'Crazy lap' lifts Leclerc to unlikely Singapore pole

Singapore (AFP) –


Charles Leclerc's stunning turn in Singapore Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday came thanks to a "crazy lap" that boosted the Formula One rookie into his third straight pole start.

The 21-year-old Ferrari driver has gone from strength to strength since the season returned from summer break, notching wins in Belgium and Italy in the last three weeks and edging championship leader Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes by 0.191 seconds ahead of Sunday's race.

"It was quite a crazy lap after the first one was compromised when I started too close to Lewis (Hamilton), so there was quite a bit of pressure to perform on the last lap and I gave it my all," Leclerc told reporters after his 1:36.217 final lap.

"There were quite a few mistakes, I lost the car quite a few times and felt I was touching the wall two or three times but it felt amazing."

After victories on power-friendly circuits at Spa and Monza, Ferrari were not expected to be a major factor around the technical 23-turn Marina Bay race.

Leclerc credited the team for making significant changes to the car that enabled himself and Vettel, starting third, to compete at the front of the grid.

"Still very surprised with the pace of the car. We knew we had more to come after yesterday, but did not expect to challenge Mercedes or Red Bull. It just proves how good a job the team have done back at the factory, so it's thanks to them we are on pole," he said.

"I am not that keen to compare tracks but performance-wise it seems the setup of the car is working. I think from Hungary we understand the car better and the balance we need to achieve the best performance," Leclerc added.

"I wasn't happy with my driving yesterday, so I improved quite a lot personally and the balance of the car also improved a lot today."

With seven rounds remaining, Hamilton leads the title race by 63 points over his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Leclerc in fourth and Vettel fifth.