Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc clinched pole position after a thrilling qualifying session at the Singapore Grand Prix when Max Verstappen finished just eighth.
Red Bull’s Verstappen appeared to have the pace to take pole but gave up his penultimate lap after a mistake and was then urged to pit before completing his last.
He swore over the radio and said, “I don’t understand. What are you saying?”
It was later confirmed that Verstappen was running out of fuel.
Leclerc beat Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez by 0.022s, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton third.
Team boss Christian Horner said over the radio that they would talk about it afterwards, then nobody would listen to him.
It was an unusual session in which the drivers drove continuously without pit stops. Teams must have enough fuel in their cars to provide the FIA with a certain amount of sample after qualifying.
And Verstappen confirmed this, saying the team told him to abandon an earlier lap that would have been good enough for pole at the time after he made a mistake in the penultimate chicane, not realizing he was running out of fuel would have for one more round until it was too late.
“Not enough gas in the car,” he said. “We were a little surprised that we had that extra lap but you can track that, you see that coming. So I don’t really understand how this was missed.
“In hindsight I should have finished the lap earlier when they told me to stop to make a gap for the last lap.
“All of this was triggered by Pierre [Gasly] in front of me so I had to open a gap for that last lap because I was coming towards him.
“But that’s no excuse. I can’t see how much fuel is in the car and we have all the sensors in the world to track these things. So, yes, incredibly frustrating.”
Verstappen has seemed capable of winning everywhere in recent races – from 10th in Hungary, 15th in Belgium and seventh in Italy – but he said: “It’s a bit like Monaco – you can’t really overtake.
“I don’t really see a podium or a win.”
Verstappen’s bad luck makes it even more unlikely than ever that he could win a second world title on Sunday – he needs to win the race and hope other results go his way.
Joy for Leclerc
Leclerc will not be concerned about Verstappen’s troubles after claiming his second consecutive pole in Singapore – but the first since 2019 as the race returns to the calendar after the pandemic.
Leclerc said: “It was really, really special. Every qualifying on street courses is great at the limit and even more so when it’s wet. But it worked well.”
It is Leclerc’s ninth pole in 17 races this season and he is just one away from lifting the trophy for most poles of the season, although it will be of little consolation after his title hopes were dashed by Ferrari’s collective mistakes this season .
Hamilton was a contender for pole and was easily the fastest man on track early in the final session – setting laps well ahead of any other front runners when he was on track at the same time.
But as the session progressed, the Mercedes lost its power advantage and the seven-time champion missed the track where he claimed what he considers his best-ever pole lap in 2018 by 0.054s.
Hamilton said: “I was pushing so hard. I was so close. I was trying so hard. These guys are so fast but I thought maybe I could finish first with a perfect lap. It’s just not with the grip happened.” last round. But we’re just keeping our heads down and hoping tomorrow will be a better day.”
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was fourth, 0.171s from pole, ahead of Fernando Alonso’s Alpine, the experienced Spaniard was just 0.554s down at a track where he has always excelled and in a weekend Alpine introduced a big ground improvement.
Teammate Esteban Ocon was knocked out in the first session and will start 18th.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, Verstappen, Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and second Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10.
George Russell had a frustrating day in the second Mercedes, blaming an engine problem for only qualifying 11th.
Alex Albon qualified 19th on his return from a medical emergency when he spent almost 24 hours in an intense car after stopping breathing after appendectomy three weeks ago, 0.6 seconds ahead of Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi.
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