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A thrilling wet-dry qualifying in Singapore

Charles Leclerc will start from pole position under the lights

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Charles Leclerc claimed pole position in a thrilling qualifying for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix. Sergio Pérez and Lewis Hamilton completed the top three with a furious Max Verstappen only eighth.

F1 returned to the setting of its first ever night race for the first time since 2019. (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter.)

The session was a tale of a very slowly tracking, with a risky move to dry tyres in Q2 not paying off for some drivers and surprise names falling early, including the Mercedes of George Russell.

Q1

The two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell were the first cars out on the intermediates and briefly moved to the top of the standings before being usurped by Leclerc.

Carlos Sainz could only manage sixth on his first attempt but moved within a tenth of his teammate’s time soon enough, before both were beaten by Hamilton.

Verstappen’s first lap had been hampered by a spin from Kevin Magnussen, but he was able to better his 2021 title rival’s time by three-tenths. Leclerc and Alexander Albon also joined Magnussen in taking a trip down the escape road.

As the cars pounded round a track which had at least as many dry parts as it did wet, the burning question became whether it would be suitable for dry tyres before the end of Q1.

Whilst much of the circuit was fine, a particularly slippery section before Turn 18 meant nobody would risk it, though.

A fresh set of intermediates for most saw the times continue to fall. Verstappen and Hamilton moved almost a second clear of the rest of the field, but at the other end of the leaderboard, there would be some fairly big-name casualties.

Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon joined the two Williams cars in being knocked out.

Q2

The trademark Singapore humidity and lack of sunlight meant that – despite the ambient heat – the track had still not dried sufficiently for slicks by the start of Q2.

Five of the big six moved comfortably into the top five – albeit spread out by 1.5 seconds – but Russell struggled to put together a clean lap and found himself in 13th.

The Silver Arrows were the first to pit for new intermediates. Leclerc requested dry tyres but was overruled and also sent out on intermediates, along with most others.

The Aston Martin drivers and Zhou Guanyu, however, decided to be the guinea pigs.

The gamble didn’t pay off, with all three drivers struggling for traction, failing to improve their tyres and falling into the drop zone.

Russell struggled for grip throughout the session and failed to make the final shootout. (Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter.)

Whilst Hamilton’s new tyres saw him move up to second, Russell continued to struggle and would also be knocked out in 11th, 0.006 seconds shy of Magnussen’s time.

The other Haas of Mick Schumacher was three-tenths back and the final driver to miss out.

Q3

With the conditions still on the cusp, Leclerc made the call to go with dries, “even if we lose some time”. He would be joined by most of the field, only Magnussen and Yuki Tsunoda opting for the inters.

Verstappen was the first dry runner to cross the line, producing a 1:56.9, with Tsunoda over a second quicker.

Hamilton found plenty of pace on the dries, though, and moved to the top by over two seconds.

The others joined him soon enough as the tyres built temperature, Leclerc and Fernando Alonso briefly claiming first before car number 44 took it back.

A frenetic finish saw the top of the table changing constantly. Verstappen aborted what looked a very quick lap to ensure he started his final attempt at the right time, only to be told to box just before completing it.

That left Leclerc to take his ninth pole position of the season with a 1:49.412, just 0.022 clear of Pérez and 0.054 ahead of Hamilton, who finally finishes in the top three of a qualifying session for the first time in 2022.

A livid Verstappen came over the radio to ask, “what the f*** is going on? Unbelievable guys”.

The answer would prove to be a lack of fuel, with Red Bull uncertain that the car would have had the requisite one litre of fuel for scrutineering.

Featured Image Credit: @F1 on Twitter.

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