Vettel 'peaked too early' as Leclerc celebrates surprise Singapore pole

By Sports Desk September 21, 2019

Sebastian Vettel felt he "peaked too early" in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix as he watched team-mate Charles Leclerc storm to a spectacular pole.

Ferrari defied expectations at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Saturday as Leclerc claimed his third consecutive Formula One pole and fifth of 2019, while Vettel came third.

After winning at Spa and Monza, the Scuderia were not expected to have the fastest package in Singapore at a track more suited to rivals Mercedes and Red Bull.

Friday's FP1 and FP2 action appeared to back up that view despite some Ferrari upgrades being introduced, but the Italian team upped the ante in FP3 and then excelled in qualifying.

Vettel looked likely to claim pole when he was over three-and-a-half tenths clear of Leclerc after the first runs in Q3, but instead the other Ferrari won the session – and out-qualified him for an eighth straight race - after the German aborted his second attempt due to a mistake.

"The final bit of Q3 wasn't great but sometimes that's the way it goes," said Vettel, a four-time winner in Singapore.

"I was feeling good, so maybe I peaked a bit early, we had a tiny wobble and there was no point in finishing that lap. The final attempt should've been better but overall the car was making sense and feeling good.

"It puts us in a good position for Sunday. It should be a good race, let's see what the tyres are going to do, if we can push for the two hours or will we have to manage them.

"I'm looking forward to it. We were quick out there and it's always fun round here one way or another."

Leclerc looks best placed to triumph as Ferrari seek a third straight win for the first time in 11 years.

"I'm extremely happy to be on pole," said Leclerc, who was joined on the front row by championship leader Lewis Hamilton.

"It was a very good lap, if you look at it, there were some moments when I thought I had lost control of the car. We had a very tough Friday, it was not my day, but I worked hard in the car and it paid off – this feels great.

"I would like to thank the team so much for what they've done - an amazing job to bring the package we needed. We came here knowing it would be a difficult track for us but we brought some bits which work properly, which is not always the case."

Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto explained the updates to his cars had exceeded expectations.

"It's even better than we hoped, we brought a new aero package," Binotto told Sky Sports.

"It's always nice to start at the front in Singapore but the race is Sunday and we shouldn't forget that. I still believe the arrows [Mercedes] are very strong."

Eight of the 11 grands prix in Singapore have been won by the pole-sitter.

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  • MotoGP Raceweek: Marc Marquez eyeing another milestone in Japan MotoGP Raceweek: Marc Marquez eyeing another milestone in Japan

    Marc Marquez made history in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix and now he has another milestone in his sights on race day.

    The world champion, who sealed his sixth premier class title with a win in Thailand last time out, claimed his first Motegi pole to ensure he has now started at the front of the grid at every circuit on the MotoGP calendar.

    If Marquez can follow that up with a 10th victory of 2019 on Sunday, it would see him move level with Mick Doohan on 54 total MotoGP wins in third on the all-time list.

    He is also eyeing a fourth consecutive race triumph for the first time since 2014 and, if he makes a 13th straight podium, it will mark his best-ever run.

    "To get a first pole position on the MotoGP bike in Motegi is great," said Marquez, who has won this race in two of the past three years.

    "I didn't know it was the last one I needed! It's a circuit where I usually struggle at a bit but the set-up was working very well in qualifying and I was able to ride in a different way. It's important to start on pole at the home of Honda. 

    "On Sunday we will have a lot of pressure from Yamaha and Andrea Dovizioso, I think, so we still need to work a bit in warm up. The target is to fight for the victory, let's see what the conditions are."

    Marquez's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, meanwhile, will start his 200th MotoGP race down in 19th position.

    YAMAHAS POSE FAMILIAR THREAT

    Franco Morbidelli out-qualified Fabio Quartararo as the two Petronas Yamaha bikes joined Marquez on the front row.

    Morbidelli equalled his best qualifying performance from Jerez this year and will be hoping to improve on his eventual seventh place finish there as he continues to show good speed towards the end of 2019.

    His team-mate Quartararo has only missed the front row at three races this year and was cruelly denied a maiden win by Marquez in Thailand, instead having to settle for a fifth podium of an excellent rookie campaign.

    Maverick Vinales heads the second row to ensure there are three Yamahas in the top four for fourth time this year, with the manufacturer looking well placed to seal a first Japan podium since 2015, despite Valentino Rossi coming 10th.

    "I wasn't expecting to be that fast," conceded Morbidelli, who was just 0.132secs behind Marquez.

    "We definitely did a great job on Friday in dry conditions and again here with half and half [conditions] we were fast. We will have to see how competitive we will be in completely dry conditions."

    Frenchman Quartararo does not want his quest for a maiden win to become a distraction.

    "I'm not really focused on it," he said. "I just focus on making a good race and fighting for the victory. I don't want to only focus on the victory.

    "We need to make a good start, that's the most important, and then let's see what we can do in the race. Honestly I feel good."

    CRUTCHLOW PIPS THE DUCATIS

    Cal Crutchlow came through Q1 and then claimed fifth, as he looks to follow up on last season's Motegi podium.

    The Briton, who has endured a mixed season, said: "That's always the aim, but I don't know whether I'm going to be on the podium or 15th, I have no idea at the minute."

    Jack Miller has not scored a point in his previous two races in Japan, but is the top Ducati ahead of factory duo Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci.

    Dovizioso, who starts seventh, won the race in 2017 from even further back in the grid (ninth). The Italian is seeking his 100th podium across all categories.

    "There were still some damp patches on the track and I wasn't able to have a really fluid riding style there," he said. "It's a pity about the third row, but we are in quite good shape for the race."

    Alex Rins sits third in the championship behind Dovizioso and starts 11th, while Takaaki Nakagami will begin his home race from 13th.


    THE GRID

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)
    2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
    4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    5. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda)
    6. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)
    7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
    8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
    9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team)
    10. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    11. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
    12. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar)

    PREVIOUS WINNERS

    2018: Marc Marquez
    2017: Andrea Dovizioso
    2016 : Marc Marquez
    2015: Dani Pedrosa

    TITLE STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 325
    2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 215 (110)
    3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 167 (-158)
    4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 163 (-162)
    5. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 162 (-163)

    Teams

    1. Ducati 377
    2. Repsol Honda 358 (-19)
    3. Monster Energy Yamaha 308 (-69)
    4. Petronas Yamaha 233 (-144)
    5. Suzuki Ecstar 229 (-148)

    WEATHER FORECAST

    After a wet FP3 and damp FP4, conditions largely cleared for qualifying on Saturday. Sunday's forecast is presently for a dry and cloudy day, with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celcius.

  • Marc Marquez makes MotoGP history with pole in Japan Marc Marquez makes MotoGP history with pole in Japan

    World champion Marc Marquez made MotoGP history by claiming pole position at the Japanese Grand Prix.

    Marquez, who wrapped up his sixth premier class title in Thailand last time out, has now earned a pole at every circuit on the sport's calendar, having never previously topped the grid in Motegi.

    His first pole in Japan and 10th of the 2019 season came after he edged out Petronas Yamaha stars Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo with a time of 1:45.763 on Saturday.

    Morbidelli was 0.132seconds behind and out-qualified rookie team-mate Quartararo as his impressive end to the season continued.

    Factory Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales was fourth, just ahead of Cal Crutchlow, who had earlier progressed through Q1 along with Alex Rins.

    Jack Miller came sixth for Pramac Racing, ahead of fellow Ducati riders Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci as Aleix Espargaro took a superb ninth for Aprilia.

    Valentino Rossi, Rins and Joan Mir made up the fourth row, with home favourite Takaaki Nakagami having to settle for 13th position and Marquez's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo down in 19th.

    Repsol Honda rider Marquez will be eyeing his fourth consecutive race victory on Sunday at an event he has won in two of the past three seasons.


    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda): 1:45.763
    2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha): +0.132s
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha): +0.181s
    4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha): +0.327s
    5. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda): +0.426s
    6. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing): +0.574s
    7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati): +0.647s
    8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati): +0.664s
    9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team): +0.795s
    10. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha): +0.795s
    11. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar): +0.837s
    12. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar): +0.853s

  • MotoGP Raceweek: Lorenzo not feeling pressure as Zarco takes Honda seat MotoGP Raceweek: Lorenzo not feeling pressure as Zarco takes Honda seat

    Johann Zarco will ride for LCR Honda in place of Takaaki Nakagami for the final three races of the MotoGP season, but struggling Repsol Honda star Jorge Lorenzo does not expect the move to affect his situation.

    Zarco had been without a seat after his split from KTM, with the team cutting ties with the rider early after he opted to end his deal at the conclusion of the season.

    The Frenchman has been granted a return to the sport with Honda, though, as Nakagami prepares to bow out for the rest of the campaign to have shoulder surgery following this week's Japanese Grand Prix.

    "I'm really thankful to have this chance," Zarco said. "I will do my best to pick up some good results and to enjoy the time, because these could be the last three races I can do for a while."

    Zarco has reached the podium six times in his MotoGP career, qualifying on pole four times, and a ride on a Honda bike could be seen as a threat to Lorenzo heading into 2020.

    The three-time champion has endured a miserable first season with Repsol Honda, sitting 19th in the standings, and is backing Zarco to impress.

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    "Because after not having been able to ride for three or four races, he'll be very keen to demonstrate what he can do and I'm sure he'll do well."

    Even if Zarco has no hopes of unseating Lorenzo or earning a permanent deal with LCR Honda, the previously mooted switch to rivals Yamaha also looks to be off the table.

    Zarco had been linked with Yamaha as a test rider but told L'Equipe: "The door has clearly closed. Honda and Yamaha are two big rivals. I talked to both and made an informed choice."

    Yamaha star and MotoGP great Valentino Rossi added: "It's a shame. It's no secret that Yamaha was looking at Zarco for test rider and he would have been important for us.

    "Now he's close to Honda and we need to see what he decides to do for 2020, but it looks to me like we will have to find another fast test rider. It will be difficult to find someone like Johann."

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