Formula One

Forget about victory, says Verstappen after Saturday shocker

Reuters

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Forget about victory, says Verstappen after Saturday shocker

TOUGH DAY. Red Bull's Max Verstappen during practice in the Singapore Grand Prix.

Caroline Chia/REUTERS

‘I want to win, but when it's not possible you have to accept that,’ says F1 leader Max Verstappen as dominant Red Bull’s record run of 15 wins in a row looks set to end

SINGAPORE – Runaway Formula One leader Max Verstappen ruled out a record-extending 11th win in a row after a shocking Saturday for his Red Bull team in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying.

Champions Red Bull are on a run of 15 successive wins dating back to last year but that too looked set to end in Sunday’s hot and humid night race with Verstappen due to line up 11th on the starting grid and teammate Sergio Perez only 13th.

Asked if victory was now off the table, the Dutch 25-year-old, who has yet to finish lower than second this season and won 12 of 14 races, told reporters: “Yeah, you can forget about that.

“You can’t pass. On other tracks you can start last and win the race. But not here.”

The team that have won every race this season suddenly lacked balance and power with their two drivers too slow to make the cut for the final top 10 shoot-out at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

“That was… shocking, absolutely shocking experience,” Verstappen said over the team radio after being pushed down the order and out of contention by AlphaTauri’s rookie stand-in Liam Lawson.

“I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but it was a very tough weekend (and) in qualifying…it’s definitely been a long, long time (since) it’s been like this,” he told reporters.

“The first big problem that I had was that I couldn’t brake late and hard…and, you know, on a street circuit that is something very crucial.”

Team boss Christian Horner said changes made after Friday practice had not worked.

“It’s very, very confusing to have dropped the amount of pace we have,” he told Sky Sports F1 television.

“The car is not responding to changes – understeer, oversteer, braking issues…a lot for us to understand tonight and it will be very, very tough for us to make good progress tomorrow, but we will be trying very hard.”

The city-state’s street circuit has been shortened from last year, with two fewer corners due to construction works, adding another new factor.

Still, with a 145-point lead over nearest rival Perez atop the championship table and every chance of that expanding further on Sunday, Verstappen was fatalistic about the streak running out of road.

“I want to win, but when it’s not possible you have to accept that,” he said.

“We had a really good run anyway…I would always take a season where we’re winning this much and having one really bad weekend, rather than the other way around.

“It’s more important we understand what we did wrong.”

Carlos Sainz on pole 

Carlos Sainz put Ferrari on pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix, the Spaniard’s second in succession, as well as the Italian team’s third in four races.

People, Person, Adult
LEADERS. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (celebrates) celebrates qualifying in pole position with second place Mercedes’ George Russell (left) and third place Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the Singapore Grand Prix.

“I knew I had the pace. I knew I could do it,” said Sainz, who was also on pole at Ferrari’s home Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago but finished third behind the Red Bulls.

“Now more than ever it’s true that I want to get it done, not like in Monza,” said Sainz, who has Mercedes’ George Russell lurking alongside on the front row.

“Tomorrow we will try and get that win.”

Without the Red Bulls on track, rivals had all to play for and Sainz made his lap count with a best time of one minute 30.984 seconds.

Last year’s pole sitter Leclerc looked like securing a front row sweep for the Italian team but Russell came through with a time just 0.072 slower than Sainz.

McLaren’s Lando Norris will start fourth in his newly upgraded car with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, a four times winner in Singapore, fifth on the grid and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen sixth.

“I really hope George gets a great start tomorrow and puts some pressure on those Ferraris. It would be great for him to get a win,” said Hamilton.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso starts seventh with Alpine’s Esteban Ocon eighth, Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg ninth and AlphaTauri’s Liam Lawson 10th.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll crashed heavily at the final corner in the dying seconds of the opening session, bringing out the red flags and delaying the start of the second phase.

Stroll clambered unaided out of the wrecked car, which smashed into the barriers almost head-on and so hard that the front left wheel was ripped off, and was taken to the medical centre for checks.

The Canadian returned to the paddock later after getting the all-clear.

The red flags caught out McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar Piastri, whose final flying lap had to be aborted and left him 17th on the grid at a tight track where overtaking is a challenge.

“It should have been enough to get through,” he said of his lap up to that point. “It makes our evening tomorrow very difficult.” – Rappler.com

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