The qualifying session for the 2022 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc claim pole position by the slimmest of margins, with Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton less than a tenth behind in second and third respectively.
Behind them, Max Verstappen could only qualify in eighth place, after his Red Bull team failed to adequately fuel his car for his final run.
While Verstappen has been dominant in recent weeks, working your way up the order on a street circuit will represent a different challenge, despite the overtaking opportunities available around the Marina Bay track.
The other variable to consider is the weather. The Singapore weekend has been a damp one so far and with a 50% chance of rain expected around the time the race starts.
Given that the drivers spent a large part of yesterday’s qualifying session on the intermediate tyres, the pit strategy employed by the drivers and teams should be quite fascinating.
What are Pirelli saying?
The Italian tyre company has opted to bring its softest range of tyres to the venue, with the C3 compound the hardest in its range, the C4 tyre the medium compound, and the C5 the soft tyre for this weekend.
If the race stays dry Pirelli predicts a one-stop strategy as the best one to employ by the drivers and teams. The company’s simulations predict that the fastest strategy to use would be for the drivers to start on the medium compound tyre before pitting somewhere between laps 22 and 28 for the hard tyre.
Alternatively, drivers and teams could start the race on soft tyres before boxing between laps 18 and 24 for hards.
However, given the uncertain weather conditions, the aforementioned strategies could be cast aside with the dampness of the circuit ultimately determining the race strategy.
“We’ve missed the spectacular night action of Singapore’s streets! With 18-inch tyres that have a completely different compound and structure compared to the ones used three years ago – as well as new asphalt this year – it’s almost like a totally new race,” Pirelli’s motorsport director Mario Isola stated.
“Singapore is all about slow corners – all 23 of them – and maximising traction. We’ve got the three softest compounds for maximum speed and grip but looking after the rear tyres in order to ensure the drive needed will be key.
“With the tendency of the latest cars to understeer, it will be even more important to find the right set-up balance to ensure a strong front end without compromising acceleration at the rear.”
Expect an exciting race
With the chance of rain relatively high, there is every chance that this race could be one of the Grand Prix of the season.
The top three drivers in qualifying represent three different teams, and with their lap times within a tenth of each other, it would be extremely surprising if Red Bull run away with the race as they have in recent times.
Further, the conditions could also play into the hands of Verstappen and Mercedes’ George Russell, who have consistently demonstrated their pace in changing conditions.
The last time a race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit started in wet conditions there was carnage heading into turn one. The drivers will need to be alert to avoid a similar fate in 2022, especially if conditions are damp once more.