Carlos Sainz took pole position in a Ferrari Saturday for the Singapore Grand Prix after a dramatic qualifying session where world championship leader Max Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez failed to make it into the top-10 shootout.
Sainz’s lap of 1min 30.984sec pipped the Mercedes of George Russell by 0.072sec and the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who was third, 0.007sec further back.
Red Bull had struggled for pace all weekend but nobody expected Verstappen, who has won the last 10 races in a row, to finish 11th fastest in Q2 and be eliminated along with Perez, who was 13th.
Sainz will start from pole for the second consecutive grand prix after also being fastest at the Italian GP two weeks ago.
“A bit like Monza really, we hit the ground running in FP1. I felt very confident all through the sessions and put it together in Q3,” said Sainz, who also topped the time sheets in Saturday’s third free practice session.
“I just focused on not doing any mistakes on that lap. Keeping it clean in Singapore normally pays off.”
Russell will start from the front row for the first time since the Australian Grand Prix at the beginning of April.
“Really happy with this weekend as a whole,” said the Englishman. “I felt really confident in the car, the team did a great job with the strategy.
“We are on an off-set strategy compared to everybody else, so we have an extra set of medium tyres tomorrow which nobody around us has.
“So to get to Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is an exciting place to be.”
Verstappen is chasing a third world title and has a massive 145-point lead over Perez.
But the Dutchman has never triumphed under the lights in Singapore and faces an almost impossible task to end the drought after a torrid weekend when the Red Bulls were well off the pace.
It was the first time since the Russian Grand Prix in 2018 that neither Red Bull managed to make it into Q3.
Perez won in Singapore last year from second on the grid, but will make his 250th grand prix start in Sunday’s night race from the back half of the grid.
Red Bull have won all 14 races so far this season but Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit is shaping up as the biggest challenge to the team’s unprecedented quest to win all 22 races.
Verstappen has won 12 of the 14 races this season with Perez the only other driver to take the chequered flag.
The McLaren of Lando Norris will join Leclerc on the second row of the grid for Sunday’s night race.
“Everything was super close, Mercedes were really strong today too,” said Leclerc.
“Unfortunately I missed it just a little bit to gain a few positions. Carlos did a great job to get 1-3 for tomorrow.
“We did not expect to be this competitive on a track like this. This is a good sign for the future.”
Lewis Hamilton and Kevin Magnussen were fifth and sixth respectively and will occupy the third row followed by Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and Liam Lawson.
Earlier Q1 was brought to a premature halt by a red flag after Lance Stroll spectacularly crashed his Aston Martin entering the pit straight at the end of a hot lap.
A huge impact into the wall sent his car spinning across the track with wheels and bodywork flying.
Lando Norris was close behind and did well to avoid the wreckage in his McLaren.
The crash eliminated Stroll, who remarkably managed to walk away unaided. Valtteri Bottas, Oscar Piastri, Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu also failed to make it into Q2.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – AFP)