Leclerc pips Hamilton in Singapore for fifth pole position of the season

Italian Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc proved once again why he is currently the hottest property on the Formula One grid by beating Lewis Hamilton to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix.

Although a sixth world title is all but in the bag for the incredible Englishman, Leclerc now appears to be his biggest threat in the immediate future, securing a third consecutive pole position after his 1m36.217s mark beat Hamilton’s time by 0.191s. Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel was third, ahead of the Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

“I’m extremely happy about today,” Leclerc is quoted on BBC Sport. “It was a very good lap but there were some moments when I thought I had lost the car, but I took it back.  I would like to thank the team so much. We came here knowing it would be a difficult track for us but we brought the package we needed.

“We brought some new bits that worked properly which is not always the case and was good to see. I have had a very tough Friday – it was not my day and I did not feel comfortable in the car. But I worked hard and today it paid off and I am very happy.”

Despite suffering a difficult Friday as a result of a gearbox failure, Leclerc once again excelled when it mattered the most, dialling in a perfect lap at just the right time in a Ferrari boosted by a new aerodynamic upgrade.

But on a circuit that seemingly should suit Mercedes down to the ground in full race conditions, Hamilton could very well still be the man to beat on Sunday. And Leclerc will certainly have to watch his defensive manoeuvres this time if under attack from the Silver Arrow, having been twice cautioned with a black and white flag in Monza.

“I don’t know where Ferrari picked up their pace today because this should not be potentially one of their tracks,” said Hamilton. “Charles did a great job and I needed a really special lap at the end. It was as much as I could get out of the car and I happy to split them. I think we can be aggressive tomorrow.”

The qualifying session was not without incident, both Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen clipping the wall and affecting visible damage to their respective wheel rims.

McLaren and Renault now appear to be involved in an intriguing fight for ‘best of the rest’ behind the big three teams, Carlos Sainz lining up seventh on the grid ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg with teammate Lando Norris tenth.

And after his spectacular drive in Monza, Sergio Perez will be hoping for more of the same for Acronis partner team Racing Point after being demoted from 11th on the grid to 16th due to a gearbox replacement.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.