A tricky qualifying session on a damp track brought some interesting on-track moments with Leclerc eventually emerging out in front, narrowly topping Perez and Hamilton. Max Verstappen was left fuming and ended up in a disappointing 8th.
With the track still wet from showers earlier in the day the start of qualifying was a tricky affair. FP3 had shown the intermediates worked fine in these conditions so everybody opted to kick off qualifying on the green-marked Pirelli tyres. While the main straight was relatively dry, parts of the track were too wet to really tempt anyone to try anything else.
10 minutes into the first part of qualifying the usual suspects emerged on top of the timing sheet. Leclerc had just set the fastest time, topping Verstappen and Perez. Sainz, Hamilton, Stroll and Russell followed up next. The spread behind the main three teams though was quite large with Stroll being a full second slower than Hamilton.
Several slides, as well as Magnussen and Albon taking to the few run-offs to return from a sudden loss of grip showed how easy it remained to get caught out by a little puddle of water.
Two minutes from the end Magnussen suddenly jumped up into 6th, half a second down on Hamilton. Alonso improved to 9th leaving the McLarens, Williams and AlphaTauri in dangerous positions to get eliminated.
As the chequered flag waved, Hamilton improved by 1.5s to move atop the sheet, soon followed by Verstappen who improved another tenth on that previous best from the Mercedes driver. Leclerc and Sainz were not looking for an improvement at this time and being out of danger they were on their way to the pits.
Albon improved by failed to make the cut. Mick Schumacher made it through in the dying seconds, dropping out Bottas, Ricciardo, Ocon and both Williams.
The second part of qualifying then got underway with 15 cars and still all on intermediates. Charles Leclerc for instance reported that the "wet puddles would make a switch to slicks very very risky". Halfway into the session, right after setting the fastest time so far the Monegasque then appeared to consider slicks but a pitstop-like tyre change saw him take on fresh inters instead.
Moments later it was Sebastian Vettel who took the risk as he changed to the softest available slick compound. Vettel at the time was 10th so very much at risk to miss out on Q3. His team mate Stroll was 8th fastest and similarly made the switch to soft tyres.
With three minutes left both Haas, Zhou, Russell and Tsunoda all needed improvements to get into Q3. As Russell improved to 7th, Zhou also switched to softs and stroll nearly ended up in the barriers due to a lack of grip on the slicks.
In the closing stages there were massive improvements for the intermediate runners, resulting in all slick runners to be eliminated along with Russell and Schumacher.
The final part of qualifying saw Red Bull take to the track decidedly with soft. Ferrari appeared to be somewhat in doubt until Leclerc called for the soft, resulting in some delay to get going. Hamilton was also out a bit later. 8 cars eventually opted for slicks while Tsunoda and Magnussen stuck with intermediates.
Hamilton was quickest by quite a margin, topping Tsunoda who had comfortably beaten all other slick runners with his first lap on intermediates. Hamilton though was another 2s faster than the AlphaTauri.
The track evolved quickly though as then Alonso shot to the top of the times, soon bettered by Leclerc and then again by Hamilton. Verstappen and Perez subsequently slotted into second and third even though onboard footage showed that Verstappen was essentially sliding through every single corner.
1 minute from the end Alonso emerged on top again with Leclerc soon returning the favour by improving with 1.325s.
Next up was Sainz who moved up into 4th. Alonso then improved once again to secure 5th on the grid as Perez ended up at 0.022s of Leclerc who ended up as pole sitter.
Verstappen on the other hand saw the situation evolve from bad to worse for him. On his penultimate finish line crossing he lifted halfway through sector 3 while on the final lap he was told to pit, leaving him to start 8th. Clearly there was some misunderstanding as Verstappen was left fuming on the radio as he rolled into the pits, getting a simple "we'll explain after the session, Max".
So, an interesting starting grid for a long Singapore Grand Prix is set as Verstappen looks towards an uphill battle.
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:54.404||1:52.818||1:49.434||19|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:55.360||1:53.127||1:49.966||23|
|6||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:55.914||1:53.942||1:50.584||24|
|7||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:55.606||1:53.546||1:51.211||24|
|8||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:53.057||1:52.723||1:51.395||20|
|9||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:55.103||1:54.006||1:51.573||23|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:55.314||1:53.848||1:51.983||23|
|12||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:55.629||1:54.211||15|
|13||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:55.736||1:54.370||16|
|14||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:55.602||1:54.380||15|
|15||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:55.375||1:55.518||14|
|16||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:56.083||7|
|17||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:56.226||9|
|18||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:56.337||9|
|19||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:56.985||7|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:57.532||8|