Charles Leclerc has taken his third back to back pole after putting in a brilliant final lap to push teammate Sebastian Vettel from the front row in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix. In the final moments of the session, the Monacan went two tenths faster than Vettel, before Mercedes Lewis Hamilton put in a late lap.
Ferrari wasn’t expecting to challenge Mercedes and Red Bull this weekend, but Leclerc put the car on the limit to put a lap in. The team were expecting to be slower than Mercedes and Red Bull, as they lack the grip in the corners.
Leclerc now has five poles this season, more than any other driver, and will hope to make it three wins in a row on Sunday at a track where grid position is so important.
It became clear throughout Saturday and especially in qualifying that the Ferrari could maximise its power advantage in the middle and final sector to fend off Hamilton.
Sebastian Vettel could only manage third, despite his scruffy final lap which he aborted after he said that he lost control three times on the lap in what was a superb attacking performance. His struggles effectively handed Hamilton a place on the front row, when he really needed a strong weekend.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fourth, almost four-tenths behind Vettel. Valtteri Bottas managed to spilt the Red Bull’s going over two tenths quicker than Alex Albon. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz led the midfield battle going seventh, he was more than half a second behind Albon.
Albon’s first qualifying with a direct comparison with Verstappen saw him six tenths off, a creditable performance after a difficult Friday in which he knocked off a front wing with one off-track moment.
Leclerc said, “I’m extremely happy about today. It was a very good lap but there were some moments when I thought I had lost the car, but I took it back. I would like to thank the team so much. We came here knowing it would be a difficult track for us but we brought the package we needed.”
Hamilton added, “I don’t know where Ferrari picked up their pace today because this should not be potentially one of their tracks. Charles did a great job and I needed a really special lap at the end. It was as much as I could get out of the car and I happy to split them.”
The McLaren Renault battle saw Sainz out-qualify Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, while Lando Norris was six hundredths slower in tenth. Sergio Perez was four hundredths off a place in Q3, but drops to sixteenth following an FP3 incident.
The Racing Point driver clouted the wall during the final practice session, which means a five-place grid penalty he starts sixteenth. It was a strong session for Antonio Giovinazzi who put his Alfa Romeo twelfth ahead of Pierre Gasly, both were unable to improve on their last runs in Q2.
Ricciardo was disqualified in the early hours of Sunday Morning after his car was found that the MGU-K on his car delivered more electrical energy than is allowed under the regulations. That means the Renault driver will start from the back of the grid.
Kimi Raikkonen was left with only a single run in Q2, he had to damaged front wing on his first run leaving him only fourteenth ahead of Kevin Magnussen. But both the Scandinavians will move up a place thanks to the grid penalty for Perez.
Daniil Kvyat was the fastest of the drivers knocked out in Q1, the Toro Rosso missing out by one hundredth after being bumped out by Perez. A disappointing session for the
Lance Stroll was only seventeenth, starting just behind his teammate Perez, who has a five-place grid penalty.
Another disappointing session saw Romain Grosjean go eighteenth ahead of both Williams. George Russell was six tenths off the Haas, but once again out-qualifying teammate Robert Kubica. The Pole ran wide on his best lap at Memorial Corner.