Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, but Formula 1 world championship leader Max Verstappen was left furious after finishing just eighth.
Leclerc clocked 1:49.412 in his Ferrari in damp conditions to beat the timesheets by 0.022s for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in third.
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Verstappen, who has a mathematical chance of retaining his world title this weekend, looked set to challenge Leclerc’s time on his final flying lap before his Red Bull team told him to stop.
The Dutchman, who had put down the fastest first sector, then sent an expletive peppered rant over the team radio after being told to break off and return to the pits as he was running out of fuel.
“Why? What the f***, why?” the 25-year-old furious about the team radio.
“What the f***? What the f***? What the f*** are you saying? Unbelievable, mate. I don’t get it, what the hell is this about?
He later told Sky Sports F1: “We ran out of fuel so it’s just incredibly frustrating and shouldn’t be happening.”
Only the top-10 shootout for pole took place on slippery tires under the lights of the Marina Bay circuit after heavy rain earlier.
Most qualifying saw cars on intermediate tires on a track too damp to risk slicks, with the unforgiving concrete walls of the street plan an ever-present danger of losing control.
“It was a very, very difficult qualifying,” said Leclerc.
“In Q3 we didn’t know what to do, we went for the soft at the last minute and it paid off. I made a mistake on my last lap, so I didn’t think I would take pole, but it was just enough.” Monaco’s Leclerc can prevent Verstappen from sealing the championship this weekend by finishing higher than eighth in Sunday’s race.
Leclerc now has a big grid advantage over the Dutchman, who will start from the fourth row on a circuit that offers few overtaking opportunities.
Perez was able to help his Red Bull teammate by being ahead of Leclerc at the start.
“It’s a good chance to attack Charles and go for the win,” the Mexican said
“I was disappointed to miss out on pole 200th. It was so difficult to learn what conditions could be wet today and tomorrow.”
Seven-time world champion Hamilton produced his best qualifying performance of the season, finishing in the top three for the first time, just 0.054 seconds behind Leclerc.
“I pushed so hard, it was so close,” said Hamilton.
“These guys are so fast, but I thought we could fight for first place with a perfect lap, but I just didn’t have the grip on the last lap.
“Tomorrow we’ll get up and fight again.”
Verstappen must win the race, score 22 points more than Leclerc and see teammate Perez finish fourth or lower to retain his world title with five races to go, or the chase continues to Japan next week.
But that would require him to find a way to get past seven drivers, which seems extremely unlikely.
Ahead of him are Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, Fernando Alonso – who was fifth fastest in the Alpine for his 350th GP start – and Lando Norris’s McLaren in sixth.
Next to Verstappen in the fourth row is the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly.
It was not all good news for Mercedes. George Russell couldn’t find a grip on his intermediate tires and unexpectedly failed to make it into Q3 after finishing just 11th.
Alex Albon, who did well to come to Singapore three weeks after appendicitis at the Italian Grand Prix and then suffered complications from surgery, finished 19th in his Williams.
— with AFP
Originally published as ‘What the f***?’: Max Verstappen’s furious rant in the qualifying session in Singapore