Ferrari’s Charles Lerclerc secured his ninth pole position of the season during a dramatic finish to Formula 1 qualifying on a drying circuit in Singapore.
Earlier rain left the circuit damp, and only dry enough for slicks in Q3, with several drivers taking it in turns to lead the way as lap times tumbled.
Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton both ended up within 0.054 seconds of Leclerc to take second and third. But championship leader Max Verstappen finished eighth after aborting his final two flying laps.
All drivers starting qualfying on intermediate tyres, and it was Hamilton and Leclerc that traded fastest times early on before Verstappen moved ahead with a 1m54.395s.
Leclerc responded with a 1m54.222s to go quickest once more, but he was beaten by both Hamillton and Verstappen again, the latter topping the session with a 1m53.067s.
Sebastian Vettel and Mick Schumacher made late improvements to make it into Q2, eliminating Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Lando Norris narrowly avoided joining him by ending up 15th. But Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Williams duo Alexander Albon and Nicholas Latifi failed to make it through.
16 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 1m56.083s
17 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 1m56.226s
18 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1m56.337s
19 Alexander Albon Williams 1m56.985s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1m57.532s
Remaining on intermediate tyres, Leclerc set an early lap of 1m52.343s which was good enough to finish quickest by over 0.3s from Hamilton and Verstappen.
Aston Martin’s Vettel and Alfa’s Guanyu Zhou both made late gambles on slicks, but the pair both were eliminated in 14th and 15th, Vettel having locked up and ran down an escape road on his final flying lap.
Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll and Haas driver Schumacher also were knocked out, as was George Russell, who struggled on a fresh set of intermediate tyres to the 11th quickest time for Mercedes. Schumacher’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen edged Russell by 0.006s to progress in 10th.
11 George Russell Mercedes 1m54.012s
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1m54.211s
13 Mick Schumacher Haas 1m54.370s
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 1m54.380s
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo 1m55.518s
As most of the remaining ten drivers made the switch to slicks, Yuki Tsunoda generated some early excitement for Alpha Tauri by setting the quickest time on intermediates.
But he was soon beaten by Hamilton, who went 2s faster on soft compound tyres with a 1m53.082s. As the track continued to dry, Fernando Alonso and Leclerc both went faster before Hamilton improved to regain the advantage.
Verstappen lapped within 0.376s of the pace to move into second, before Leclerc recorded a 1m49.412s to move to the top by 1.3s from Alpine’s Alonso.
Sainz gave hope of a Ferrari front-row lockout by climbing to second, but the Spaniard had to settle for fourth after late fliers from Perez and Hamilton.
Verstappen had also threatened to challenge for a pole on his final run but, after aborting his first attempt, was then called into the pits by his team on the next lap due to his car having insufficient fuel, triggering a furious reaction from the Dutchman on the radio.
Alonso ended up fifth ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, who had an off during the session.
Magnussen and Tsunoda finished behind Verstappen in ninth and tenth.
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m49.412s
2 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing +0.022s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.054s
4 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.171s
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine +0.554s
6 Lando Norris McLaren +1.172s
7 Pierre Gasly Alpha Tauri +1.799s
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing +1.983s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas +2.161s
10 Yuki Tsunoda Alpha Tauri +2.571s
Featured image credit: @f1 official twitter