Leclerc takes pole in Singapore as Verstappen struggles in wet conditions

By Sports Desk October 01, 2022

Charles Leclerc clinched a ninth pole position of the season in Singapore, with Max Verstappen struggling in the wet conditions.

Intermediate tyres were used across the grid in the first two rounds of qualifying, with the deck only being shuffled in Q3 as eight of the 10 runners made the jump to slicks – though there were initial difficulties to find pace.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were the first to hit their stride while others tiptoed around the wet sections of the track, with each claiming provisional pole twice before a resurgence from others on the grid.

Leclerc, who held pole the last time F1 visited Singapore in 2019, punched home a blistering lap to initially open a lead of a second and a half before others responded, Sergio Perez joining him on the front row as Hamilton lines up third – just five hundredths of a second away from his first pole of the 2022 season.

It was an entirely different story for a furious Verstappen, who will start eighth on the grid after being forced to abandon his final lap, unleashing his anger over the team radio.

Verstappen could seal the championship under the lights in Singapore if results go his way, though it now seems even more unlikely given his lowly start.

Leclerc admitted the conditions made for a tricky challenge for the drivers, with his call to move away from the intermediate compound coming just before the start of the final session

"It's been a very tricky qualifying, Q1 and Q2 with the intermediates, then in Q3 we didn't really know what to do," he said. "We went for the soft at the very last minute, and it paid off.

"It was really tricky, I made a mistake in my last lap, so I thought we wouldn't get through, but it was just enough, so I'm really happy."

Perez, starting second, will have a big role to play in Verstappen's charge up the grid and intends to immediately put Leclerc under pressure.

"It's an opportunity tomorrow to attack Charles from the start and go for the win," he said.

"It's disappointing to miss out on pole by two hundredths, but at the end of the day, it's a great result."

Hamilton was also disappointed to narrowly miss out on pole, saying: "I was pushing so hard, it was so close. These guys are always so quick, but I just thought that maybe with a perfect lap we could be pushing for first place.

"We just didn't have the grip in the last lap, but I'm grateful to be on the second row. I'm grateful for the team to keep pushing, and we'll keep our head down. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day."

PROVISIONAL 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

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    The Red Bull driver secured his seventh Formula One victory of the 2024 season in Barcelona, but needed to hold off charges from McLaren's Lando Norris and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton.

    Verstappen started the race behind pole-sitting Norris but soon fell down to third after George Russell surged to the front into the first corner.

    Yet the Dutchman seized control after bursting past Russell a few laps later, referencing his early pursuit as pivotal to his seventh triumph in 10 races this campaign.

    "I think what made the race was the beginning, I took the lead [at the start of Lap 3], and that's where I had my buffer then in that first stint where I could eke out that gap a little bit," Verstappen said.

    "I think after that, we had to drive quite a defensive race. Lando and McLaren, they were very, very quick today, especially on degradation, it seems always the last few laps of the stint, they were very, very fast.

    "But then I think we did everything well, we drove quite, I think, an aggressive strategy, but luckily it paid out until the end – it was quite close until the end but very happy to win here."

    Pressed on those opening moments, Verstappen added: "I had to do a bit of rallying on the straight, I had to go onto the grass a bit, which lost me a bit of momentum, so then of course we braked quite late into Turn 1.

    "Then, of course, I was quite determined to try and get the lead. Once I was in the lead, I could look after my tyres a bit better, and that definitely made my race today."

    This victory extended Verstappen's championship lead to 69 points, with Norris now his nearest challenger and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc dropping back down to third.

    Considering this race success, Verstappen lauded his tyre-management ability.

    "It's just managing the tyres, they get very hot around here with all the high-speed corners, so you're sliding around actually quite a lot," he added.

    "It was just managing the race throughout."

    Verstappen will now prepare for the Austrian Grand Prix next Sunday.

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    Having started second on the grid after Lando Norris snatched pole position from his grasp on the last lap of qualifying, the three-time world champion wasted no time in overtaking the McClaren driver. 

    However, George Russell raced around the outside to take the lead in the race going into the first corner, having started fourth on the grid. 

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    Lewis Hamilton would come home in third for Mercedes, claiming his first podium of the season, with team-mate Russell eventually finishing fourth, closing the gap to both McClaren and Ferrari in the constructors' championship. 

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    Final standings

    1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

    2. Lando Norris (McLaren)

    3. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    4. George Russell (Mercedes)

    5. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

    6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

    7. Oscar Piastri (McLaren)

    8. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)

    9. Pierre Gasly (Alpine)

    10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)

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    Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are confident they can claim victory from the clutches of Lando Norris ahead of Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix. 

    The pair, who have won the previous eight Spanish Grands Prix between them (three for Verstappen and five for Hamilton), start second and third on the grid in Barcelona. 

    The seven-time world champion out-qualified team-mate George Russell for only the second time this season as the Mercedes drivers took third and fourth, underlining their re-emergence as contenders close to the front after a series of car developments. 

    “I’m really happy, thank you everyone I’m super happy to be here in the top three," Hamilton said. "It’s been a difficult year and a huge amount of work from everyone back at the factory, and finally we are starting to see those incremental steps moving closer to the guys ahead.

    “I didn’t expect us to be fighting for pole necessarily, but there were bits there where I thought maybe we will be close and so to be there I’m just grateful.”

    On the team making steps forward, he added: “We’ve made huge steps forward and it’s really just down to every single individual back at the factory who is pushing and designing and making the new parts that we get to bring as early as possible to these races.

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    Red Bull's Verstappen will start on the front row, but in second place after being pipped by Norris to claim his second career pole. 

    The Dutchman appeared out of reach when he improved his own time, which was already fastest, by more than 0.2 seconds on his final run, only for Norris to cross the line moments later to beat Verstappen by 0.02 seconds. 

    However, Verstappen is confident of claiming a seventh victory of the season to grow his lead over Leclerc at the top of the driver's championship. 

    "I think in qualifying it was all coming together a bit nicer," Verstappen said. "We have been trying to find the balance because the practice sessions have been difficult.

    "So I was quite happy in qualifying - I even got a nice little tow from Checo to Turn One to really extract everything we could. But unfortunately, it was just not enough. That is how it goes sometimes and overall we can still be very happy with this performance in qualifying and definitely all to play for tomorrow.

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