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Button disappointed as error ends Singapore Q3 hopes

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Jenson Button was left disappointed after an error in Q2 ruined his final flying lap in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix, ending his hopes of a top-10 grid slot.

McLaren arrived in Singapore hopeful of repeating its impressive display in Monaco earlier this year, the tight and twisting nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit appearing to suit the MP4-31 car.

While Fernando Alonso was able to make it through to Q3 and eventually qualify ninth, Button was left to settle for 13th on the grid after hitting the wall on his last lap in Q2.

The contact with the wall at the exit of Turn 14 was minimal, but enough to leave Button with a busted rear-left wheel and a puncture, forcing him to park his car up.

“Up until qualifying, our weekend had been really tough,” Button said.

“But we made some changes to the car, and it felt really good this evening. It took a few setup tweaks and I found my confidence, so I was able to get the best out of the car in qualifying.

“Then, on my final run in Q2, I went a touch wide at the exit of Turn 14 and just tapped the wall on the exit.

“The impact broke the left-rear wheel and gave me a puncture – it was my fault.”

Button believes that he could have made it through to the final stage of qualifying had it not been for his error.

“It was definitely possible to get into Q3 today,” he said.

“My final lap in Q2 was looking very similar to Fernando’s before the puncture.

“Our long-run pace means the race could be difficult for us, but there’ll probably be some safety car periods and a bit of action, so anything could happen.”

Alonso was pleased with his charge to Q3 for McLaren, but is wary of the team’s chances of points on Sunday.

“On the face of it, I’m pleased. Getting into Q3 was our first objective, but our next is to be competitive in the race,” Alonso said.

“Our pace wasn’t great today and we struggled a little – in fact, good pace hasn’t come too easily to us this weekend.

“Hopefully we can improve for tomorrow though. Race strategy will be key, and I hope things can turn around for us a bit, especially if we get a good start, attack into the first corner and come out in a good position at the end of lap one.

“It might be a case of damage limitation in the race, but let’s see what we can do.”

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

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.