SINGAPORE: In a stunning turn of events at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Carlos Sainz of Ferrari clinched his second consecutive pole position, leaving Red Bull stunned and struggling to clear the Q2 stage during Singapore Grand Prix qualifying.
Sainz, who had hoped for a strong showing from Red Bull after a lacklustre Friday, watched as their troubles deepened. Sergio Perez’s spin-out in Q2 and Max Verstappen’s inability to find the necessary pace for a top-10 finish left the team reeling.
A heart-stopping moment occurred when Lance Stroll emerged unscathed from a major collision in the late stages of Q1. The incident led to a red flag and a temporary halt in proceedings.
Logan Sargeant, donning the distinctive Gulf livery on the Williams, led the initial charge as qualifying commenced. Verstappen’s early appearance on the track alongside teammate Sergio Perez hinted at Red Bull’s concerns.
The initial benchmark set by Sargeant at 1:35.098 was quickly surpassed, with Norris in the upgraded McLaren outpacing both Red Bulls. Leclerc briefly secured the top spot, closely followed by Perez, in the early stages of the session.
George Russell, driving Mercedes, entered the race, outpacing Leclerc with a time of 1:32.478. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton found himself in fifth place.
In Q1, there was less than 0.15 seconds separating the top five. A near-miss involving Esteban Ocon and the wall added to the tension. However, Stroll’s subsequent loss of control and a devastating collision with the wall brought Q1 to an abrupt end. Stroll, fortunately unharmed, joined Zhou Guanyu, Valtteri Bottas, Logan Sargeant, and Oscar Piastri in the Q1 elimination.
Following a delay for track cleanup and barrier repairs, Q2 commenced. Verstappen quickly set the pace before Kevin Magnussen of Haas overtook him. The Ferrari drivers and Norris further pushed Verstappen down the order.
Fernando Alonso’s impressive run, despite being on new soft tires, saw him claim the top spot temporarily. However, Russell’s formidable effort on the softs propelled him to P1. Verstappen’s struggles continued, and a spin by Sergio Perez sealed Red Bull’s fate, with both drivers eliminated.