Charles Leclerc took a “special” pole position in Singapore after switching to dry tyres in Q3 – but admitted there had been indecision at Ferrari in doing so.
Intermediate tyres were used throughout the field in both Q1 and Q2, with only three drivers attempting laps on dry rubber in the second part of qualifying, although it proved to be the wrong decision at that moment.
Leclerc had called on Ferrari to ask for soft tyres in Q2 – the first driver to ask to do so – but they eventually opted to stay on inters, which got them through to Q3.
The intermediates stayed on Leclerc’s F1-75 as Q3 started, but he opted to go onto slicks as the track gradually dried – with each of the top 10 drivers eventually able to set times in drier conditions.
The Ferrari driver managed to pip Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton to pole position with only 0.054s separating all three drivers.
World Championship leader Max Verstappen had been on for what appeared to be a near-certain pole lap, but was forced to abort it due to concerns about the lack of fuel in his Red Bull.
Leclerc held on to his P1 starting slot for Sunday, which was a big reward for him after losing out on track time in practice on Friday.
“It’s been a very, very tricky qualifying. Q1, Q2 with the inters. Then in Q3, we didn’t really know what to do,” Leclerc said after the session.
“We went for the softs at the very last minute and it paid off. It was really tricky. I did a mistake on my last lap, so I thought we wouldn’t get pole but it was just enough. Really, really happy.
“I’m very happy with today’s results, especially considering the Friday we had. We had a very limited amount of laps yesterday for some issues, but we recovered well, so we don’t have much data for the race run. But if we do the perfect execution, I’m sure we can win.”
On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Carlos Sainz admitted his frustration at qualifying on the second row, given how close he had been to taking pole himself.
With the track improving all the time, the Spaniard felt his final lap had come a bit too early to make more of an impact.
“When you’re a tenth and a half from pole and P4, you cannot be happy,” Sainz admitted to Sky F1.
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“Because you probably know where that tenth and a half is, and how tight it was, meant we didn’t manage to get it, but I know exactly where that tenth and a half is in the lap.
“I did a lap very early in the session, probably should have waited another two minutes to do the lap, which would have given us for sure a few tenths, but it is what it is and we have to take it.”