Max Verstappen was left fuming over the Red Bull team radio as a potential pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix was snatched from his grasp.
In a qualifying session held on a drying Marina Bay circuit, times were tumbling as the track rubbered in and the drivers gained enough confidence to use the soft tyres, with all of Q1 having taken place on intermediates.
Several drivers held provisional pole position during Q3 including Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, but it was Charles Leclerc on top of the standings as Verstappen began his final attempt.
Despite a not particularly quick first sector, the Dutchman swiftly made up time and looked set to eclipse his Ferrari rival by more than half a second as he entered the closing stages of the lap.
But before he could round the last of the 23 corners, Verstappen was told to abort his lap and come into the pits – leaving him to start only eighth on the grid for a race in which he could clinch a second World Championship.
The conversation between Verstappen and his race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase, went as follows:
Lambiase: “Box, Max, box, box, box, box.”
Verstappen: “Why? What the f…why? What the f***? What the f***? What the f*** are you guys saying? Unbelievable, mate. I don’t get it, what the f*** is this about?
Lambiase: “We’ll talk about it and I’ll explain when you’re out [of the car], Max.”
What a qualifying session in Singapore!
CHARLES LECLERC IS ON POLE POSITION!
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 1, 2022
The immediate suspicion, as voiced by Sky F1 co-commentator Martin Brundle, was that Red Bull feared if Verstappen had completed the lap, he would have been in danger of having insufficient fuel left in his car to provide the required sample – and therefore risking dropping to the back of the grid.
That was confirmed by the World Champion in his post-session interview.
Verstappen explained: “I already felt the lap before as well, but then they told me to abort, says ‘okay’, we do that, but then on the final lap they told me to box, then I realised I think what was gonna happen and we ran out of fuel.
“So it’s just incredibly frustrating and shouldn’t happen. When you under-fuel it or don’t do plan to do that sixth lap, then at least you track that throughout the session that you know you’re not going to make it and we should have seen that way earlier.
“So I’m not happy at all at the moment. I know of course it’s always a team effort and I can make mistakes and the team can make mistakes but it’s never acceptable.
“Of course you learn from it, but this is really bad, to be honest – it shouldn’t happen.”
Verstappen has won the last five grands prix, some of them from way down the grid due to the superiority held by himself and his car.
On his prospects of doing likewise at Singapore, he said: “It’s a bit like Monaco, just super-hard to pass. You can maybe do a little bit of strategy, but at the moment I’m not really in the mood to think about the race tomorrow.
“Once I jump in the car I will always give it my very best, but at the moment I’m super-frustrated with what just happened.”