Sainz on Singapore pole; Verstappen qualifies 11th
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz edged out George Russell’s Mercedes for pole position as Max Verstappen qualified 11th at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Verstappen swore over the team radio as he struggled with his unexpectedly uncompetitive Red Bull, which threatens to end his record-breaking run of wins.
Sainz beat Russell by 0.072 seconds, while the Englishman was just 0.007secs ahead of Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was fourth, ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen beat Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin to sixth place, with Esteban Ocon’s Alpine, Magnussen’s team-mate Nico Hulkenberg and Alpha Tauri’s Liam Lawson completed the top 10.
The first session of qualifying was stopped fractionally early after Lance Stroll crashed his Aston Martin heavily at the final corner.
The Canadian, who had been 0.8secs slower than team-mate Alonso on his first run and was in danger of being eliminated, had a slide out of the final chicane and then lost grip in the middle of the fast right-hander that ends the lap.
Stroll’s car slid on to the kerb, and he spun into the barriers, tearing a wheel of the car and badly damaging it. He was taken to the medical centre for checks but soon released uninjured.
What happened to Verstappen?
Verstappen and Red Bull have been struggling all weekend but few expected them to fail to make the grid’s top 10.
All year, the car’s strength has been its gentle tyre wear in races, but this has meant that its advantage has been reduced in qualifying, because it struggles to get the tyres into the right temperature window.
In Singapore, Verstappen and team-mate Sergio Perez have both complained of a lack of rear grip, and in qualifying the runaway championship leader looked uncompetitive throughout.
His fastest lap in the second session only put him 10th fastest, leaving him vulnerable to being knocked out, and in the end the car that displaced him was one from the sister team Alpha Tauri driven by rookie Lawson.
The New Zealander’s team-mate Yuki Tsunoda was also on course to beat Verstappen’s time, but he aborted his lap and ended up 15th, saying he had locked up into Turn 14.
Verstappen also faces three separate stewards’ investigations for alleged offences during the session: one for impeding Tsunoda; one for stopping in the pit lane and impeding the cars behind him; and the final one for being part of a gaggle of cars driving unnecessarily slowly towards the end of a preparation lap.
Verstappen said: “Our car on this circuit, we couldn’t get it into the the right window. Every session we have been chasing it.
“P3 [final practice] was quite a bit better. We tried a few things for qualifying that tipped it over the edge. It became super-sensitive, and you can’t push, massive bottoming, sliding around a lot.
“Pretty much a weekend to forget. I have had many weekends to remember, I know that, but it is still disappointing.”
Perhaps remembering his struggles from seventh on the grid last season, from which he could manage only sixth at the end of the race, he said he had no chance of getting on to the podium.
Team-mate Sergio Perez spun at the start of his final lap and qualified 12th. (BBC Sport)