Carlos Sainz claimed pole for the Singapore Grand Prix putting in an immense lap for Ferrari on the streets of the Marina Bay circuit. Qualifying however was marked by a woeful performance for Red Bull in which both Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez failed to make Q3, going out in 11th and 13th place.
Sainz was inch-perfect under the floodlights to beat the Mercedes of George Russell into second place, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in third. McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth and Lewis Hamilton fifth for Mercedes.
It is the first time since the Russian GP in 2018 that Red Bull has failed to put a car into Q3 and all the more striking given their utter dominance this season thus far. They are unbeaten in 14 meetings but now face a herculean task to maintain that run on Sunday with the Red Bull stranglehold on the season looking set to be broken in Singapore.
Verstappen has struggled all weekend, unhappy with the balance of his car and unusually lacking rear grip that made it a handful to drive at Marina Bay and was furious with its performance in qualifying. He was beaten out of the top 10 by Liam Lawson, the rookie in only his third F1 race sitting in for the injured Daniel Ricciardo at AlphaTauri, an ignominy that will doubtless test the Dutchman’s temper further.
Worse may yet be to come however. Verstappen is also under investigation for impeding, having sat stationary in his car at the end of the pit lane, attempting to find a gap for his hot lap. He was then subsequently also placed under investigation for impeding both Yuki Tsunoda and Logan Sargeant on track and faces a potential grid penalty for all three incidents. Pérez similarly struggled to handle the Red Bull and spun off on his final hot lap in Q2.
For Sainz however the final hot laps were a triumph. He set the bar on his first run with a 1min 31.170sec, two tenths up on Leclerc with Norris in third. The Ferrari has been quick in Singapore all weekend and Sainz was well into the groove between the walls of Marina Bay.
The final runs with the track rubbering in were crucial however and the last runs were enormously tight at the sharp end between Norris, Sainz, Leclerc and Russell who was immense on his last lap. Sainz had the edge however, finding the extra in the final sector. He finished with a time of 1:30.984 and was only seven-hundredths clear of both Russell and Leclerc.
After a season where he and Ferrari have struggled in the wake of Red Bull, Sainz is showing very promising form. His fifth career pole is his second in a row having taken the top spot at the last round in Monza.
Taking the top spot on the street circuit dominated by tight corners and where overtaking is difficult is a huge boon, although the track has been modified this year because of construction work, with the section between turns 16 and 19 combined into one long straight, reducing the number of corners from 23 to 19.
Sainz has yet to win this year but will be optimistic that this is his best shot. At the sharp end however the championship remains all but in Verstappen’s hand. He leads by 145 points from his teammate Pérez and could win the title as soon as the next round in Japan.
The first session was red-flagged in the final moments when Lance Stroll lost the rear on the kerbs at the final corner and took a major impact in the wall. He was unhurt but the session was ended to deal with the debris. He finished in 20th. Repairs to the barrier and cleaning the track led to a considerable delay of 34 minutes before Q2 was able to commence.
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg were in sixth and ninth for Haas, Fernando Alonso in seventh for Aston Martin, Esteban Ocon eighth for Alpine and Lawson in 1oth. Pierre Gasly was 12th for Alpine, Alex Albon 14th for Williams and Tsunoda 15th for AlphaTauri. Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou were in 16th and 19th for Alfa Romeo, Oscar Piastri in 17th for McLaren and Sargeant in 18th for Williams.