Formula 1: Leclerc savours pole position as Verstappen fumes after fuel woes in Singapore GP qualifying

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc clinched pole in a qualifying session that went down to the wire. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

It was a tale of contrasting fortunes for Ferrari and Red Bull at the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night.

The Prancing Horse's Charles Leclerc leapt out of his car to loud cheers and blinding camera flashes after clinching pole position in a qualifying session that went down to the wire.

Meanwhile, championship leader Max Verstappen was left fuming and swearing over the team radio after having to abandon his final flying lap - his car had started to run out of fuel - to settle for eighth.

It was the ninth time Leclerc had topped the starting grid in 17 races this season, and the Monegasque, who clocked 1min 49.412sec, will be joined in the front row by Verstappen's Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, with Lewis Hamilton third fastest for Mercedes.

The top three were separated by just 0.054sec in a thrilling qualifying session that started on a wet track after a downpour earlier.

After a "very, very tricky qualifying", Leclerc was ecstatic with the result.

The 24-year-old, who was also on pole the last time the race was run at Marina Bay in 2019, said: "I'm very happy with today's results, especially considering the Friday we've had - we've had a very limited amount of laps - for some issues. But we recovered well.

"We don't have much data for the race… But if we do the perfect execution, I'm sure we can win."

Leclerc and teammate Carlos Sainz, who qualified fourth, had earlier noted the importance of starting Sunday's race in P1.

Eight of the 12 winners here have done so from pole, even if Leclerc failed to do so in 2019. He will also be looking to make Saturday's triumph count, after missing out while on pole in Monaco and Baku. He finished fourth and retired, respectively, on both street circuits.

Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, now faces an uphill task to earn his first Singapore Grand Prix win, which would help seal his second world title.

The Dutchman, who leads Leclerc by a whopping 116 points, has to win on Sunday while Leclerc must finish ninth or lower, or eighth or lower if the former also sets the fastest lap.

Championship leader Max Verstappen had to settle for eighth on the grid after his car started to run out of fuel. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

For Hamilton, a four-time winner in Singapore, Saturday's result means he will start a race in the top three for the first time in 2022.

A fan favourite here, the seven-time world champion received the loudest applause as he greeted spectators after qualifying.

He said during the on-track interview: "The perfect lap was really hard to get... (we) just didn't have the grip in the last lap. I'll just keep my head down and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day."

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton after the qualifying session. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Teammate George Russell had a poor run and settled for 11th. Mercedes are still seeking their first win this season and while Hamilton was slightly disappointed to have missed out on his first pole position, he was pleased with their progress in what has been a topsy-turvy season for the eight-time constructors' champions.

"It's been an inspiring year for me witnessing what my team do and being a part of that. (The) desire to get a good result for them to pay them back for all their great work is part of it.

"We've got a great turnout here this weekend and I hope that tomorrow we can give them a good show."

Aston Martin's Sebastian Vettel, the last winner of the Singapore Grand Prix with Ferrari in 2019, could manage only 14th. The four-time world champion, who is retiring after this season, holds the record for most wins in Singapore (five) ahead of Hamilton.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc (centre) with Sergio Perez (left), of Red Bull, and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton after the qualifying session ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.