pole position in Singapore was the 200th for an English driver in F1 history. Mercedes pitted Hamilton moments later, and when Vettel came back out he was still behind Hamilton and lost more time getting past Perez.
Verstappen was mere inches behind Hamilton as they rounded Turn 9 but the Briton stayed ahead and quickly re-asserted an authority that he never relinquished.
As Hamilton, Verstappen and Vettel sat comfortably in their positions, it was their team-mates who provided the entertainment in the closing laps.
"No chance, we are again too late, " Vettel complained over team radio, taking another apparent swipe at team strategy. So we have a bit of work to do tonight.