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World champion-elect Max Verstappen will start down in eighth at the Singapore Grand Prix after dramatically being told to abort a lap that would probably have sealed pole position.
Intermediate tyres were required for the first two segments of qualifying but the track had dried sufficiently for slicks to be used in Q3. As a result, a host of drivers were in contention to take pole position at the Marina Bay street circuit.
Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso set the pace at one stage before Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took over at the top. His time looked set to be eclipsed by Verstappen, only for the Dutchman to be called into the pits by his Red Bull engineer near the end of his final lap.
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An incensed Verstappen yelled over the radio: “What the f***, what the f***, what the f*** are you guys saying? Unbelievable, mate. I don’t get it, what the f*** is this about?”
He was told all would be explained once he got out of the car, with Red Bull clearly not wanting the nature of the issue to be broadcast to the world.
It subsequently emerged that Verstappen was low on fuel and while he had enough left to complete the lap and probably his in-lap too, Red Bull were concerned he would not have had enough left to provide a sample to the FIA. If that had happened, he would have been thrown out of qualifying and forced to start at the back of the field or from the pitlane.
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Speaking after the session Verstappen said: "We ran out of fuel, it shouldn't happen, it's really bad. I'm super frustrated with what just happened."
So Leclerc took pole with the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez second and Hamilton third. The second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz will line up fourth with the Alpine of Alonso fifth, McLaren's Lando Norris sixth, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly seventh and Verstappen eighth. The Haas of Kevin Magnussen and the other AlphaTauri of Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10.
It was a poor session for George Russell, who didn’t make Q3 and will start 11th.
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