Singapore — Charles Leclerc won pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, but Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen was furious after finishing eighth-fastest in wet conditions.
Leclerc clocked 1min 49.412sec in his Ferrari, 0.022sec faster than Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
Verstappen, who can mathematically retain his world championship this weekend, was poised to challenge Leclerc’s pace on his penultimate flying lap before being instructed by his Red Bull engineer to abandon and return to the pits.
After being asked to abort, the Dutchman unleashed a profanity-laced rant over the team’s radio.
On the night Marina Bay track, only the top-10 shootout for pole position had slick tires.
The majority of qualifying was conducted on intermediate tyres, as the track was still too wet to risk slicks, and the harsh concrete barriers of the city centre track posed a constant threat for any loss of control.
“During the third quarter, we weren’t sure what to do,” Leclerc said of the decision to go to slicks.
“We gambled on the soft option at the eleventh hour, and it paid off.
I mean, it was extremely difficult.
Leclerc of Monaco can prevent Verstappen from clinching the title this weekend if he finishes higher than ninth in Sunday’s race.
On a circuit that offers few overtaking opportunities, Leclerc now has a dominating grid advantage over the Dutchman, who will start from the fourth row.
Verstappen celebrated his 25th birthday with a cake in the Red Bull team hospitality on Friday, but he had no cause for celebration the following day.
He must win the race, score 22 more points than Leclerc, and have teammate Perez finish no higher than fourth in order to maintain his world championship with five races remaining.
George Russell, a teammate of Lewis Hamilton’s at Mercedes, was unable to gain traction on his intermediate tyres and failed to qualify for Q3 after being 11th fastest.
“I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help. I struggled tremendously,” the Englishman stated via team radio. “What a pity.”
Alex Albon did exceptionally well to make it to Singapore three weeks after suffering appendicitis during the Italian Grand Prix in Monza and subsequently experiencing problems during surgery.
However, the British-born Thai was unable to find grip or speed in his Williams and was eliminated after finishing 19th in the first qualifying session.