Scuderia Ferrari had come out of qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix with a result that neither Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel were expecting.
Leclerc’s last effort in Q3 had elevated the Monegasque driver to his fifth career pole in Formula 1, and Ferrari’s sixth of the season in the process.
Despite the race winner of Spa and Monza doubting that he had any chance of having as successful of a weekend and being over a second off rival Lewis Hamilton on Friday, his SF90 improved drastically in Free Practice 3 and through qualifying.
Leclerc’s focus will now be on the race, especially the start, as overtaking is predicted to be difficult on the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
“Coming to Singapore, we expected to have a difficult weekend,” Leclerc said. “I struggled with the car yesterday and was not satisfied with my driving. I knew that there was more to extract and focused on the improvements I had to make on myself to do a better job today.
“Pole felt out of reach but this morning, the car came alive and felt great. The team in our factory in Maranello did an incredible job to make this result possible by giving us the high-downforce package we need on this track.
“The lap itself was not perfect. I made some mistakes and there were some close calls. To finish it like this just feels amazing. I have to keep my head down now and stay focused. It is difficult to overtake here, so the start will be the most important part of the race for me. I hope it will be an exciting one.”
Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile was not “completely satisifed” with his performance in Q3, as a mistake on his last run compromised his hopes of taking only his second pole of the season.
The German instead lined up behind not only his team-mate but Hamilton as well, thus in third position. The four-time race winner of Singapore is still in the frame to challenge the top two in the Grand Prix but will have a fight on his hands to make the most of the opportunities to get ahead.
“I’m not completely satisfied with my Q3, as I wasn’t able to improve on my second attempt,” Vettel added.
“I made a mistake in sector 1 and I realised I was not improving, so I decided to abort the lap. It started off very well, but I wasn’t able to put together the lap I potentially had. Overall, first and third is great for the team and even if I cannot be entirely happy we can say that we were able to extract the most from today.
“The new parts we have on the car worked as expected this weekend, since we are not losing out in the corners to the extent that we were in in Hungary, a track quite similar to this. We were able to extract more performance and also, in terms of race pace, I think we can be competitive.
“Yesterday we suffered with a lack of front grip, but tonight as the temperature dropped, it was better for us, the balance also improved from yesterday to today. The race will be really long but I think we could have some opportunities.”
Team Principal Mattia Binotto was glad to see his Ferrari team improve after the tricky conditions of Friday that saw Leclerc and Vettel struggle.
He says there are improvements still needed but believes that his squad are on the “right path” going into Sunday’s race.
“Today things went better than we had hoped,” Binotto shared. “After the two wins in Spa-Francorchamps and Monza we all came out here somehow hoping to continue the momentum and do something special, and somehow we did it.
“We brought a new aero package here, which proved positive but more importantly, it shows that our development is going in the right direction. We have clearly identified our weaknesses and we are addressing them, which is also useful for next year. I still believe that our rivals are very strong and that we need to improve in some areas but at least we are on the right path.
“Charles set an impressive pole by extracting the maximum from the car, which around here is extremely tricky and he took some risks. He hasn’t put a foot wrong and has improved his confidence throughout the season.
“It was a shame for Sebastian, who had a fantastic first attempt and was doing very well in the second. He could have easily been on the front row and has proved again today that he can be very fast and that’s very important for him.
“But the race is tomorrow, we should not forget that, and starting at the front in Singapore is always very important. What we achieved today is very good.”