Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was left flummoxed after seeing Charles LeClerc’s Ferrari storm to pole position. After Mercedes and Red Bull topped the timesheets on Friday, many expected the fight to be between Hamilton and Max Verstappen. However, on Saturday, Ferrari suddenly found a lost gear and took a “big step” forward.
Now, Hamilton has openly admitted that Ferrari’s sudden increase in pace at a track that does not normally suit them, was unexpected. This is LeClerc’s third pole position in a row as Ferrari sprung a surprise on favourites Mercedes and Red Bull in qualifying. The only bright spark was that Hamilton was able to split the two Ferraris and get to the front row.
The sudden and welcome rise of Ferrari was largely thanks to a significant upgrade for the Singapore GP. This includes, but is not limited to, a revised nose, cape and floor, and it seems to have provided plenty of aerodynamic gains. In a high-downforce tracks like the Singapore street circuit, these aero upgrades are a massive boon.
Speaking to Autosport about Ferrari and their superior aerodynamic performance and straightline speed, Lewis Hamilton said: “I don’t know where they have picked up their pace for a street circuit like this.
“Earlier on in the year they were not as close. They’ve obviously done a great job. I don’t really know where we’re losing it, the first sector is a bit of a loss to us, part of it is a straight line but they are able to match us in the middle and the last sector.”
“Overall, clearly a big step for then. We’ll just keep pushing. We’ve not had an upgrade for a while so maybe when that comes that will help us a little bit.”
HAM: "I don't know where Ferrari picked up their pace today, it was potentially not one of their tracks, but Charles put a great lap in. I think tomorrow we can be aggressive and hopefully divide them…"#F1 #SingaporeGP pic.twitter.com/6W1t8Zjiqg
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 21, 2019
Sadly, Lewis could not repeat last year’s feat of grabbing pole, so had to settle for splitting the two Ferrari drivers. As an added bonus, Max Verstappen is fourth on the grid, ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
The British driver admitted that they knew Red Bull would be a threat in Singapore. However, Scuderia Ferrari caught everybody with their pants down, especially considering that they often struggled at high-downforce tracks.
“All of a sudden they’ve brought an upgrade here and it seems to have worked,” Lewis Hamilton continued. “Of course we were not expecting to have such a strong performance from them and have such a deficit to them, but they’ve done a great job.
“I was grateful I was able to split them, only just. We were lacking pace today. It was definitely a struggle to be up there, but I like how close it was between us all. “Hopefully that puts us in a good stead for good fights.”
“[I am] very surprised because even though we knew there was a bit more to come yesterday we did not expect to challenge neither Mercedes or Red Bull,” said Leclerc.
“It’s quite a big surprise for the whole team, but it just proves how good of a job they’ve done back at the factory and today it’s also thanks to them we’re on pole.”
However, as a final parting thought, qualifying and one-lap pace is only one piece of the jigsaw. The full-race distance could be a different story, and Ferrari needs to be wary of that.