SINGAPORE GP – Carlos Sainz beats George Russell to pole, as Red Bull shocks with both drivers knocked out in Q2
Carlos Sainz has taken back-to-back poles for the Singapore Grand Prix, after beating
George Russel by seven-hundredths of a second. The Ferrari driver set a 30.984 to beat the Mercedes after neither Red Bull made it through to Q3 for the first time since 2020.
Sainz pulled out the lap towards the end of Q3 to go eight hundredths faster than teammate Charles Leclerc, before on his final attempt Russell went two tenths faster than Leclerc. That allowed the Mercedes to split the two Ferrari’s, with Russell just seven thousandths faster than Leclerc.
Russell has looked all weekend to have the edge over Lewis Hamilton, he looked at one stage in Q3 on course to challenge Sainz for pole, going fastest in the middle sector before losing time in the final sector. Hamilton has been off Russell’s pace for much of the weekend and said he was “struggling with the balance” in qualifying, while few would have expected Magnussen to slip ahead of Alonso’s Aston Martin for the final spot in the top six.
It was a disastrous qualifying for Red Bull the team which has won every race this season were knocked out in Q2, and Max Verstappen was clearly frustrated by the lack of performance this weekend. Lando Norris continued to extract the most from McLaren’s upgrades going fourth, over two tenths ahead of Hamilton.
Norris had gone fastest on his first run in Q3, the McLaren driver then being beaten by both Ferrari’s and Russell, he then ended the session nearly three second off the pace with him having the aero upgrade. While Hamilton has put his lack of pace compared to Russell down to “struggling with the balance” in qualifying, while few would have expected Magnussen to slip ahead of Alonso’s Aston Martin for the final spot in the top six.
Red Bull’s lack of pace this weekend has thrown the race wide open, but questions remain is this after sixteen races and three sprints, where the teams record breaking run of wins comes to an end? The often chaotic and drama-filled Marina Bay circuit means that looks likely.
Verstappen also faces two post-session investigations by the stewards for impeding in the pit lane in Q1 and getting in Yuki Tsunoda’s way during Q2. There could also be a number of changes to the final starting grid with the stewards also investigating several other cars for impeding through the final four corners of the lap at the end of Q1.
Sainz said, “We have a very good car in certain tracks and certain conditions and like one lap, and [on] this sort of [track with] short exits and quick changes in direction, our car seems to be very good this weekend. Like in Monza, we know our weakness is always the race pace and we always pay a price.”
Russell added, “Really happy with this weekend as a whole. I feel really confident in the car. We have another set of medium tyres tomorrow, which nobody around us has had, so to get to Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is an exciting place to be.”
Kevin Magnussen was sixth going four hundredths faster than Fernando Alonso, the Aston Martin driver improving on his final lap beating his former teammate Esteban Ocon by six and a half hundredths of a tenth.
Alonso said he was happy with the lap and could not have gone any faster no matter how many times he tried, and admitted the team were “struggling a little bit”. But Alonso’s current teammate Lance Stroll caused a long delay after a huge crash through Turns Sixteen and Seventeenth.
As the Canadian tried to escape the Q1 drop zone, he had a huge wobble on the kerb and that sent him spinning at a 150MPH on a one-way ticket to the wall. Smashing the Aston Martin to bits the following red flag prevented several drivers from improving leading to them being knocked out in Q1.
Nico Hulkenberg was ninth going nearly half a second faster than Liam Lawson, the Alpha Tauri driver making it through to Q3 for the first time in his career. Verstappen was the surprise elimination in Q2, the championship favourite missing out on the top ten shoot out by seven thousandths of a second.
The Dutchman going a tenth faster than his former teammates Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon, though his current teammate Sergio Perez split the two. Perez was four hundredths behind Gasly, and ahead of Alex Albon by four-tenths with Yuki Tsunoda making it five either current or former Red Bull-backed drivers all knocked out in Q2.
All year, the car’s strength has been its gentle tyre wear in races, but this has meant its advantage has been reduced in qualifying because it struggles to get the tyres into the right temperature window. Qualifying has not been as strong, the issues that some expected to be resolved from practice weren’t.
Both Perez and Verstappen complained of a lack of rear grip, and in qualifying the runaway championship leader looked uncompetitive throughout this weekend. Verstappen only went tenth in Q2 on his final attempt, before being knocked out by the sister team Alpha Tauri driven by rookie Lawson. Further embarrassment was spared, Tsunoda aborting his lap after locking up at Connaught.
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, “I knew it would always be tough to put it on pole. But this I didn’t expect. It’s just a shocking experience and then trying to lean on the car in the slow speed, I was constantly sliding and no traction, just really difficult to drive.”
Meanwhile, Perez spun on his final attempt, leaving him twelfth.
Oscar Piastri was perhaps the most unlucky driver, going into the weekend he had received the upgrades which Norris had in Monza. Qualifying was proving very competitive and the Australian had been just pushed into the drop zone, but was appearing to do enough to get through.
However, as he exited Turn Seventeen Stroll had his crash bringing out the red flag, meaning his improvement was worthless sealing his Q1 knockout. The first time since McLaren’s upgrades in Austria one car had been knocked out in the first part of qualifying.
Logan Sargeant was fastest of those knocked out in Q1, the Williams driver half a hundredth ahead of Guanyu Zhou, while Stroll’s huge crash left him twentieth.
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