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Leclerc snatches pole in Singapore sizzler as Verstappen twice abandons laps
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Leclerc snatches pole in Singapore sizzler as Verstappen twice abandons laps

Leclerc snatches pole in Singapore sizzler as Verstappen twice abandons laps

Leclerc snatches pole in Singapore sizzler as Verstappen twice abandons laps

Leclerc snatches pole in Singapore sizzler as Verstappen twice abandons laps

Charles Leclerc snatched a dramatic pole position as the Singapore Grand Prix threw up a dramatic qualifying session under the Marina Bay Street Circuit lights.

Just 0.054s separated the top three, with Leclerc ahead of Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes, while reigning champion Max Verstappen could only manage eighth.

In extraordinary circumstances, as the top-10 shoot-out saw the circuit ramp up considerably on soft tyres after the first two sessions had been run on intermediates, Verstappen was forced to abandon his final two runs.

On the first occasion he had purpled the first two sectors but got out of shape at one stage in the final sector and backed off.

On his second run, and with at least a front-row start beckoning, he was ordered to pit, much to his incredulity.

It is understood he was running low on fuel and had to return to the pits to ensure the FIA could take a fuel sample.

The torrential downpour prior to FP3 that resulted in that session being cut to just 30 minutes led to a hangover for the start of qualifying.

Although no further rain fell during the intervening two hours, parts of the track were still damp in places, leading to all drivers setting off on the intermediate tyres.

It appeared as if the drivers and teams would have to make a crucial call as to when to switch to slick tyres but track evolution did not materialise as quickly as perhaps had been anticipated.

It was still a captivating opening session, with Haas driver Mick Schumacher the last to cross the line and just doing enough to make Q2, relegating Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas in the process.

The Finn will start 16th ahead of McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo, exiting Q1 for the third time in the last seven qualifying sessions, and Alpine's Esteban Ocon who bemoaned having no brakes on his final push lap.

The back row is an all-Williams line-up, with Alex Albon ahead of team-mate Nicholas Latifi, still representing a solid effort from the Thai-British driver who was forced to sit out the Italian GP with appendicitis, requiring surgery during which he suffered respiratory failure, requiring a period in intensive care.

For Q2, the remaining 15 drivers again required intermediate tyres for the start.

While the majority of the track was dry, turns eight and 18, in particular, were still wet and proving problematic to navigate.

Aston Martin duo Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel, along with Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu were the first to gamble, yet it backfired for the trio who will line up in 12th, 14th and 15th.

Vettel, notably, locked up at one point in the middle sector after setting a first-sector time that put him in contention of making the top-10 shoot-out.

The big shock was Mercedes' George Russell who starts 11th after missing out on a place in Q3 by six-thousandths of a second, stating he "really struggled" and that it was "shame", finishing 1.3s down on Hamilton in that session.

Sandwiched in between the two Aston Martins will be Schumacher.

For Q3, only AlphaTauri's Yuki Tsunoda and Kevin Magnussen in his Haas opted for the intermediates, with the remaining eight all on slicks.

For a short time, it appeared as if the inter was a good call as Tsunoda was quickest until the soft tyres started to find grip, leading to the Japanese driver and the Dane switching to the red-striped rubber.

Hamilton held provisional pole for the majority of the session until the dying stages as the circuit rubbered in.

The upshot was that the Briton just missed out on his first pole of the year, instead Leclerc taking his ninth, the most by a Ferrari driver since Michael Schumacher in 2000.

Ferrari's Carlos Sainz starts fourth ahead of Alpine's Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris in his McLaren, with AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly seventh ahead of Verstappen.

Magnussen and Tsunoda make up the fifth row.

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