Leclerc grabs pole for Singapore GP
Ferrari’s young star Charles Leclerc will start the Singapore Airlines Formula One Singapore Grand Prix ahead of the chasing pack, after securing pole position this evening (Sept 21), ahead of Mercedes' reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton and Scuderia teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Leclerc, 21, had the fastest lap time in the final session of qualifying (Q3) as he recorded 1min 36.217sec around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, finishing 0.191sec ahead of Hamilton and 0.220sec faster than Vettel.
Securing pole position could prove to be propitious for Leclerc as eight of the past 11 Singapore GPs have been won by the driver on pole. This gives the Monegasque an opportunity to make it three race wins on the trot, following his victories in Belgium and Italy over the last few weeks.
Leclerc said: "I'm extremely happy – it was a very good lap but there were several moments when I almost lost control! I must thank the team – they have been amazing. Yesterday was not my day but this feels great."
Ferrari clinching pole was all the more surprising given that they were not at the races in Friday’s practice. It was a tough day especially for Leclerc, who suffered a gearbox issue that cost him laps in Free Practice 1, which in turn contributed to him lacking a rhythm in the second session.
“It’s going to be difficult, but we expected that so we try to make the best out of it,” he told reporters on Friday night. On Saturday, he produced a stunning lap in the final practice session which ultimately proved to be a sign of what was to come.
Five-time world champion Hamilton expressed his surprise at the evening’s proceedings.
He said: “I don't know where Ferrari picked up their pace today, it was potentially not one of their tracks, but Charles put a great lap in. I think tomorrow we can be aggressive and hopefully divide them..."
Hamilton, who won his fourth Singapore GP last year, will be relying on his experience under the floodlights to challenge Leclerc.
But Vettel obviously knows his way around the Marina Bay Street Circuit as well. The 32-year-old German, who has also won the Singapore GP four times, recorded the fastest lap towards the end of Q3, before Leclerc and Hamilton climbed above him.
Said Vettel: "The final bit of Q3 wasn't great but sometimes that's the way it goes. We were quick out there today and it's always fun round here one way or another. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
Although delighted to have secured his third consecutive pole, Leclerc added: "It's all about the race tomorrow. Unfortunately, you don't get any points from getting pole position.
"Physically and mentally, it is demanding. You cannot lose any concentration and the first mistake you do, you'll end up paying for it. I like this race a lot."
1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1:36.217
2: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +0.191
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +0.220
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.596
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.929
6. Alexander Albon (Red Bull) +1.194
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) +1.601
8. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) +1.878
9. Nico Huelkenberg (Renault) +2.047
10. Lando Norris (McLaren) +2.112