SINGAPORE - As the skies cleared on Saturday evening, Ferrari's Charles Leclerc dazzled under the floodlights at Marina Bay, clinching pole position in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Championship leader Max Verstappen settled for eighth but his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez was quick enough for second.
The pole was Leclerc’s ninth from 17 races this season, and the Monegasque, who clocked 1min 49.412sec, will be joined on the front row by Perez, with Lewis Hamilton third-fastest for Mercedes.
Leclerc said: "An amazing crowd and it’s great to see so many people attending the event, it’s been a very tricky qualifying, Q1, Q2 with the intermediates then in Q3 we didn’t really know what to do we went for the softs at the very last minute and it paid off. I thought we wouldn’t get pole but it paid off.
“I’m very happy with today considering the Friday that we had, we had very limited laps but we recovered well, we don’t have much data for the race run but if we do the perfect execution I’m sure we can win."
Perez, who is in the front row here for the first time in his career: "It's already an opportunity tomorrow from the start to attack Charles and I'll go for the win. It's quite disappointing to miss out by two hundredths but at the end of the day, it's a great team results and I think they did a fantastic job.
"It was so tricky to learn the conditions today and tomorrow again, it can be wet at any time. It will be so important not to make any mistakes."
Mercedes' second driver George Russell did not have a great session as he was unable to keep pace with seven-time world champion Hamilton and settled for 11th. This is the third time the Briton will start a race outside the top 10.
Hamilton said: "I was pushing so hard, I was so close I was trying so hard, these guys are so quick, but I thought maybe with the perfect lap we could be fighting for first place but I just didn’t have the grip in the last lap.
“We knew the car would be stronger than it was in Monza but we didn’t know how close we would be, to lose out just by that bit, it’s ok but we will just get up and fight again tomorrow.”
Sebastian Vettel, the last winner of the Singapore Grand Prix when he was still with Ferrari in 2019, could only manage 14th in his final night race. The German, who is retiring after this season, holds the record for most wins in Singapore (five) ahead of Hamilton (four).
Heavy rainfall in the late afternoon resulted in delay of the start of the final practice session, and the track was still wet at the start of qualifying as drivers completed the first and second sessions still on intermediate tyres.
Dutchman Verstappen, who leads the championship race by a whopping 116 points, faces an uphill task on Sunday. He has to win in Singapore while closest rival Leclerc must finish lower than eighth or lower than seventh if the former also sets the fastest lap.