[F1 Singapore GP: Sainz grabs pole from Russell; disaster for Red Bull
Sainz and Charles Leclerc had locked out the top two positions following the opening foray of laps, with the two having saved a set of soft tyres each from Q2 to use at the start of the final shootout to throw down the gauntlet to Ferrari’s competitors.
The Spaniard, who had set the earlier benchmark with a 1m31.170s to sit a quarter of a second clear of Leclerc, managed to better his time with a 1m30.984s to stake his claim for a second pole on the bounce after securing Saturday’s spoils at Monza.
Lando Norris split the Ferraris to claim second in a quickfire final round of laps, but Leclerc put the McLaren driver back in his place to reclaim a provisional front-row lockout – just 0.079s shy of Sainz’s lap.
But George Russell, who had been a step ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton throughout the weekend, set the best middle sector to threaten Sainz’s advantage, but lost a pinch of time in the final sector to claim second on Sunday’s grid.
Leclerc thus had to be content with third, and will start on the second row alongside Norris, who was the sole McLaren to make Q3 as team-mate Oscar Piastri dropped out in Q1.
Hamilton was fifth fastest alongside an impressive Kevin Magnussen, who carried his Haas to sixth on the Singapore grid. Fernando Alonso improved on his final lap to collect seventh, beating Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg, and AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson.
Verstappen endured dismal fortunes in Q2 and was ousted from the top 10 by Lawson, as Sergio Perez’s spin ensured neither Red Bull made it through to the final part of qualifying.
The Dutchman was first to set a lap in the intermediate phase of qualifying, but his time was quickly rendered uncompetitive as he was quickly outpaced by the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the other traditional front-runners.
Perez was shuffled into the bottom five as Verstappen treaded water just inside the top 10, but the final flurry of laps cost Red Bull greatly. Verstappen made a mistake in Turn 3 and could never recover; although he improved his time, he was vulnerable.
His team-mate did not factor as a Turn 2 spin ended his chances of progression immediately, and Verstappen’s time did not stand up as Lawson pipped him by 0.007s to break into Q3 for the first time.
Verstappen will be subject to two investigations after the session for apparently impeding in the pitlane during Q1, and then potentially baulking Yuki Tsunoda during the second part of qualifying to ensure the Japanese driver could not set a competitive time.
Pierre Gasly split the Red Bulls having eclipsed Perez with his lap, while Alex Albon topped out at 14th place while Tsunoda was at the bottom of the Q2 timing board.
Lance Stroll produced the Q1-ending red flag with a heavy crash at the final corner while attempting to prise himself out of the drop zone amid significant track improvement in the dying stages of the session.
A flurry of final efforts began with Tsunoda vaulting to the top of the timesheets with a 1m31.991s, underlining the potential time gain for the rest of the field as the Haas duo also found their way clear of trouble.
Albon was able to pull himself out of the drop zone in those final runs but sat precariously on the brink of falling back into the drop zone as Piastri was improving.
But Stroll’s hefty shunt, produced after dipping a wheel off the road ahead of the final corner, ended with the stricken Aston Martin sitting in the middle of the track – in front of Piastri, who had to back out of his lap to avoid the wreck which saved Albon’s bacon.
Piastri was knocked out in 17th place, behind Valtteri Bottas in the bottom five, as Logan Sargeant and Zhou Guanyu’s earlier efforts had not yielded enough improvement to clamber out of the drop zone. Stroll remained planted to the bottom of the timesheets.