F1: Leclerc nips Perez for Singapore GP pole

On very tricky track conditions that was drying as the session went on, Charles Leclerc turned a lap of 1m49.412s under a floodlit track to win the pole for the Singapore GP in his #16 Ferrari.

Leclerc’s lap on soft Pirellis, was just 0.022s faster than Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and 0.054s faster than the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.

Carlos Sainz (0.171s behind) and Fernando Alonso (0.554s behind) rounded out the top-5. Lando Norris was 6th for McLaren and Pierre Gasly 7th for AlphaTauri.

Max Verstappen was on a massive lap late in the session and would have easily won the pole, but his team told him to abandon the lap at the very end and pit immediately for fear of not having enough fuel in the car to pass post-qualifying inspection that requires there be at least 1 liter of fuel left in the car.

Verstappen: “What the ****. What the ****. What the **** are you guys saying? Unbelievable mate. I don’t get it, what the **** is this about?

Horner: “We’ll talk about it, I’ll explain once you’re out [of the car] Max”

Verstappen was up 2.5s on his previous fastest lap and  0.6s on Leclerc’s time, but the team did not put enough fuel in the car, expecting Verstappen to pit for another set of tires, but track conditions dictated he stay out on tires with heat in them. He could have been disqualified from qualifying and started from the back of the grid.  Red Bull played it safe, and only tomorrow will tell where he can end up from P8 on a track hard to pass on.

Verstappen confirmed he was ordered to pit by Red Bull on his final lap because he was about to run out of fuel, which would have led him being disqualified from qualifying and forced to start the race from the back of the grid.

“I already felt it was on the lap before as well, but then they told me to abort so I said OK we can do that but then on the final lap they told me to box and then I realized what was going to happen. We ran out of fuel,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.

“It’s been a very, very tricky qualifying,” said Leclerc. “In Q3 we didn’t know what to do, we went for the soft at the last minute. I made a mistake in my last lap, so I didn’t think I’d get pole, but it was just enough. Considering the Friday we had, we recovered well. We don’t have much data for the race, but I’m sure we can win.”

“It is incredibly frustrating and it shouldn’t happen. Even when you under fuel it or don’t plan to do those six laps then at least you track that throughout the session to know you aren’t going to make it. We should’ve seen that way earlier.

“I am not happy at all at the moment, I know of course it is always a team effort and I can make mistakes, and the team can make mistakes, but it is never acceptable. Of course, you learn from it, but this is really bad. It shouldn’t happen.”

Charles Leclerc gets his pole award

“It’s a good opportunity to attack Charles [from P2] and go for the win,” said Perez. “I was disappointed to miss out on pole by two hundredths. It was so tricky to learn the conditions today and tomorrow could be wet.”

“I was pushing so hard, it was so, so close,” said Hamilton. “These guys are so quick, but I thought with a perfect lap we could fight for first place, but I just didn’t have the grip in the last lap. We didn’t know how close we’d be this weekend, to lose out by just that bit – it’s okay, we’ll get up and fight again tomorrow.”

Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris will adjacent to each other in the top 10, while a washed up Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon do likewise from the back of the grid. But it was a good day for AlphaTauri who had both cars in the top 10 for the first time since Baku.

Kevin Magnussen starts ninth, with Haas chasing their first points since Austria.

Leclerc on pole as he desperately tries to keep the championship going, and Perez likewise keeping his hopes alive. Hamilton from third is chasing a first win of the season in a car that looks competitive…Hamilton could well see this one as his best chance of a win this year, and with a car that is often on the pace of his rivals in race trim… You can’t discount him from P3 on the grid.

And what about Verstappen, is his 5-race win streak in jeopardy? On a track that is hard to pass on, can Verstappen come from 8th and school all the less talented drivers ahead of him?  It should be exciting.

Qualifying Results

1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:54.129 1:52.343 1:49.412 20
2 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 1:54.404 1:52.818 1:49.434 19
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:53.161 1:52.691 1:49.466 23
4 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:54.559 1:53.219 1:49.583 22
5 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 1:55.360 1:53.127 1:49.966 23
6 4 Lando Norris Mclaren Mercedes 1:55.914 1:53.942 1:50.584 24
7 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Honda 1:55.606 1:53.546 1:51.211 24
8 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 1:53.057 1:52.723 1:51.395 20
9 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:55.103 1:54.006 1:51.573 23
10 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 1:55.314 1:53.848 1:51.983 23
11 63 George Russell Mercedes 1:54.633 1:54.012 17
12 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:55.629 1:54.211 15
13 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 1:55.736 1:54.370 16
14 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:55.602 1:54.380 15
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:55.375 1:55.518 14
16 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:56.083 7
17 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 1:56.226 9
18 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1:56.337 9
19 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 1:56.985 7
20 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 1:57.532 8


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