Prancing Horse 'Progresses' To Pole Position

Shocking day for Red Bull at the Marina Bay Street Circuit

16 September, Singapore – Carlos Sainz took his first pole position as the Marina Bay Street Circuit witnessed one of its most dramatic qualifying sessions at the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2023.

Sainz took his second successive pole with a lap of 1:30.984 to edge out George Russell’s Mercedes by just 0.072 of a second with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc third, a further seven-thousands behind.

“We are definitely making a bit of progress,” said 29-year-old Spaniard in what may be the understatement of the year. “We hit the ground running from FP1 and went on from there. It was a bit of a messy session for everyone but we kept the focus. Tomorrow I’m going to give it everything.”

“It was definitely a challenging session,” said Russell, “but you have to keep your composure and keep cool.” British compatriot Lando Norris put his seriously upgraded #4 McLaren into fourth place while Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes maintained his record of never qualifying out of the top five in Singapore.

Kevin Magnussen, owner of the fastest lap on the longer track layout of previous years, renewed his own love affair with Singapore, putting his Haas on the third row of the grid, with teammate Nico Hülkenberg rounding off a great day for the American team in ninth spot. Between them are the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon’s Alpine.

Liam Lawson continued his impressive form since taking over the AlphaTauri from the injured Daniel Ricciardo, the 21-year-old New Zealander qualifying 10th ahead of teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

A disastrous day for the previously untouchable Red Bulls saw championship leader Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Pérez, winner in Singapore last year, knocked out in the 15-minute Q2 segment for the first time since 2018.

Verstappen described his final quick lap as “an absolutely shocking experience” to end a day when he complained long and loud about his RB19’s gearshifts. “I knew it was going to be tough to put it on pole,” said Verstappen, “but this I didn’t expect. The car was undriveable. It will be a long, tough afternoon tomorrow.”

To cap it all Verstappen’s on-track behaviour earned him not one but two calls to see the race stewards, first for holding other drivers up in the pit lane during Q1 and later for impeding Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri at Turn 4 in Q2. He shrugged that part of his day off: “It was just so messy, it doesn’t matter if you start 11th or 15th.”

There was a lengthy stoppage after the 18-minute Q1 segment, which ended with Lance Stroll climbing unaided from his Aston Martin after a high-speed accident on the final corner which brought out the red flag.

Alfa Romeo duo Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu could not celebrate their new contracts as they were eliminated along with Stroll, American Logan Sargeant in his Williams and the luckless Oscar Piastri, whose McLaren was unable to complete its flying lap when the red flag was shown.

“I was in the final corner,” said the rueful Australian. “It wasn’t the best lap I’ve ever driven but it should have been enough to get through.”

In the day’s other track action series leader Florian Latorre of France reasserted himself with a 1.313-second win over determined pursuer Kailuo Luo of China in the first 12-lap race of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia event. Latorre set fastest lap of 2:05.061, an average of 142.090 km/h, on lap 6.

In TSS The Super Series action Thai polesitter Tanart Sathienthirakul started poorly but fought back to end up a runaway winner of the first 25-minute invitational race, 10.520 seconds clear of China’s Lin Hao. The winner also set fastest lap with a 2:14.171 or 132.547 km/h on his sixth lap.

So we know how crucial qualifying is at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, where eight of the 13 races have been won from pole. Will Sainz underline that important statistic – or might another new Singapore winner be waiting in the wings?

The day’s off-track entertainment saw concerts by The Kooks, Kings of Leon, and Culture Club in the Circuit Park, with Post Malone capping them off with a performance to a crowd of 65,000 at the Zone 4 Padang stage after the Formula 1 Qualifying session.