F1 Raceweek: Leclerc looks to leave rivals and team-mate Vettel in his wake again

Oleh Ben Spratt 22 September 2019 7
F1 Raceweek: Leclerc looks to leave rivals and team-mate Vettel in his wake again

Charles Leclerc insisted he could only take limited satisfaction from a stunning performance in qualifying at the Singapore Grand Prix as real success would be a third straight victory.

The breakout Ferrari star claimed pole position for a third consecutive race, having won from the front in the prior two.

Leclerc's outstanding performance - and that of Sebastian Vettel, third in his Ferrari - was unexpected by rival Lewis Hamilton, as he acknowledged, but also by the Italian team themselves.

Ferrari brought upgrades to Singapore but could not have anticipated such a sensational qualifying result on a track where Mercedes and Red Bull were favoured.

Even with the upgrades, Ferrari had struggled earlier in the week. But Leclerc suggested his driving was at fault.

"I was not happy with my driving yesterday," he told a news conference on Saturday. "It was not a great day for me.

"So, I improved quite a lot driving today and also we improved the balance quite a bit from yesterday to today."

He is now looking for another triumph, building on successes in Belgium and Italy.

"It feels great but you enjoy qualifying for a very short time because then you need to focus on the race," Leclerc said. "In the end, there are no points awarded for the pole position, which is a shame.

"It's great, it's very good to see that we are on pole on a track like this where we expected to struggle but, on the other hand, for me personally, I'm just focusing on the race now.

"I will, of course, be very happy if I'm in the same position tomorrow."

Vettel will hope to be able to compete on Sunday, potentially finally ending a winless run that goes back to Belgium last season, as he feels he is capable of matching Leclerc's performance.

"The car was good and I felt good, so it's obviously a shame that I didn't put together the last attempt in Q3," he said. "But I think it was there today."
 

HAMILTON HOPING FOR HELP OF HIS OWN

Hamilton repeatedly referred to Ferrari's upgrades as he reflected on being pipped to pole by Leclerc, saying: "They've not been so strong in Budapest, for example, and all of a sudden they've brought an upgrade here and it seems to have worked."

The Mercedes superstar suggested he was already looking forward to similar tweaks that would make it easier for the Silver Arrows to match Ferrari's pace.

"It was clearly a big step for them and we'll just keep pushing," he said. "We've not had an upgrade really for a while, so maybe, when that comes, it'll help us a little bit."
 

MORE WOE FOR RENAULT AND RICCIARDO

Daniel Ricciardo's first season at Renault has not at all gone to plan and he was hit with another setback late on Saturday.

A Renault official was called before the stewards after it was reported the Australian's car, having qualified eighth, had exceeded its power limit in Q1.

His result was later disqualified, meaning he is set to start from the pit lane on Sunday, a tough ask within the tight confines of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
 

THE GRID

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari)
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)
6. Alex Albon (Red Bull)
7. Carlos Sainz (McLaren)
8. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault)
9. Lando Norris (McLaren)
10. Sergio Perez (Racing Point)

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg
2015: Sebastian Vettel

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 284
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 221 (-63)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 185 (-99)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 182 (-102)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 169 (-115)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 505
2. Ferrari 351 (-154)
3. Red Bull 266 (-239)
4. McLaren 83 (-422)
5. Renault 65 (-440)

WEATHER FORECAST 

Another warm, dry day is anticipated on Sunday, with temperatures potentially reaching 33 degrees Celsius and only 20 per cent chance of rain. Given the similar conditions in qualifying, Leclerc and Hamilton should be set for another tussle.

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Ben Spratt

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