SINGAPORE: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Saturday.—Reuters
SINGAPORE: Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc celebrates after qualifying in pole position for the Singapore F1 Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Saturday.—Reuters

SINGAPORE: Charles Leclerc will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole position after Red Bull rival Max Verstappen was asked to abort his final fastest effort in qualifying at the city-state’s Marina Bay street track on Saturday.

The Monegasque set a time of one minute, 49.412 seconds and looked set to be usurped by the championship-leading Dutchman.

But the 25-year-old will line up only eighth, limiting his chances of wrapping up a second successive title with five races to go, after he was called into the pits for running low on fuel.

“It has been a very, very tricky qualifying,” said Leclerc, who will have the Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez alongside him on the front row after taking his ninth pole of the season. “I did a mistake on my last lap so I didn’t think I’d get pole.”

Leclerc was one of several drivers who looked like potential pole sitters over the course of a session that began on a damp track that later dried out.

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton at one stage looked to be on his way to his first pole position of the season.

But his Mercedes lacked grip on his final run with the Briton instead starting third, just 0.054 seconds off pole.

“I was pushing so hard, it was so, so close,” said Hamilton, who had been summoned to the stewards ahead of qualifying for an alleged breach of rules governing, among other things, the wearing of jewellery while driving.

“These guys are so quick, but I thought with a perfect lap we could fight for first place, but I just didn’t have the grip in the last lap.”

Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate George Russell failed to find any grip on his intermediate tyres and failed to make it into Q3 after being only 11th fastest.

“Sorry guys, I couldn’t do anything. I really struggled,” said the Englishman over team radio. “What a shame.”

Alex Albon did well just to make it to Singapore three weeks after suffering from appendicitis at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza and then having complications from surgery.

However the British-born Thai could not find any grip or pace in his Williams and was eliminated in the first qualifying session after finishing 19th.

Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, has his first shot at clinching a second title this weekend. But he would need to win and score at least 22 points more than Leclerc and 13 more than Perez to get the job done on Sunday.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2022

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