The king of pole is Leclerc! Monegasque Charles Leclerc signed his ninth pole position in Singapore in 2022, far ahead of Dutchman Max Vertappen, leader of the F1 world championship who will only start 8th for his first title chance.
Relegated to 116 points in the championship – too many to still believe in the title – Leclerc is catching up on pole positions: at this level, he leads hands down with his ninth peak position in 2022, against « only » four at Verstappen.
Leclerc will start ahead of the Mexican Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) and the Briton Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at night on Sunday at the Marina Bay circuit. The three drivers stood in just 54/1000th on Saturday.
A good omen for the Ferrari driver before the 17th round of the season on Sunday (starting at 8:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. French time), on a Marina Bay circuit where he had already set the best time in 2019 – without taking the Sunday grail. An urban layout that he necessarily likes, often compared to « his » Monegasque circuit surrounded by ruthless walls.
On the night in Singapore, for the return of F1 to Asia after two seasons of absence due to the pandemic, the circuit was all the more tricky as qualifying was played out on a drying track, with passages still wet from the heavy rains of the day.
« Qualifying was very, very tricky. In Q3 (last part of qualifying, editor’s note), we didn’t know what to do, we opted for the soft tire at the last moment“, explained Leclerc.
« I made a mistake on my last lap so I didn’t think I would get pole but it was enough in the end« , he added moments after the 18th pole of his career.
Enough because Verstappen, who set out to beat him in the dying seconds, was called back to the pits by his team at the very last moment. A decision that infuriated the Dutchman, at the time unable to explain the choice of his team.
« We’ll explain later », he slipped into the headset. This decision is explained by a lack of fuel at the end of the session, which could have cost the defending champion a disqualification.
Even starting 8th, Verstappen preserves his first chance of title in the city-state. In the event of victory, Verstappen must cross his fingers that Leclerc finishes ninth or above and Pérez fourth or above (without getting the fastest lap point) – or fifth or if the Mexican has the fastest lap point.
If he wins with the fastest lap point, Verstappen would even be titled if Leclerc finishes eighth, and Pérez fourth.
SINGAPORE « ONE OVEN »
An unlikely scenario that projects us to Suzuka next week, for the return to Japan, where « Mad Max » will have a more serious chance of being crowned for the second time in a row.
As Leclerc acknowledges, « It’s a question of time« before seeing Verstappen be titled.
If it’s not « not really“important to push back the title of the Dutchman, the Ferrari driver wants to win”as many races as possible » at the end of the season.
Starting with Sunday therefore, with a separate appointment. According to the drivers, Singapore is the toughest race on the calendar.
« For me if you survive Singapore then you are ready for everything else in F1« , explained Sainz on Saturday, comparing the Marina Bay circuit to « an oven« .
« The biggest challenge is to lose up to 2.5 kilos/litres from our body, with the impact this has on our concentration« , continued the French Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), who will start 7th Sunday behind Lando Norris (McLaren).
A challenge that Hamilton knows well, having won four times here. Past « very very closeFrom his 104th pole position on Saturday, which would have been the first in 2022, the seven-time world champion hopes to « fight » for his 104th victory on Sunday, to end a still virgin season.
The other French Esteban Ocon (Alpine) will only be 18th on Sunday at the start.