Carlos Sainz made it back-to-back pole positions as Red Bull failed to even clear the Singapore Grand Prix Q2 stage.
Sainz had expected Red Bull to come good for qualifying after a woeful Friday, but instead their issues only intensified, Sergio Perez spinning out in Q2 as Max Verstappen also failed to find the pace to make the top 10.
Lance Stroll meanwhile walked away unharmed from a huge shunt late in Q1.
Ferrari dazzle as Red Bull falter under the Singapore lights
Logan Sargeant, in the Williams sporting its special Gulf livery here in Singapore for the first of three rounds, led the way as the pack filtered out onto the track to get qualifying underway.
Having pre-session continued to sound pessimistic about his pole position chances, Verstappen taking to the track immediately alongside Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez, suggested the concern was genuine.
The 1:35.098 benchmark from Sargeant was quickly and widely shattered, with Norris in the upgraded McLaren holding off both Red Bulls after their opening flying laps. Leclerc did sneak his way past Norris into P1, with only 0.04s covering the top three, completed by Perez, at that very early stage.
Now it was time for Mercedes to enter the conversation as Russell took over P1 for himself with a 1:32.478, 0.045s up on Leclerc, while Hamilton managed only P5 as Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll took to the radio to complain of impeding from Sargeant, an incident noted by the stewards.
Verstappen found time to deliver a 1:32.398 for his next attempt, though his stint in P1 was very brief, with Sainz then posting a 1:32.339 to put himself on top. With six minutes of Q1 remaining, the top five was covered by less than 0.15s.
Perhaps the only thing closer than that top five then was Esteban Ocon and the wall as he gave the paintwork a brush, while the stewards announced that the Stroll-Sargeant impeding case would be investigated after the session. The stewards also noted “several cars impeding in Turns 16 to 19” as a very busy night brewed.
— tami. (@Vetteleclerc) September 16, 2023
Sargeant and Williams team-mate Alex Albon both found themselves in the Q1 elimination zone ahead of the final runs, with Stroll and the Alfa Romeo pair of Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas also needing to improve if they wanted their evening to go any further.
With all 20 cars out on track to deliver one last Q1 attempt, Verstappen duly noted that there were “so many *bleep* cars”, many of which improving greatly on a track that was ramping up.
But that all came to a close as Stroll lost control out of the final turn and suffered a heavy shunt into the wall, bringing out the red flags as the session came to an early end.
Stroll thankfully confirmed “I’m okay” after a frightening impact, with the Canadian racer eliminated in Q1 alongside Zhou, Sargeant, Oscar Piastri and Bottas. Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri was a surprise Q1-topper.
The stewards soon confirmed that Verstappen would also be investigated after qualifying for impeding in the pit lane, the Red Bull driver having been stationary for several seconds at the pit exit with the light green.
After a half-hour delay to clean the track and complete barrier repairs, qualifying was back underway with Q2.
And the first to put a time on the board was Verstappen, a 1:32.307, soon toppled by Haas’ Kevin Magnussen as the Ferrari drivers and Norris then shuffled Verstappen further down the order.
Albeit on new soft tyres compared to used for the Ferraris, Alonso nonetheless was an early eyebrow-raiser in the session as he shot to the top, his 1:31.835 putting him 0.058s up on Sainz.
Russell was also having fun on the softs as he waited for rivals to deliver their times before taking his shot, a very effective one as he clocked a 1:31.743 to go P1, all while Verstappen was again caught up in potential impeding as Tsunoda this time took issue, noted by Race Control and soon confirmed for investigation.
Verstappen found himself on the brink of elimination ahead of his final run, while Perez did need to improve to progress down in P11. Only some sharp reactions from Sainz in the pit lane stopped him from collecting Verstappen as he exited the Ferrari garage, which would have topped off a nightmare Singapore GP qualifying for the Championship leader.
As it turned out, that near-miss only delayed the pain.
Perez would spin at Turn 3, confirming his exit, while Liam Lawson in the AlphaTauri, oh the irony, knocked Verstappen out of qualifying. A double Red Bull elimination which was met with a sweary Verstappen rant over team radio as the bleep machine was forced to work overtime.
Sainz meanwhile stretched his legs to claim top spot and by a margin of three-tenths over Russell, though trouble was briefly potentially afoot for Leclerc in the other Ferrari as Race Control noted him for allegedly failing to slow under yellow flags, though that was soon struck off with no investigation required.
Onto the pole position shootout then, remarkably not featuring Red Bull, and after round one it was advantage Sainz once more, the Spaniard on provisional pole and 0.251s up on Leclerc as Ferrari sat on the front row as it stood.
While Sainz found the best part of two-tenths to secure pole, Russell was able to boot Leclerc off the front row, only 0.079s covering that top three as a thrilling Singapore Grand Prix awaits.
1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:30.984
2 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.072
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.079
4 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.286
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.501
6 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.591
7 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.631
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.689
9 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.824
10 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +1.284
1 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari 1:31.439
2 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.304
3 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.396
4 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.453
5 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.512
6 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.555
7 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.573
8 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.580
9 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.650
10 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +0.727
11 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.734
12 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.835
13 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.871
14 Alexander ALBON Williams +2.280
15 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri –
1 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri 1:31.991
2 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.108
3 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +0.109
4 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +0.224
5 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +0.251
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.340
7 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.348
8 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.378
9 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.407
10 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.415
11 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.461
12 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.492
13 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.593
14 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.660
15 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.677
16 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +0.818
17 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +0.911
18 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.261
19 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.267
20 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.406