A tense and tight qualifying session at the Marina Bay Street Circuit saw Max qualify fourth for the Singapore Grand Prix, while teammate Alex will start his first night race in the Lion City from sixth place on the grid.
With red flags always a risk on the tight and demanding street circuit, the start of Q1 was an uncharacteristically busy period, with 17 cars on track in the opening minutes of the session.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led the way after the opening runs with a time of 1:38.014 and Max slotted into P2 with a time of 1:38.540 that put him ahead of the Mercedes cars of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who opted to complete their opening runs on medium tyres. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went for a second lap, however, and he managed to bump Max to third place with a lap of 1:38.374. Alex, meanwhile, found himself in P8 after the first runs with a time of 1:39.106.
The top three then opted to remain in the pit lane for the final runs. Mercedes chose to send its drivers out on softs and Bottas took first place with a lap of 1:37.317. Hamilton then took second with a lap 0.268 slower. That meant that Max progressed to Q2 in fifth place. Alex too elected to sit out the final runs and as the final runs arrived he dropped to tenth place at the end of the session.
Eliminated at the end of the first session were P16-placed Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso followed by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the Williams cars of George Russell and Robert Kubica.
In the first runs of Q2 Leclerc led the way, with the Monegasque driver becoming the first man to dip below 1m37s with a lap of 1:36.930 that he then improved to 1:36.650. Vettel took second place, seven hundredths of a second behind his teammate. Hamilton was third for Mercedes after a second run that yielded an improved time of 1:36.933.
That left Max in fourth place thanks to his first-run time of 1:37.089. He and Alex, who was in P7 after the first runs, went out on track at the end of the session but both backed out of their final flying laps when it became clear they were safe. Alex made it into Q3 with a time of 1:37.865 that saw him progress behind fifth-placed Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Eliminated at the end of the second segment were P11-placed Sergio Pérez of Racing Point, Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, the second Alfa of Kimi Räikkönen and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
In Q3 Vettel drew first blood with the German taking top spot with a time of 1:36.437. That put him over three tenths ahead of Leclerc who set a time slower than his Q2 best and Max who improved over his Q2 best to post a time of 1:36.817. The Mercedes drivers were fourth and fifth and Alex posted a time of 1:37.964 to take P6, slightly slower than his Q2 time.
However, Vettel couldn’t hold onto P1. Mistakes in the first sector saw him back out of his last lap and that allowed Leclerc to grab his fifth career pole position ahead of Hamilton.
Vettel kept hold of third place on the grid and though Max improved, by the tiny amount of three thousandths of a second, he had to settle for fourth place ahead of Bottas. Alex also improved on his final run, by the much larger margin of half a second, to claim sixth place.
The Thai racer will thus start at the back of row three ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, the Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Hulkenberg and the second McLaren of Lando Norris.
18 – Max’s P4 is the team’s 18th top-five qualifying in Singapore.
2 – It’s set to be Max’s second P4 start in Singapore. His last second row start was in 2016. He started from the front row in 2018 and 2017.
6 – Sixth is Alex’s best qualifying position so far in F1. The Thai racer’s previous best was last time out in Italy where he qualified eighth.
Singapore Grand Prix - Qualifying Top 10:
1. Charles Leclerc
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Sebastian Vettel
4. MAX VERSTAPPEN
5. Valtteri Bottas
6. ALEX ALBON
7. Carlos Sainz
8. Daniel Ricciardo
9. Nico Hulkenberg
10. Lando Norris