Leclerc confident Ferrari can win if they have “a two-hour clean Sunday”

2022 Singapore Grand Prix pre-race analysis

Posted on

| Written by

In recent seasons, the Formula 1 calendar has bloated to its current 22-race size in no small part due to the addition of many new street circuits.

The Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay circuit, however, is not an artificial street circuit like Jeddah or Miami – purpose-built and lined with walls out of design rather than necessity. And while it traverses actual city streets, much like Monaco, it has far longer straights and more frequent overtaking opportunities than drivers could ever dream of having around Monte-Carlo.

With its energy-sapping humidity and punishingly race length, which regularly skirts the two-hour maximum limit, the Singapore round is perhaps the greatest physical challenge drivers will face all season. And after a 100% Safety Car deployment rate across the 12 previous editions, there is no such thing as a straightforward Singapore Grand Prix.

But as eight of the 12 previous editions of Formula 1’s original night race were won from pole, Charles Leclerc can rightly feel confident heading into Sunday after securing the top spot on the grid – despite spoiling his final lap with an error, only to be let off the hook by Red Bull’s costly fuel misjudgement for Max Verstappen.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Singapore, 2022
Perez was just two-hundredths of a second from pole
“Not my last lap, but the one just before was really good and was the lap for pole,” said Leclerc. “And my last lap, unfortunately I did a mistake. It wouldn’t have changed anything, but maybe if Max had finished the lap, we probably would have lost pole for this mistake.”

Red Bull signed Sergio Perez almost two years ago largely on the basis that he would be able to fight up front for them if and when Verstappen would be out of contention. And when their misjudgement left Verstappen down in eighth, Perez was just two-hundredths away from denying Leclerc pole, with only a small mistake of his own ultimately keeping him from a third career pole.

“I had a big moment into turn 13,” said Perez. “We’ve been struggling a lot with the driveability and I had a massive moment under braking, which I’m happy just to complete the lap because I lost quite a bit of lap time.

“It’s a bit disappointing to be so close to pole, But on the other hand, it’s a good result and I think we are in a good position to fight from there.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

In third on the grid sits a third different car – the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton, starting further up the order than it has all season. All throughout the year, the Mercedes’ form has yo-yo’d almost as much as the W13 itself has over bumps. After a modest start to the weekend on Friday, Hamilton was thrilled to have been only five-hundredths of a second away from his first pole this year.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Singapore, 2022
Hamilton bagged his best starting position of the season so far
“I was pushing so hard and it was incredibly close,” Hamilton said. “It was really difficult to get to a position where we could be fighting for first place and I just didn’t have enough grip on the last lap.

“Coming here, we didn’t know how close we could be this weekend. We knew we’d be stronger than in Monza, but we didn’t know exactly how much. Nonetheless, I am grateful to be on the second row tomorrow.”

Verstappen will wake up on Sunday knowing that there is now only a slim chance he could end that day as a double world champion. But while he has won multiple grands prix in recent months from positions lower down than eighth, he doesn’t seem quite as sure he will emulate those stunning drives through the field in Singapore.

Alex Albon, Williams, Singapore, 2022
Rain in final practice thwarted teams’ efforts to gather data
“We’ll see what we can do tomorrow but I think it will be a frustrating race,” he said. “Starting eighth around here is similar to Monaco, there aren’t many overtaking opportunities and it’s really hard to pass.”

But over 61 laps and nearly two hours of racing in swelteringly thick heat, there is a lot of racing to unfold for Verstappen and the other 19 drivers tomorrow. And while Singapore is the closest thing Formula 1 has to an endurance race, it could be made even tougher should Saturday’s heavy rain reappear on Sunday.

If it stays dry, Pirelli predict a one-stop strategy is optimal – likely seeing teams starting on the mediums before switching to the hards for the second stint. The alternative to that would be to start on softs to give extra grip off the line and in the opening laps, but that may be a risky move given the limited dry running many of the front-running drivers had over the first two days.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

That lack of data remains a particular concern for Leclerc, whose Friday running was disrupted by car trouble, heading into the longest night of the season.

“Overall, I think the feeling with the car has been great all weekend long,” he explained. “Yes, we are missing a little bit of data for the race tomorrow but that doesn’t concern me too much. We just need to try and do everything perfect. And I’m pretty sure the result will be there.”

Perez agrees it’s hard to know what to expect from tomorrow’s race as the wet final practice session denied all drivers that final hour of dry running.

“We’re going blind tomorrow,” Perez admitted. “We don’t have much information on the long run, so it will be interesting.

“I think it’s a place where deg[radation] seems to be really high and obviously the conditions – we are expecting a bit of rain just before the race, so there are still a lot of unknowns. But certainly we don’t have much information so we will find out tomorrow.”

Hamilton was in no mind to make bold predictions about Mercedes’ victory prospects for Sunday, stating that his chances lay best in being smart with strategy rather than out-and-out performance compared to the pair ahead of him on the grid. If a one-stop strategy does prove the best approach to take, then heating up fresh tyres on a long out-lap could make or break the race for the leaders – something Leclerc will be aware has been a weakness for Mercedes this season.

FIA Safety Car, Singapore, 2022
The Safety Car has appeared in every Singapore Grand Prix
“Strategy’s going to be very important,” said Leclerc, who lost victory from pole at this track three years ago when Ferrari dropped him behind then-team mate Sebastian Vettel during the pit stops. “I think we are in a bit of a different situation compared to 2019 with the strategy. It should make it more exciting, but the undercut will definitely be a thing tomorrow.”

While Leclerc will be under no illusions that he can never be safe from Verstappen potentially charging through the field yet again, he will also not need reminding about the plethora of frustrating means by which Ferrari and he have lost likely wins this season. But Leclerc assures that he and his team are better prepared to win than ever.

“Before coming to this weekend, our focus for the last part of the race is to improve on the Sunday execution,” Leclerc said. “So we’ll put all our effort to have a two-hour clean Sunday and if we do then I’m pretty sure the performance will be there.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Qualifying times in full

PositionNumberDriverTeamQ1 timeQ2 time (vs Q1)Q3 time (vs Q2)
116Charles LeclercFerrari1’54.1291’52.343 (-1.786s)1’49.412 (-2.931s)
211Sergio PerezRed Bull1’54.4041’52.818 (-1.586s)1’49.434 (-3.384s)
344Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’53.1611’52.691 (-0.470s)1’49.466 (-3.225s)
455Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’54.5591’53.219 (-1.340s)1’49.583 (-3.636s)
514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’55.3601’53.127 (-2.233s)1’49.966 (-3.161s)
64Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’55.9141’53.942 (-1.972s)1’50.584 (-3.358s)
710Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’55.6061’53.546 (-2.060s)1’51.211 (-2.335s)
81Max VerstappenRed Bull1’53.0571’52.723 (-0.334s)1’51.395 (-1.328s)
920Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’55.1031’54.006 (-1.097s)1’51.573 (-2.433s)
1022Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Red Bull1’55.3141’53.848 (-1.466s)1’51.983 (-1.865s)
1163George RussellMercedes1’54.6331’54.012 (-0.621s)Missed by 0.006s
1218Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’55.6291’54.211 (-1.418s)Missed by 0.205s
1347Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’55.7361’54.370 (-1.366s)Missed by 0.364s
145Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’55.6021’54.380 (-1.222s)Missed by 0.374s
1524Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’55.3751’55.518 (+0.143s)Missed by 1.512s
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’56.083Missed by 0.169s
173Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’56.226Missed by 0.312s
1831Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’56.337Missed by 0.423s
1923Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’56.985Missed by 1.071s
206Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’57.532Missed by 1.618s

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Sector times

PositionNumberDriverSector oneSector twoSector threeUltimate lapDeficit to ultimate lap
116Charles Leclerc29.095 (4)41.554 (5)38.419 (1)1’49.0680.344
21Max Verstappen28.802 (1)41.274 (2)39.164 (7)1’49.2402.155
311Sergio Perez28.94 (2)41.455 (3)39.039 (3)1’49.434
444Lewis Hamilton29.169 (5)41.186 (1)39.111 (4)1’49.466
555Carlos Sainz Jnr28.961 (3)41.463 (4)39.159 (6)1’49.583
614Fernando Alonso29.388 (7)41.723 (6)38.855 (2)1’49.966
74Lando Norris29.312 (6)42.141 (7)39.131 (5)1’50.584
810Pierre Gasly29.55 (9)42.31 (8)39.351 (8)1’51.211
920Kevin Magnussen29.559 (10)42.412 (9)39.602 (10)1’51.573
1022Yuki Tsunoda29.452 (8)42.774 (10)39.727 (15)1’51.9530.030
1118Lance Stroll30.113 (12)43.665 (11)39.621 (13)1’53.3990.812
1263George Russell30.118 (13)43.96 (12)39.6 (9)1’53.6780.334
135Sebastian Vettel30.178 (14)44.207 (13)39.605 (11)1’53.9900.390
1447Mick Schumacher30.101 (11)44.481 (14)39.61 (12)1’54.1920.178
1524Zhou Guanyu30.536 (16)45.174 (16)39.631 (14)1’55.3410.034
1677Valtteri Bottas30.64 (19)45.02 (15)40.423 (18)1’56.083
173Daniel Ricciardo30.592 (18)45.297 (17)40.337 (17)1’56.226
1831Esteban Ocon30.589 (17)45.47 (18)40.213 (16)1’56.2720.065
1923Alexander Albon30.493 (15)45.748 (19)40.744 (19)1’56.985
206Nicholas Latifi30.674 (20)46.091 (20)40.767 (20)1’57.532

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Speed trap

PositionNumberDriverCarEngineModelMax kph (mph)
11Max VerstappenRed BullRed BullRB18287.4 (178.6)
211Sergio PerezRed BullRed BullRB18287.1 (178.4)
323Alexander AlbonWilliamsMercedesFW44285.9 (177.6)
416Charles LeclercFerrariFerrariF1-75285.4 (177.3)
56Nicholas LatifiWilliamsMercedesFW44285.3 (177.3)
610Pierre GaslyAlphaTauriRed BullAT03285.2 (177.2)
744Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedesW13284.4 (176.7)
855Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariFerrariF1-75284.4 (176.7)
922Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauriRed BullAT03283.7 (176.3)
1063George RussellMercedesMercedesW13283.3 (176.0)
114Lando NorrisMcLarenMercedesMCL36283.3 (176.0)
1214Fernando AlonsoAlpineRenaultA522283.1 (175.9)
1320Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrariVF-22282.5 (175.5)
145Sebastian VettelAston MartinMercedesAMR22282 (175.2)
153Daniel RicciardoMcLarenMercedesMCL36281.4 (174.9)
1647Mick SchumacherHaasFerrariVF-22281 (174.6)
1718Lance StrollAston MartinMercedesAMR22280.7 (174.4)
1831Esteban OconAlpineRenaultA522279.6 (173.7)
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa RomeoFerrariC42279.5 (173.7)
2077Valtteri BottasAlfa RomeoFerrariC42278.8 (173.2)

Over to you

Will Leclerc avenge his lost win from three years ago? Can Verstappen find a way to win his sixth race in a row despite starting from eighth place?

Or will another driver fight their way to the front? Share your views on the Singapore Grand Prix in the comments.

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing aceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

2022 Singapore Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Singapore Grand Prix articles

Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

5 comments on “Leclerc confident Ferrari can win if they have “a two-hour clean Sunday””

  1. “Strategy’s going to be very important,” said Leclerc, who lost victory from pole at this track three years ago when Ferrari dropped him behind then-team mate Sebastian Vettel during the pit stops. “I think we are in a bit of a different situation compared to 2019 with the strategy. It should make it more exciting, but the undercut will definitely be a thing tomorrow

    For those who do not remember, in 2019, Vettel gained almost 4 seconds by pitting one lap earlier than Leclerc.

  2. all the front runners will be on softs, I predict. They will change to mediums at the first safety car. I say this because nobody can risk go backwards if they were to start on mediums and their grid mate started on softs. The track is green.

  3. Will Leclerc avenge his lost win from three years ago? – No, I feel he somehow ends up losing again.
    Can Verstappen find a way to win his sixth race in a row despite starting from an eighth place? – Yes, & partly related to the above.
    Or will another driver fight their way to the front? – Unlikely. However, anything’s possible, especially if wet weather conditions re-strike.

  4. Fingers well crossed for Charles.
    Here’s hoping there’s not yet another classical Ferrari strategy fugup.

  5. I like the ultimate lap column – it would be interesting to see how often the pole sitter actually nails all three sectors.

Comments are closed.