In-form Leclerc pips Hamilton for third straight F1 pole
SINGAPORE – Ferrari's Charles Leclerc stormed to his third straight Formula One pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday and now aims to win again as he did in Belgium and Italy.
Leclerc posted 1 minute 36.217 seconds on the floodlit 5.063-kilometre Yas Marina street course to rank first on the grid for the fifth time this year.
World champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes qualified 0.191 seconds behind, and Sebastian Vettel was third in the other Ferrari, 0.220 seconds off his team-mate Leclerc.
Saturday's session was smoother than that in Monza a fortnight ago where many drivers failed to cross the line in time for a final flying lap.
Ferrari's pole and Vettel's third place came as a surprise as the team were expected to struggle on a course which didn't really favour them.
"We came here knowing it would be a difficult track for us," Leclerc said "It was a very good lap, there were some moments when I thought I had lost the car."
The Monegasque also praised his team after his car had gearbox problems in the first practice session on Friday.
"The team has done an amazing job and I'm extremely happy to be on pole. We had a very tough Friday, yesterday was not my day, but I worked hard in the car and it paid off today," he said.
Hamilton, a four-time winner in Singapore, admitted: "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.
"I needed something special at the end, so I gave it absolutely everything I had. 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.
"I'm really, really happy to be on the front row in the mix with them and try and divide them tomorrow," he said in the direction of Ferrari.
Hamilton leads the championship 63 points ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas after 14 of 21 season races as he is firmly moving towards a sixth world title.
"Maybe I peaked a bit early, we had a tiny wobble and there was no point in finishing that lap," the German four-time race winner said.
"It puts us in a good position tomorrow. It should be a good race, lets see what the tyres are going to do, if we can push for the two hours or will we have to manage them."
Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who had impressed in Friday practice, qualified fourth ahead of Bottas. Racing Point's Sergio Perez was 11th but loses five spots over a gearbox change following a crash in morning practice.DPA