Sainz bests Russell for Singapore GP pole after Q2 meltdown for Verstappen

Carlos Sainz is on pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix after both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were eliminated in the bottom 10 on a disastrous day for Red Bull Racing.

The conclusion of the shocking qualifying session was delayed by more than half an hour to repair barriers following a high-speed Lance Stroll crash in Q1.

Championship leader Max Verstappen didn’t have the pace to progress to the pole shootout after a scrappy final lap in Q2 left him 11th on the grid and just 0.007s short of the cut-off time. Sergio Perez will start 13th after spinning out over the Turn 2 curb on his final lap.


Verstappen’s lap featured no major errors bar a minor moment of understeer through Turn 3, underlining the RB19’s weekend-long weakness in the first sector.

“Shocking,” Verstappen radioed in frustration. “Absolutely shocking experience.”

Ironically it was AlphaTauri rookie Liam Lawson who dropped Verstappen out of Q3 with a superb performance that made the New Zealander the only Red Bull-backed driver in the top 10 on the grid.

It had been a scruffy performance for Verstappen, who also faces three post-session investigations for impeding that could see him drop further down the order.

The first incident involved him stopping at the exit of the pit lane in Q1, preventing other cars from joining the circuit. Team radio appeared to suggest he may have had a problem but was ambiguous.

The second saw Verstappen on the racing line among a group of slow-moving cars on their out-laps in Q1 as a Williams driver sped through Turn 18 on a hot lap, requiring him to take evasive action.

The third involved Verstappen driving slowly on the racing line as Yuki Tsunoda closed on him, which forced the Japanese driver to abandon his lap.

With Verstappen and Perez out of contention — between them having claimed all but three of 14 grand prix poles this season — the door was open to Ferrari to capitalize on its surprisingly competitive pace in Singapore. But Sainz and Charles Leclerc were joined by Mercedes’s George Russell, with the trio on good form well ahead of the rest.

This threesome were closely matched through all three splits, but it was Sainz who managed to keep his tires alive for the duration of the lap, with purple times in the first and last sectors underlining his superiority and delivering him a second consecutive pole by a super-fine 0.072s.

“A bit like in Monza — really hitting the ground running from FP1 and feeling very confident through all of the sessions and putting it all together for Q3,” Sainz said of the performance through brought him top spot. “We have a very good car in certain track and certain conditions, like one lap, and these sorts of short apexes, quick changes of direction, our car seems to be very good.”

With the normally dominant Red Bull Racing cars so far back, Sainz said he was hoping to make Ferrari the first other team to win a race in 2023.

“That would feel amazing, and that’s the target,” he said. “I’ll give it everything, like I gave in Monza, and hopefully tomorrow it’s enough.”

Russell split the Ferrari drivers with second on the grid, the Briton was optimistic that he could usurp both for victory.

“It was definitely a challenging session. I’m really, really, happy with this weekend as a whole,” he said.

“To get to the Q3 and be on the front row with a strategic advantage tomorrow is an exciting place to be,” he added, referring to an extra set of fresh medium tires that he saved during practice for a potential race-day advantage.

Leclerc was demoted to third by just 0.007s, but the Monegasque was reserved about Ferrari’s chances in the race.

“We’ve had a very good performance,” he said. “Honestly, we did not expect to be so competitive on a track like this. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Lando Norris was fourth ahead of Lewis Hamilton and the surprise appearance of Kevin Magnussen, who capitalized on the unpredictable session for just his third Q3 berth of the season.

Fernando Alonso qualified seventh and 0.631s off the pace, pipping Esteban Ocon, Nico Hulkenberg and the on-form Lawson in 10th.

Verstappen qualified 11th ahead of Pierre Gasly, Perez, Alex Albon and Tsunoda in Q2.

The pause between Q1 and Q2 was extended to more than half an hour to clean up after a monster Lance Stroll crash that required extensive barrier repairs a the last turn.

Stroll was on his final lap of Q1 when he carried too much speed through the 145mph left-handed Turn 18 and rode the curb on exit, which shot him out of control into the outside wall on the outside of Turn 19. The Canadian’s car made headfirst contact with the barrier, ripping off his left-front wheel and collapsing his rear wing.

The energy of the impact propelled the car back into the middle of the road, where it came to rest just as Norris sped around the final corner on his last qualifying lap. The Briton was fortunate not to strike the errant wheel as it crossed the track towards the pit wall.

Stroll was given the all-clear by FIA doctors after extricating himself from the car and walking away from the scene of the crash.

The session was stopped with all 18 minutes having already expired, costing several drivers their chance to progress into the top 15 after some frantic final moments of Q1 in which most drivers were massively improving their times.

Valtteri Bottas will start 16th ahead of McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, who was on course to progress to Q2 before Stroll’s crash.

Logan Sargeant qualified 18th ahead of Zhou Guanyu and the crashed Stroll.

Story originally appeared on Racer