Brilliant, exceedingly brilliant or Ferrari brilliant? How does one truly describe the outcome at the completion of the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix Qualifying with Charles Leclerc calling the shots? Ferrari, it ought to be reminded, arrived at Singapore not as the frontrunners to gain the track position. But who says that anti-climax isn’t an F1 specialty? At a track that aerodynamically suits the Silver Arrows far better than siding with the Red cars, it was Charles Leclerc who eeked out extra pace, somehow, to knock off Mercedes’ plans to grab the track position in delivering a stunning final run on Q3. This means that with Charles Leclerc on Pole at Singapore, the young Monegasque driver has now collected a hat-trick of pole positions starting from Spa, and following it up with Monza and Marina Bay.
Charles Leclerc on Pole at Singapore GP
But Leclerc shunting right in the lead of the grid wasn’t going to get any easy with his teammate delivering a belter of a lap right at the start of Q3.
As Vettel set the early pace for Q3, the experienced German driver delivered a clear red-herring to those in hot pursuit at a track where there’s no margin for error whatsoever: go flat out and leave nothing to the imagination.
And therefore, it could be said, with Charles Leclerc on Pole at Singapore, that’s exactly what the 21-year-old in-form brought to the fore in the other “Scarlett Red”, as he smashed the hopes of Mercedes and proved he could better a teammate, who has not one or two but four race wins against his name at one of the most daunting tracks on the roster.
But while Charles managed to go absolutely flat out, much to the surprise of Lewis Hamilton(who’s been on pole here on four previous occasions), it was somewhere heartbreaking to see Vettel commit mistakes in his flying lap, suffering from unrelenting oversteer as the German zig-zagged speedily across the narrow corners of a relentless track.
But implicit in Ferrari emerging right on top at the Marina Bay was the superior power that enabled the Prancing Horse to set flying times in the tricky middle sectors, the new nose cone galvanizing the car to exude higher speeds and more downforce.
Tough evening for Mercedes
That said, make no mistake. It wasn’t the easiest of evenings for Valtteri Bottas, who did more than just brush through the walls on Friday. He was only able to usurp his teammate during Q2, as he would clearly struggle for grip and balance in the final run of Q3. The Finn, who has never outqualified Lewis in a Mercedes at the Marina Bay will begin his 61-lap challenge from fifth on the grid, but placed right behind Max Verstappen, who more often than not, brings great excitement to a contest.
That said, it would be interesting to see where Verstappen, who has never won at Singapore, can as he begins the contest from a respectable P4, proving to the be the faster of the two Red Bulls with Albon placed on Sixth.
But that said, the final run proved to be an interesting result for the two Renaults that easily outpaced their closest on-track competitors in the Toro Rossos, Haas’ and the Alfa Romeos.
Ricciardo, who will be a hot pursuit of Carlos Sainz jr (Seventh)., who remained barely quicker than the Australian during the entirety of the contest, will be keen to enter a few scraps as a strong midfielder. Meanwhile, it was yet another consistent qualifying performance from Nico Hulkenberg, who begins from Ninth, but just in front of the other McLaren of Lando Norris, in completing the top ten.
What lies ahead on race-day?
But nothing could beat the excitement of seeing Charles Leclerc on Pole at Singapore contesting in a battle for ascendency on what is clearly the most absorbing physical challenge that drivers face each year in the form of battling through narrow turns and tricky, spine-bending bumps in a two-hour slugfest of speed.
Can Ferrari emerge right on top at a track where their last victory came way back in 2015, something that seems nearly half a decade past? Meanwhile, one’s sure that both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, two drivers who are tied at 4 wins here in the past, will engage in an all-out attack come the race-day.
It’s all to play for, isn’t it? Lights out and away we go!