Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Singapore, 2023

Sainz beats Russell to Singapore pole as neither Red Bull reaches Q3

Formula 1

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Carlos Sainz Jnr secured his second consecutive pole position in Singapore, beating George Russell as neither Red Bull driver reached Q3.

Sainz converted his practice pace into pole around the Marina Bay Street Circuit as Russell split the two Ferraris with Charles Leclerc third. Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez were both eliminated from Q2, with Verstappen under multiple investigations for potentially impeding rivals.


Qualifying began with the 13 of the 20 drivers taking to the track, all on soft tyres. The two Mercedes and Alpines, plus Yuki Tsunoda, Fernando Alonso and Alexander Albon were all content remaining in the garage to run out of sync with the rest of the field.

Among those who headed out early, Lando Norris set the initial pace with a 1’32.556, just seven-thousandths ahead of Sergio Perez. Max Verstappen could not match either of them, going almost three tenths of a second slower than his team mate on his first effort. Charles Leclerc then put Ferrari on top of the times with a 1’32.523 with his first push lap of qualifying.

The two Mercedes headed out for their first laps, with George Russell just ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Russell’s first lap was fastest of all, half a tenth quicker than Leclerc, while Hamilton split the Red Bulls to go fifth.

After cooling their tyres, most drivers attempted second push laps on their softs. Verstappen replaced Russell at the top of the times sheet with a lap eight-hundredths faster, before Carlos Sainz Jnr returned Ferrari to first with his next flying lap attempt.

With five minutes remaining, the entire field returned to the pits to fit new tyres. Lance Stroll, the two Williams of Logan Sargeant and Alexander Albon and the two Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu were all in need of improving.

A major traffic jam occurred in the final sector as drivers prepared for their final efforts. The track was clearly improving rapidly as Tsunoda jumped to the top of the times while his team mate Liam Lawson and the Haas drivers all moved into the top five on their final laps.

Stroll needed to post a faster lap to have any chance of safety, but the Aston Martin driver lost control on the exit of the final corner and crashed hard into the outside barrier, wrecking his car and bringing an immediate red flag. Thankfully the oncoming Norris swerved to avoid the wreck and Stroll climbed out of the car seemingly unhurt.

The session was effectively ended in an instant, with Stroll eliminated after crashing at the end of a lap that until then looked like being good enough to put him through into Q2.

Bottas was the first driver eliminated in 16th, with Oscar Piastri caught out by the red flag which prevented him from completing a lap he was improving on and leaving him stranded in 17th. Sargeant was eliminated in 18th, but will be investigated by the stewards for allegedly impeding Lance Stroll at turn eight early in the session. Zhou Guanyu was the final driver knocked out in 19th place, aside from Stroll who will start from the very back of the grid.

Following the session the stewards also announced Verstappen would be investigated for impending drivers at the pit lane exit.

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Q1 result

122Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’31.9916
211Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’32.0990.1088
327Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’32.1000.1099
440Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’32.2150.2249
520Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’32.2420.2519
663George RussellMercedesW141’32.3310.3406
755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’32.3390.3488
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’32.3690.3786
91Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’32.3980.4078
1016Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’32.4060.4159
1110Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’32.4520.4616
124Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’32.4830.4929
1314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’32.5840.5936
1444Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’32.6510.6605
1523Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’32.6680.6776
1677Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’32.8090.8189
1781Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’32.9020.9119
182Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’33.2521.2619
1924Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’33.2581.2679
2018Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’33.3971.4068

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After a delay of more than half an hour to repair the barriers on the exit of the final corner due to Stroll’s crash, the second phase of qualifying began almost a full hour after Q1 had begun. During the suspension, race control announced several drivers would be investigated after qualifying for potential impeding infringements due to the traffic jam at the end of Q1.

Verstappen took to the track on a fresh set of soft tyres and set the first time of the session with a 1’32.310, but immediately expressed his unhappiness with his car over team radio. Underlining the scale of the problems Red Bull faced, Verstappen’s time team was immediately beaten by Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. Lando Norris and Sainz also beat the Red Bull driver’s mark.

Fernando Alonso showed what the Aston Martin was capable of by posting a new quickest time of the weekend with a 1’31.835. That put him a tenth ahead of Sainz, before Russell went even faster with his fresh soft tyres to put Mercedes on top with a 1’31.743. Once again, all cars returned to the pits and the track fell silent.

Verstappen’s plight worsened: The stewards announced he was under investigation for another potential infringement, this time involving Tsunoda, who claimed the Red Bull driver had got in his way at turn four. That investigation, will also take place at the end of the session.

Eventually all cars headed out of the pits for their final laps, all 15 drivers on new soft tyres. In the final minutes, the drop zone consisted of Perez in tenth, Nico Hulkenberg, Liam Lawson, Albon and Tsunoda. But as Perez attempted to improve on his final lap, he spun his car at turn three, leaving him vulnerable. When Hulkenberg improved to go into the top ten, Perez was doomed to elimination.

But the hurt was not over for Red Bull as Verstappen could only improve to tenth, meaning he was also vulnerable to being knocked out. Astonishingly, it was AlphaTauri substitute Lawson who delivered the coup de grace: The rookie in his third race was seven-thousandths of a second faster than Verstappen, meaning the championship leader was eliminated from Q2 and will not start inside the top 10.

Pierre Gasly was knocked out in 12th, between the two Red Bulls, with Albon also out in 14th. Tsunoda was the final car eliminated having abandoned his final lap of the session.

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Q2 result

155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’31.43914
263George RussellMercedesW141’31.7430.30411
314Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’31.8350.39611
420Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.8920.45315
54Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’31.9510.51214
627Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.9940.55515
716Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’32.0120.57315
844Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’32.0190.58010
931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’32.0890.65012
1040Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’32.1660.72715
111Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’32.1730.73414
1210Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’32.2740.83512
1311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’32.3100.87113
1423Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’33.7192.28012
1522Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT04No time10

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With neither Red Bull taking part in Q3, this looked like the most open battle for pole position of the season so far. As drivers took to the track at the start of Q3, only the Ferrari drivers did so on fresh soft tyres.

The Haas pair were the first over the line to post their first flying laps of the session, with Magnussen going a tenth quicker than his team mate to set the initial provisional pole time. Soon Alonso replaced them both with a 1’32.168, but Norris team that by more than half a second.

Next it was the Ferraris turn to complete their laps, with Sainz using his fresh tyres to jump straight to the top with a 1’31.170, the fastest time of the day. Leclerc was unable to match his team mate his first effort, going a a quarter of a second slower but taking second position. Neither Russell nor Hamilton in the Mercedes could match the Ferraris, or even the McLaren of Norris, settling for fourth and fifth as their all returned to the pits to prepare for their final runs.

Both Ferraris followed Alonso out of the pit lane with under four minutes remaining in the session to prepare for their last lap of qualifying. All ten drivers had a final fresh set of soft tyres available and each took them for their final runs.

Sainz was the first over the line and improved on his own provisional pole time, breaking under the 1’31 barrier to post a 1’30.984 and go even further ahead. Norris improved to move second in the McLaren, but Leclerc could not beat his team mate’s time and moved to second, almost eight-hundredths behind Sainz. Only the two Mercedes could prevent a Sainz pole and although Russell got closer than Leclerc, he was forced to settle for second place, splitting the two Ferraris.

Sainz secured his second consecutive pole position with Russell starting alongside him on the front row of the grid, Leclerc and Norris will share the second row, with Hamilton’s last effort only good enough for fifth. Magnussen put Haas a surprise sixth ahead of Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Hulkenberg and Lawson completed the top 10.

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Q3 result

155Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’30.98420
263George RussellMercedesW141’31.0560.07217
316Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’31.0630.07921
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’31.2700.28620
544Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’31.4850.50116
620Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.5750.59121
714Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’31.6150.63117
831Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’31.6730.68918
927Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.8080.82421
1040Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’32.2681.28421

2023 Singapore Grand Prix

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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...

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58 comments on “Sainz beats Russell to Singapore pole as neither Red Bull reaches Q3”

  1. Nice, some variation for a change

  2. Let me get is straight. Red Bull won all 14 races this year, Max won last 10 in a row. The very next grand prix after setting this amazing record (or Wikipedia fact as Hamilton and Wolff say), Max is not only not close to Ferrari, McLaren, Aston or Mercedes like it happened multiple times in 2023, but slower than Alpine, Haas and even junior ream Alpha Tauri? Who thinks this is a legit result?

    1. Time for the conspiracy theories!

    2. I think you should look at the onboards of Perez and Verstappen. The car understeers and has poor ride height on the kerbs.

    3. What are you suggesting exactly?

      1. @swh1386 before this event, Red Bull had been saying that they were not expecting to do particularly well in Singapore, given that they felt the choice of tyres and corner types would not suit their car particularly well.

        Added to that the persistent complaints that Max had about overly aggressive clutch settings when shifting gears, along with the team making changes in FP3 that they now say were a mistake, talk that the team just couldn’t get the right ride height settings and the RB19 sometimes not bringing the tyres into the right operating window for a single qualifying lap, and it seems that you’ve had a case of an abnormal track, plus the track side operation team at Red Bull having a poor weekend, combining to catch the team out.

        However, it would seem that, instead of accepting the possibility that Red Bull could possibly be fallible, that poster is having a public tantrum and throwing around hysterical conspiracy theories.

    4. Other than Haas doing better (although it’s not a unique result for them), Red Bull is the only team out of sync with the regular running order. Something odd is definitely going on.

      Doesn’t have to be orchestrated of course, as fun as that would be as a story. So hopefully one of the more technically minded reporters has a good look at what is causing it.

      1. MichaelN,

        Something odd is definitely going on.

        TD018 ! I believe RBR’s approach is to throw all their resources and efforts into the 2024 car, minimizing any potential loss of funds and resources associated with adapting the current car to match its previous level of effectiveness post-technical directive. They were caught by surprise and didn’t have budget to react.

        1. Paolo Filisetti noted Red Bull doing some unusual ride height experiments, not just in FP1 but throughout FP2 as well, although they brought it back down a bit for FP3 (and presumably for Qualifying).

          Probably too early to say, but it is definitely odd. Red Bull was just fine at Singapore last year.

          1. MichaelN,
            The RB19 has undergone comprehensive optimization across all departments as explained thoroughly at the start of the season by Giorgio Piola’s drawing. Although its primary advantage lies in high-speed aerodynamics, it also excels in slower corners. Only the Aston Martin, when driven by Alonso, has managed to rival the RB19’s performance in low-speed turns.

            Max himself has acknowledged that this year, the RB19 has been fine-tuned to fully utilize the potential of the new Pirelli tires, effectively eliminating the understeer from the previous season that he was complaining about. There hasn’t been a single instance of them struggling with balance issues this year.

            As you pointed out, RBR displayed impressive speed in Singapore last year, and they’ve been mighty in Monaco this year too. I don’t see any reason for them to suddenly drop the ball. Verstappen and Perez were experimenting different set ups in the practice sessions which is strange for a team that has just whitewashed the opposition this season.

            During Max’s second Q2 attempt, it was quite evident from the onboard that he was struggling in corner entry, and also sliding out of the corner. This was somewhat unusual and hadn’t been a common occurrence throughout this season. RBR are also running a higher ride height than usual.

            The only factor that stands out is the introduction of TD018, which interestingly targets the restriction of flexible bodywork—an area where RBR has been innovating since 2010. Although the impact of this clampdown may not be overwhelmingly significant, it could still have contributed to alter the car’s dynamic behavior, potentially leading to a loss in performance.

        2. You’ve lost me when you wrote: “mighty in Monaco”
          They were not.

          1. I’ve also wrote that “Only the Aston Martin, when driven by Alonso, has managed to rival the RB19’s performance in low-speed turns.” Besides, who was the pole sitter in Monaco ? Aston lost that race strategically but Verstappen had the pace to win.

          2. Red bull, until the opposite is proven, was the best car in monaco, a lot of people were talking about a phenomenal pole lap by verstappen, but what if the car that has been best at every track this season by any chance was the fastest too even in 1 lap in monaco? A lot of people did really good laps, yet none was enough to beat verstappen.

    5. To make a fair judgment, it’s crucial to maintain a balanced perspective. When engaging in GOAT debate, adjusting your driving style and navigating through situations where the balance may not be perfect is the bare minimum. Cheers !

    6. But all RB have changed is a floor that may or may not flex and the frontwing what could it be ??

      1. RB have experience and history with flexi parts on their cars but passed all the tests current at that time: have F1 now introduced some stiffer tests for today’s cars?

    7. The super record of winning all races in the season beats anything. There’s no reason not to try to win every race.

    8. Judging by the body language of Max hastily walking away from the car after Q2 elimination (perhaps in frustration) seems like the result is legit. Both drivers had also complained during all three free practices.

    9. Street circuits need a more stable rear and less point nose to the car, the precise opposite of how Verstappen likes the Red Bull set up. Also seems to be compounded by overall lack of pace (ability to potentialize the car’s medium to high cornering pace). Perez should be closer to Max at this type of circuit and was, but also messed up by overdriving. No conspiracy needed.

      1. Brundle mentioned a few times about Max understeering, perhaps Max`s Achilles heel as been found….

    10. Similar thing happened to Mercedes as has been exhaustively mentioned during one of their most dominant seasons.

      Considering Alonso had the fastest race pace during the medium tire long runs and this is the first time Max is unlikely to be a threat, what terrible timing for AM to have weak one-lap pace. Wish they had held back another set of softs for Q3 considering their position going into the last run of Q2.

    11. It’s called ‘screwing up your setup’ and happens to every team now and then. Add a circuit that doesn’t suit the car to begin with, and presto.

      1. Thanks for this, there really isn’t much more to it.

    12. I should remind you people that in 2015, Mercedes were dominant but had a blip like this at the same location.

      Whether this anomaly in Red Bull’s peformance carries over into tomorrow remains to be seen.

    13. It’s a very similar situation to Singapore 2015, when the all conquering Mercedes suddendly were off the pace, qualifying 5th and 6th and finishing the race no higher than 4th.

    14. Whatever was going on with the car, Max’s lap in q2 was very scrappy in several corners. The car was easily capable of q3 if he had had a clean lap.

    15. @Armchair Expert
      Do you believe “they” also fixed the 2021 title I wonder?

      Max didn’t get a penalty for blocking during qualifying. I suppose that would draw too much attention to the fix, so they let it slide…

  3. If Sainz keeps racing like this, Ferrari should dump Leclerc instead. Sainz is more mature, level-headed and braver than Leclerc, but until now, much slower.

    I would choose him over Leclerc any day of the week if he was as fast as Leclerc.

    1. I really like Leclerc and I don’t think they need to dump anybody in the next few years, however…
      I’d have to agree with you here.

      We’re yet to see Sainz in contention for a title with his cool head, but something tells me he’d be just fine

    2. Leclerc does have some thinking to do on how he’s approaching this car. Sainz is doggedly hanging in there, and even doing better than Leclerc quite a few times; that should raise some eyebrows at Ferrari.

    3. Sainz is better than a lot of people give him credit for, he beat LeClerc in his first full season at Ferrari which a lot of people seem to forget.

      1. Didn’t beat him on merit that season, leclerc lost a lot of points through bad luck, just see what happened last year with a more competitive car.

        However sainz surprised me this year, he’s very fast lately.

    4. I’ve long considered Sainz a Leclerc without the quali speed (inconsistent, lots of crashes, etc.), but with much better race craft, the one lap speed and consistency during the last five weekends, he’ll be a force if he can make this his standard level of performance. It’s a big if, but not unrealistic.

    5. There’s no need for Ferrari to ‘dump’ Leclerc or Sainz. Its the opposite actually…they should be eager to keep 2 strong, evenly matched drivers.
      Ask Aston Martin and Red Bull how much fun it is having a woefully underpaced 2nd driver…

    6. @t1redmonkey
      I’ll take Leclerc every single day of the week. Sainz is currently in “stato di grazia”, ecstasy… whatever it is called. This is the best Sainz against the worst Leclerc and the gap is under a tenth. This is similar to Hamilton and Button battles in their McLaren years and especially in 2011. Fast oversteery drivers are the ones who make the difference.

      1. yeah I still think Leclerc is the better of them, but I think it’s unfair on Sainz for some people to be talking about his seat being at risk when I don’t think he’s done anything to warrant being dropped.

        1. Yes, he’s no longer at risk imo, they’re both good enough for ferrari, there’s a lot more room for improvement in other areas at the team, like in season development and especially strategy.

  4. BTW It’s easy here to [inadvertently] clip the rear right of a car passing you on the start line and [accidently] take out two rivals.
    Max [accidently, of course] did this [2016?] and took out both Ferraris.

    1. Wait… what???

    2. Lol…. Nah, Max was the filling in a Ferrari sandwhich…. Remember when Lewis said before the race “I need a miracle” well he certainly got one :)

    3. That is 2017!

  5. Conspiracy theorist nutters can do one!

    Great to see a change at the front. Actually looking forward to a GP for the first time in a while.

  6. Waiting for my daily Mike Krack funnies.

    I used to be annoyed with his ridiculous defence of Lance Stroll, but then I realized the poor guy is just trying to pay his bills.

    1. It’s so annoying the hear him constantly defend stroll, alonso really exposed him and vettel this year (as in vettel was nowhere near this dominant, showing who’s way stronger between the 2 champions).

  7. So it’s the car?

  8. Cheats. Doesn’t surprise me.

  9. Honestly, cracking job from Lawson to make it into Q3 with how little experience he has in that car. We see it each race weekend he’s getting more and more out of the car as he learns. I was already convinced he deserved to be in F1 before he got his chance, hopefully he can have a clean race and bag a point or two.

    1. Lawson clearly has a talent for adapting quickly. While his F2 stint doesn’t look particularly impressive he managed to win on his debut in F2, DTM and Super Formula. And in the later two he showed some mature driving to challenge for the title against seasoned professionals.
      So it’s not a complete surprise that he does well.
      Let’s hope he has a clean race tomorrow to secure that 2024 seat.

    2. I was actually thinking when he knocked out Max from Q3 it could be a career limiting move

      1. Me too, he certainly won’t get any particular compliments by red bull or alpha, but he’s doing well and I’m surprised he wasn’t instructed to slow down.

  10. If Lando can take out Russell, and Ferrari finish 1-2 I will consider it a perfect weekend. Preferably Sainz on top.

    1. @pcxmac Kind of like this?
      From the Collectors Edition of Great Singapore GP Ferrari Sandwich Moments.

    2. Despite being italian I’m not really a ferrari fan, I only like competition, so as long as someone interrupts red bull’s streak it’s good, I would be less opposed to red bull having an interesting recovery and eventually winning if it weren’t for the horrible non penalty thing in a clear cut situation just because the impeded driver was tsunoda.

      1. I agree with the overall sentiment, it should be a VAR like situation with no need to hear either party. That said you can’t blame AT or RB for this flaw in FIA regulations and it would be rather silly to shoot your own foot while there is no need to.

    3. I think it will be rather the Ferrari’s falling back because the go through their tires too quickly. Russell having focused on quali doesn’t have a good racing car and Lando winning.

  11. Surely, that ought to be ‘Singapole’

    1. No, ‘Singapoor’.

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