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Verstappen misses chance to become F1’s first teenager on pole

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Formula 1’s wait for its first teenager to start on pole position will continue after Max Verstappen lost out to Sebastian Vettel in the final stage of qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night.

After making his debut aged 17, Verstappen became F1’s youngest race winner last year and is the youngest driver to start on the front row of the grid, lining up P2 at Spa last year.

While the Red Bull driver still has over a year to break Vettel’s record for being the youngest pole-sitter, his chance to do so while still a teenager passed by in Singapore, as he will celebrate his 20th birthday on the Saturday of the Malaysian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

After leading FP3, Q1 and Q2, Verstappen looked in good shape for pole, but ultimately could not match Vettel’s stunning final effort in Q3.

“All weekend has been a good build up, getting faster and faster and finding a smooth rhythm so to come away with second is a really good result,” Verstappen said.

“I took a little bit of risk to put down a good lap as we had predicted the others would improve from yesterday and this morning’s sessions. Perhaps there was a bit of time in the last sector to find but in general I am very pleased with how the car and I performed.

“That was the best balance in terms of set-up I have had with the car in qualifying all year and that is a big positive. My quickest time was more or less the maximum I could do, Sebastian just had an even better lap.

“Race pace is good so we have a chance tomorrow but it looks like Ferrari have found quite a lot.

“The start will be important and maybe if there are a couple of safety cars that could impact the result too.”

The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.