Charles Leclerc pulls out stunning lap to take Singapore Grand Prix pole

Luke Slater
The Telegraph
Charles Leclerc took his third consecutive pole position with a stunning lap in Singapore - AFP
Charles Leclerc took his third consecutive pole position with a stunning lap in Singapore - AFP

Charles Leclerc secured a hat-trick of pole positions to put his Ferrari at the front of grid for Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix.

Formula One's man of the moment continued his dazzling form under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Marina Bay Street Circuit to see off Hamilton's late salvo by just 0.191 seconds.

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Vettel had been on provisional pole, but aborted his final run and will start from third with Hamilton splitting the Ferrari cars.

Final Positions after Qualifying:

  • Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1min 36.217secs

  • Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:36.408

  • Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:36.437

  • Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:36.813

  • Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:37.146

  • Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:37.411

  • Carlos Sainz (Spa) McLaren 1:37.818

  • Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:38.095

  • Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault 1:38.264

  • Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:38.329

  • Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:38.620

  • Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:38.697

  • Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:38.699

  • Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:38.858

  • Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:39.650

  • Daniil Kvyat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:39.957

  • Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:39.979

  • Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:40.277

  • George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:40.867

  • Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:41.186

 

3:27PM

Not since 2011 has Lewis Hamilton had this few pole positions

By round 15. Despite his dominance of the championship this year, that tells you that a) there is increased competition on one-lap pace around him and b) he has not really been fully on his game this year on Saturdays. 

And on that note, I will leave you. I'll be back tomorrow about midday for the race liveblog. See you then and thanks for joining me. 

3:22PM

That is Charles Leclerc's fifth pole position of the season

Hamilton has four. Bottas has four. Verstappen has one and Vettel has one. When was the last time Lewis Hamilton only had four poles after 15 rounds? It has to be 2013. Even then, his first year at Mercedes, they were very quick in qualifying and I think he had four by then. Let me check...

3:19PM

That lap says an awful lot about Leclerc

And also the state of play at Ferrari. Vettel put in a brilliant lap in the first part of Q3 but made a mess of his second run. Leclerc needed to make up more than three-tenths of a second to dislodge Vettel. In the end he made up pretty much an entire half of a second with a lap that was on the ragged edge. He said he thought he'd lost it three times. What a driver this guy is turning out to be. 

3:14PM

Well, that was a surprising result

Ferrari came here with a new upgraded aero package. Traditionally they have been quick on the low downforce tracks and after victories in Monza and Spa everyone really thought they'd struggle here. But they didn't. Talk on Sky Sports F1 about what this means for the rest of the season (i.e. Ferrari will be in contention at tracks where they were not expected to be) but I am not so sure. Singapore (as Mercedes boss Toto Wolff just said) is a strange track and it's quite of point-and-squirt 90 degree turns. Still, to be this competitive at a track like this is a very good sign for them. 

<span>Will Ferrari be competing for the top spots for the rest of the year?</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images Asia </span>
Will Ferrari be competing for the top spots for the rest of the year? Credit: Getty Images Asia

3:08PM

Vettel reacts to third place

The final attempt should have been better. I was feeling good and was able to improve run by run. Maybe peaked a bit too early. I had a tiny wobble and there was no point finishing the lap. It puts us in a good position for tomorrow. I think it should be a good race, so let's see what the tyres will do if we are able to push the full two hours of if we have to manage. 

3:07PM

Hamilton reacts to his front row 

I don't know where Ferrari picked up their pace today. They did a great job, Charles obviously put some great laps in. I gave it absolutely everything I had. It was as much as I could get out of the car and I am really happy to be on the front row. Tomorrow we can be aggressive. 

3:05PM

Leclerc reacts to pole position

I am extremely happy about today. It was a very good lap but there were some moments where I thought i lost the car. I would like to thank the team so much for what they have done. The team have done an amazing job to bring the package we needed. We brought some new bits that worked properly that was good to see. It's not always the case. We had a very tough Friday. I didn't feel comfortable in the car. But we worked quite hard and today paid off.  

3:04PM

Top 10

  • LEC

  • HAM

  • VET

  • VER

  • BOT

  • ALB

  • SAI

  • RIC

  • HUL

  • NOR

Renault found some time there. Albon improves to get closer to Verstappen. Decent. 

3:02PM

CHARLES LECLERC TAKES POLE POSITION FOR THE 2019 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX!

Hamilton finds enough time to get on the front row!He's within two tenths of Leclerc's time and nudges Vettel down to P3. Will he rue the sloppy lap at the end of Q3? Surely. 

That's Leclerc's third consecutive pole and that is the most impressive of the lot. At a track where they were not expected to compete, when he had to find several tenths to beat Vettel and he did it. By two tenths. He's very happy about it. "I lost control I think three times on that lap!" he says. 

3:01PM

Q3 - Leclerc topples Vettel

Vettel doesn't improve in the second sector, either and gets a bit of a wobble on but saves it! Leclerc is 0.085s up on Vettel's time...Vettel abandons his lap after the mistake. Verstappen doesn't improve, what can Leclerc do?

He finds BAGS of time in the final sector and takes pole by 0.220s! Mercedes are NOWHERE as they complete their laps...

2:59PM

Q3 - Leclerc quickest in sector one

Vettel is a tenth down in S1, Verstappen hasn't improved either, he's 0.3s away so you'd think he'll struggle to get pole but could improve his time. Leclerc takes a couple of tenths out of the quickest time in S1!

2:58PM

Q3 - Mercedes trying a contrary strategy here

Will it pay off? Poor track position cost them a little on their last runs but Ferrari and Vettel in particular just had it hooked up. Anyway, Mercedes are finally out and will  have plenty of time. 

Vettel begins his hot lap...

2:57PM

Q3 - Drivers emerge from the garages for final runs

No danger of any of them not crossing the finish line in time as two weeks ago. Still 3.5 minutes on the clock. It's around a two minute out lap. Mercedes stay in the garage and will be coming out last by quite a long way, this could be interesting...

2:55PM

Q3 - Top 10 and gaps

  • VET

  • LEC +0.354

  • VER +0.380

  • HAM +1.010

  • BOT +1.046

  • ALB +1.527

  • SAI +2.163 

  • NOR +2.286

  • RIC +2.657

  • HUL +3.173

Vettel even touched the wall at one point. You can't see Mercedes making up that time now. Where has the performance gone? Have Ferrari been sandbagging? Even with a couple of dodgy out-laps for Mercedes that does not explain a second gap. 

2:53PM

Q3 - Vettel absolutely flying

Ferraris quickest in the first sector, Vettel has it by a tenth over Leclerc! How is he in the second sector? He's up by a mile! This is vintage Vettel! He sets a 1.36.437...Bottas is a whole second away!  Leclerc is 0.3s down! Verstappen 0.380 down. That is SOME lap by Vettel. 

Hamilton only fourth, just ahead of Bottas in fifth. Albon a whole 1.5s away from Vettel and 1.1 from Verstappen. He is ahead of both McLarens in P7 and P8, though. 

2:51PM

Q3 - First runs underway

Bottas stuck behind two McLarens and not very happy about it. He clears one of them but can't get through the other one, so backs off before his hot lap. 

2:48PM

Q3 begins!

12 minutes to go. No red or yellow flags yet in qualifying, which is quite surprising. 

2:48PM

Looks like a five-way shoot-out for pole

Who has it? Ferrari, unpredictably, look difficult to beat here but if anyone can do it you would say Hamilton has the chops to do it but Bottas has not been too far behind him, either. Verstappen looks a bit too far behind but he's on this. Alex Albon, unfortunately, is not. 

2:45PM

Q2 - Classification and gaps

  • LEC

  • VET +0.070

  • HAM +0.283

  • VER +0.439

  • BOT +0.492

  • NOR +0.922

  • ALB +1.215

  • SAI +1.332

  • RIC +1.749

  • HUL +1.930

  • PER +1.970

  • GIO +2.047

  • GAS +2.049

  • RAI +2.208

  • MAG +3.000

<span>Charles Leclerc topped the first two qualifying sessions</span> <span>Credit: AP </span>
Charles Leclerc topped the first two qualifying sessions Credit: AP

Not a big margin from P10 to P13 there. Perez only a small distance away from making it through. Giovinazzi and Gasly not far off either. Important for Giovinazzi to out-qualifying Raikkonen again, too. 

2:42PM

Q2 - Final runs underway

And plenty of slowing down, jockeying around for their hot laps. Vettel looking sharp in sector one, the quickest of anyone at all. Hamilton not too quick there, however...

Vettel improves in the second sector as well, but still a little slower than his team-mate. Can he improve on his final lap? Yes, he can. He goes quickest! By two tenths. Will it last? Hamilton can't improve, Leclerc, though finds time in the final sector to go top! By 0.070...

Where has this Ferrari pace come from? Is it genuine?

Down the field it's all quite predictable as Perez, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Raikkonen and Magnussen are eliminated meaning Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Renault go through with both drivers. 

2:37PM

Wouldn't be great if Albon qualified behind a midfield car

It is his first time around this track in an F1 car but the problem was that Gasly was mixed up in the midfield way too often. If they are to keep Albon on then he needs to improve on that.

2:34PM

Q2 - Top 10 and gaps

  • LEC

  • HAM +0.131

  • VER +0.159

  • BOT +0.212

  • VET +0.375

  • NOR +0.642

  • ALB +0.935

  • SAI +1.242

  • RIC +1.469

  • HUK +1.469

Drivers in the drop zone:11. GIO 12. GAS 13. PER 14. RAI 15. MAG

2:32PM

Q2 - Verstappen on his hot run

What can he do? A so-so first sector but the quickest second sector. The final sector is decent enough to split the Mercedes! Nice. Albon, meanwhile is nearly a whole second off the pace, slower than Norris by a few tenths but ahead of Sainz. Raikkonen slams into the wall on exit but carries on. It was a brush, but a big one. 

2:30PM

Q2 - Bottas again quicker than Hamilton in sector one

But Leclerc is quicker than both of them, by a couple of tenths at least. Mercedes a bit stronger from S1 onwards, though. Hamilton again gains a smidgen of time on Bottas in S2, as Leclerc falls back...

Bottas posts his time first but Hamilton finds a tenth in the final sector to go quickest. What can Leclerc do? He's 0.131 up on Hamilton! Vettel, though, can only go P4, 0.375 off his team-mate. Lando Norris doing well in P5, only 0.642s of the top. Nice work. 

2:28PM

Q2 - Bottas and Hamilton out early

On the softs. Clean track and they should have enough pace on these first runs not to run again in this session. 

2:26PM

Q2 begins!

15 minutes to go. Five drivers to lose out, 10 to go through to Q3. Think you'd be looking at Ferrari, Mercedes making it comfortably through plus Max Verstappen. Albon could be borderline. Then both McLarens and perhaps one or two Renault. Gasly looked quick in Q1, there's a chance of for him here. 

2:24PM

Albon has not had it hooked up this weekend at all

And he was a way off Verstappen in Q1, too. Still, two more sessions of qualifying to go and plenty of time to find. How many races does he have to prove himself? This and another two or three you'd think before they make a decision. A couple of poor weekends could see him return to Toro Rosso for 2020. 

<span>Alexander Albon</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Alexander Albon Credit: AFP

 

2:21PM

Q1 - Top 10

  • BOT

  • HAM

  • LEC

  • VET

  • VER

  • NOR

  • SAI

  • HUL

  • GAS

  • ALB

Grosjean clunked the wall on that lap which probably cost him a chance of getting into Q2. So, Mercedes ran again and topped the session, neither Ferrari or Red Bull did two runs but in the end they all comfortably made it through. 

2:20PM

Q1 - Drivers eliminated

16. KVY

17. STR

18. GRO

19. RUS

20. KUB

2:20PM

Q1 - Final runs underway

Magnussen trying desperately to get himself into Q2 and he's just about up in sector one but I can't see him getting through here, as it happens. He needs to find an awful amount of time. Albon is only a second away from dropping out but I think he will be safe, to be honest. Magnussen does improve, going up to P12! Track evolution is huge, here...

Racing Points now in danger, can Grosjean get out? No! He's out in Q1! Stroll fails to get out, Kvyat cannot improve on his time, stays P15 but Perez could knock him out...and he does!

2:17PM

Q1 - Mercedes out again and going for it

Bottas flying on his second run, he will surely, absolutely complete this lap. Hamilton is a couple of tenths down on the Finn in sector one but a smidgen up in sector two. Alex Albon, in ninth, is not coming back out and he won't get another lap in. His is potentially in danger there. Anyway, Hamilton and Bottas both improve on the softs with Bottas leading Hamilton by 0.248s...

2:15PM

Q1 - Four minutes to go

Are Mercedes going to run again? Are they safe on those times? They are out on the softs, both of them, so it looks like they are going to attempt a run, even if they do not complete it. Seems that they are saving soft tyres for another time. 

2:13PM

Q1 - Classification after the first runs

  • LEC

  • VET

  • VER

  • BOT

  • HAM

  • SAI

  • GAS

  • ALB

  • NOR

  • RIC

Drivers in the danger zone: RAI, GRO, MAG, RUS, KUB

2:12PM

Q1 - Ricciardo goes P10 

And Vettel moves up to P2 but 0.360 behind Leclerc ahead. Looks like Racing Point and Haas are struggling again. Adjusting for the tyre types, Mercedes are quickest here.  

2:10PM

Q1 - Drivers in the danger zone

Magnussen, Russell, Kubica, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo. 

2:10PM

Q1 - Nine minutes to go

Top 10 and gaps

  • LEC

  • VER +0.526

  • BOT +0.609

  • HAM +0.749

  • SAI +0.868

  • VET +0.925

  • GAS +1.071

  • ALB +1.092

  • NOR +1.145

  • GIO +1.931

Gasly quicker than Albon...

2:07PM

Q1 - Leclerc quickest by A LONG WAY

His 1.38.014 is a whole 0.6s ahead of both Mercedes and 0.526s ahead of Max Verstappen. Crucially, though, Leclerc was on the soft tyres, Mercedes on the mediums. Verstappen, too, on the softs. Still looking decent for Mercedes then. Albon down in P7, nearly half a second away from Verstappen...

2:06PM

Q1 - Bottas goes quickest

But I doubt that'll be for long as Hamilton isn't too far behind him. Oh, I'm wrong. Hamilton can only post a time within 0.1s of his team-mate. Strange. Did he hit traffic?

2:04PM

Q1 - 14 minutes to go

Carlos Sainz has no power, he says. Technical issues have hampered McLaren this year. He seems to have sorted the problem, though. Also, last post, I say Saubers, I of course mean Alfa Romeos. Even if it is, really, the Sauber team. Anyway, I think that's the first time I have done that this season...

2:02PM

Q1 - 16 minutes to go

No surprise to see Kubica as the first man out, followed by the Saubers and Sergio Perez. Both Mercedes out on medium tyres. 

2:01PM

Q1 begins!

18 minutes to go. Nobody out. Being a street circuit the track evolution is huge here. And it's a long track so, in theory, plenty of space out there. In theory, I say. Remember what happened in Monza two weeks ago...

1:58PM

30 degrees at 9pm

No thanks. 

1:57PM

Having an F1 race at night is pretty cool

But have you seen the British Touring Car Championship night races of the 1990s. No floodlights, only headlights. In a field in Norfolk. 

1:50PM

We are 10 MINUTES away from the start of qualifying

What is going to happen? I predicted a Max Verstappen win earlier in the week, which would probably require a Max Verstappen pole position. But I am not feeling all that optimistic about that outcome right now. 

1:44PM

Other news this weekend...

Robert Kubica is to leave Williams at the end of the season. It is probably the right call for both parties. Kubica returned to F1 this year after a lengthy absence and is lucky to be driving at all after an horrific rallying crash in 2011 which nearly cost him his right arm and his life. He has, to date, scored his team's only point of the 2019 season but that was a rare good moment in a year of difficult moments. Williams have comfortably been the slowest team this year and Kubica, too, has been comfortably slower than his younger and more inexperienced team-mate George Russell. 

<span>Robert Kubica will leave Williams at the end of the year</span> <span>Credit: REX </span>
Robert Kubica will leave Williams at the end of the year Credit: REX

 The fact that he even got back to F1 is astounding, though. 

1:38PM

Daniel Ricciardo: Lewis Hamilton is my friend but also complex and hard to read

 "Lewis is cool [but] ... I guess he is complex,” the Renault driver said. “I have always had positive interactions with him, but I am not silly and I can see how people have other opinions. Whether it is his lifestyle, or that sometimes he can be quite reserved and you don’t get much out of him."

 Read more of Dani Ric's thoughts on the complex Lewis Hamilton here. 

1:33PM

It's a big weekend for this guy, Alex Albon

<span>Alexander Albon is driving in his third grand prix for Red Bull this weekend</span> <span>Credit: Getty Images </span>
Alexander Albon is driving in his third grand prix for Red Bull this weekend Credit: Getty Images

 It's the first race since his move to Red Bull where neither he or team-mate Max Verstappen has a grid penalty. So it's the first time to be able to directly compare them. Albon has largely done everything he could have at the moment but now is the time he will be judged. What does he need to do to get that Red Bull seat for 2020? To be close to Max Verstappen, really. And that is a tough ask.  At worst, though, he will go back to Toro Rosso for a second season. Who, then, would be at Red Bull? Well, Nico Hulkenberg is free...and Sebastian Vettel could choose to walk away from Ferrari, too...

1:21PM

Driver standings after 14 rounds

Are we really two-thirds of the way through the 2019 season? Where did that go?

1:19PM

An update on the condition of Juan Manuel Correa

By Phil Duncan, in Singapore

Formula Two driver Juan Manuel Correa is out of an induced coma but faces a "race against time" to undergo a major operation on his legs. Correa, 20, broke both his legs and sustained spinal cord damage in a 160mph crash which killed Anthoine Hubert at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium last month.

A statement released by the American's family read: "As of today, Juan Manuel Correa has been removed from the ECMO machine, life support and taken out of induced coma.

"While this is great news and a major step in the right direction, he is still in a race against time.

"Juan Manuel is conscious, but not fully yet awake. Doctors report that this will take a few days. They have also stated that Juan Manuel is fragile and still vulnerable medically speaking and that he remains in the Intensive Care Unit. His condition has been upgraded from critical to serious.

"The medical priority for Juan Manuel now shifts from the lungs to the leg injuries that were sustained more than two weeks ago and have not been addressed since the initial emergency intervention the day of the incident.

"Doctors are in a race against time to perform a pending major surgery in order to minimise risk of irreversible injuries to his right lower extremity but can't proceed until lungs are ready to withstand a lengthy operation."

Correa underwent a four-hour emergency operation in Liege before he was transferred to a London hospital where he was diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome. He was placed in an induced coma a fortnight ago. Hubert, 22, was killed when he hit the barriers at Eau Rouge and rebounded back on to the circuit before Correa collected his car at high speed.

1:14PM

Sergio Perez shoved it in the wall in final practice

Ruining his rear end, as it were. A lot of work for the mechanics who are under a lot of pressure to get the car out for qualifying. 

Not ideal.  Even less ideal is the five-place grid penalty he gets for changing the gearbox. 

1:07PM

This eye-cam from a Sebastian Vettel lap is well worth watching

1:00PM

Final times after third practice

  • Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari 1min 38.192secs

  • Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:38.399

  • Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:38.811

  • Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes GP 1:38.885

  • Alexander Albon (Tha) Red Bull 1:39.258

  • Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull 1:39.366

  • Carlos Sainz Jr (Spa) McLaren. 1:39.507

  • Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren 1:39.709

  • Nico Hulkenburg (Ger) Renault 1:40.118

  • Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Renault 1:40.153

  • Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point 1:40.209

  • Pierre Gasly (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:40.339

  • Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:40.953

  • Sergio Perez (Mex) Racing Point 1:40.985

  • George Russell (Gbr) Williams 1:41.156

  • Antonio Giovinazzi (Ita) Alfa Romeo Racing 1:41.169

  • Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas F1 1:41.494

  • Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:41.542

  • Robert Kubica (Pol) Williams 1:41.954

  • Daniil Kyvat (Rus) Scuderia Toro Rosso No Time Set

12:49PM

Good afternoon F1 fans

And welcome to our coverage of qualifying for the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix. This is now the 12th edition of F1's first night race and it's a track and location that usually delivers. The races haven't been too bad over the years, either, with plenty of crashes and controversy and, of course, some brilliant - and plenty of terrible - driving. 

This year we come to the 15th round of the season with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in charge of the drivers' and constructors' championships. It will take something truly remarkable for either of them to be toppled, in truth. Still, the individual grands prix have been excellent since the French Grand Prix back in June. Ferrari finally got their act together after the summer break and have won both races, in Belgium and Italy since. I say Ferrari, I mean Charles Leclerc, who drove brilliantly both times to hold off a charging Mercedes. 

<span>Charles Leclerc was fastest in final practice</span> <span>Credit: AFP </span>
Charles Leclerc was fastest in final practice Credit: AFP

Coming into this round, Ferrari were expected to struggle and most educated guesses would have put them as the third fastest team behind Mercedes and Red Bull. It kind of seemed that way in the first two practice sessions, with Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton being the class of the field, but looking at the results and times from final practice this morning (or evening Singapore time) it seems like Ferrari could be closer to the front than we think, with Leclerc topping the timesheets with a 1.38.192, Hamilton just over two tenths behind.

As ever, it's likely that Mercedes have some pace to burn but, saying that, Valtteri Bottas and Vettel have struggled to match their team-mates. Bottas ended first practice yesterday in the wall and has generally complained about something being off in the car. McLaren had a decent final practice as well, with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris finishing in P7 and P8 respectively, well off the leading pace but comfortably ahead of the Renaults in P9 and P10. 

In short: there's a lot still to discover before qualifying. I'll be here to take you through it all, as ever. 

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