Qualifying: Charles Leclerc takes dramatic Singapore pole, Max Verstappen only P8

Henry Valantine
Charles Leclerc in qualifying. Singapore October 2022.

Charles Leclerc in qualifying. Singapore October 2022.

Charles Leclerc stormed to pole position in a thrilling wet-dry qualifying session in Singapore, with only half a tenth of a second separating the top three.

Sergio Perez will line up on the front row just behind the Ferrari driver, with Lewis Hamilton in third as he got within a matter of hundredths of his first pole of the season.

Max Verstappen, meanwhile, was furious as he was forced to abort his final flying lap, shouting and swearing on the team radio as he had to back off, leaving him only eighth fastest.

After wet conditions hindered running in FP3, the unknowns surrounding the weather continued heading into qualifying, with drivers heading out on intermediate tyres initially to test where the boundaries were as Q1 started.

Once the early exploratory laps were out of the way, the times improved at a rate of knots – but not enough to go out on dry tyres while the final sector still had standing water on the track surface.

A late yellow flag scuppered several final laps as Lance Stroll briefly went off, with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon among those to exit at the first hurdle – the latter blaming brake issues for his lack of pace.

Valtteri Bottas and the Williams pairing of Alex Albon and Nicholas Latifi were the others to drop out, with Hamilton and Verstappen leading the way at the end of Q1.

Intermediates were still the order of the day at the start of Q2, despite times improving further. Most of the surface was dry and with banker laps in, Leclerc was the first driver to ask for slick tyres – though he pitted and new intermediates were put on his Ferrari.

The first team to make the bold move, though, was Aston Martin. Sebastian Vettel and Stroll both strapped on soft tyres to take a punt on getting inside the top 10.

Stroll hit a wet patch on his out-lap, going straight on at the hairpin over the Anderson Bridge, while Vettel also suffered a big moment of oversteer as he tried to improve.

Zhou Guanyu also gambled on slicks late on, but reported he had “no grip” as the track had not quite reached its crossover point.

But the biggest name to drop out in Q2 was Mercedes driver George Russell, missing out by just 0.006s as he could not find enough improvement on his final run to get into the top 10 – apologising to his team over the radio after the session.

All three slick tyre-triers joined Russell in dropping out with Stroll, Mick Schumacher, Vettel and Zhou falling away at the Q2 stage.

Once Q3 started, however, Leclerc’s car had inters put on but he overruled his team and asked for slicks, with his Ferrari team-mate Sainz doing the same.

Yuki Tsunoda and Kevin Magnussen went out on inters, while everyone else tried to make dry rubber work for the first time in the qualifying session.

The fastest drivers had been lapping in the 1:52s in Q2, but Hamilton was the only driver to get close to matching that mark on his first effort, but that crucial crossover moment had finally arrived from wet to dry conditions.

Verstappen’s Red Bull squirmed its way through the damper parts of the track as he got closest to Hamilton, but the final few minutes were set up for a grandstand conclusion to qualifying.

Leclerc pipped Hamilton and Perez on the final runs but Verstappen opted to back off on his penultimate lap, putting himself in position to cross the line at the last possible moment – in theory, with the track in the best conditions for him.

He had been almost a second up on Leclerc through the first two sectors, but was told by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to come into the pits and abandon his final lap, leaving the World Champion-elect fuming as the fourth row will be his starting place on Sunday.

Qualifying classification

1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:49.412
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull + 0.022
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes + 0.054
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari + 0.171
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine + 0.554
6 Lando Norris McLaren + 1.172
7 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri + 1.799
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull + 1.983
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas + 2.161
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri + 2.571
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:54.012
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +0.199
13 Mick Schumacher Haas F1 Team +0.358
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +0.368
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo +1.506
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1:56.083
17 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +0.143
18 Esteban Ocon Alpine +0.254
19 Alexander Albon Williams +0.902
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams +1.449

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