Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 19 October 2019

Singapore Grand Prix: Ferrari's Charles Leclerc stuns with pole hat-trick

Leclerc will start Sunday's race on pole ahead of Mercedes' world champion Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc celebrates after taking pole position after the qualifying session for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. AFP
Ferrari's Charles Leclerc celebrates after taking pole position after the qualifying session for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. AFP

Charles Leclerc secured a hat-trick of pole positions to put his Ferrari at the front of grid for Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix.

Formula One's man of the moment continued his dazzling form under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Marina Bay Street Circuit to see off Lewis Hamilton's late salvo by just 0.191 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel had been on provisional pole, but he was forced to abort his final run and will start from a disappointing third, with Hamilton splitting the Ferraris.

Leclerc will now be the favourite to secure his third consecutive victory with every pole-sitter, bar Vettel two years' ago, going on to take the chequered flag.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen lines up from fourth with Valtteri Bottas fifth for Mercedes.

Ferrari's machinery was not expected to suit this slow-speed venue, but Leclerc's fine performance provides them with every chance of securing their third win since the summer break.

Hamilton complained about the balance of his car following his first assault on pole and crossed the line one second off the pace. But the world champion delivered an impressive time with his final throw of the dice to be in contention for victory tomorrow.

"I am extremely happy about today," said Leclerc. "It was a very good lap but there were some moments where I thought I lost the car, but I got it back.

"We came here knowing that it would be a difficult track for us but the team has done an incredible job to bring the package we needed. I had a tough Friday, it was not my day, and I didn't feel comfortable in the car, but the hard work has paid off."

Hamilton holds a 63-point lead over Bottas of Mercedes in the title race with seven rounds remaining.

The Briton said he would adopt an aggressive approach to Sunday's race in search of a ninth victory of the season, as he seeks a sixth world championship.

"I don’t know where Ferrari picked up their pace because this is not known to be one of their tracks, but they did a great job," said the four-time Singapore winner.

"It was very, very close. I’m sure I nearly hit the wall a couple of times but it was as much as I could get out of the car."

Saturday was the seventh successive time the four-time world champion Vettel, without a win for more than a year, had been outqualified by Leclerc.

"Obviously, the final attempt should have been better, but the car was quick and I was feeling good,” said the 32-year-old whose future at Ferrari is the subject of much speculation despite having a contract that runs until the end of 2020.

"We had a tiny wobble so there was no point finishing the lap because we were quite far behind," Vettel added.

"It will certainly feel different tomorrow, but it should be a good race."

Dutch 21-year-old Verstappen will still fancy his chances with Red Bull finishing second in Singapore for the last five years.

Bottas, who has never started the race in the top three, qualified fifth. Thai rookie Alexander Albon, in only his third start for Red Bull after moving up from Toro Rosso, lines up sixth in what is almost a home race.

Carlos Sainz qualified seventh for McLaren ahead of Renault pair Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg with McLaren’s British rookie Lando Norris rounding out the top 10.

Dense smog from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia had floated over Singapore in the past week, sparking concerns the F1 could be affected.

Air quality hovered around "unhealthy" levels in parts of the city Saturday evening but only a light haze was visible and did not affect the race.

Updated: October 1, 2019 05:17 AM

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