Rosberg: Singapore pole lap ‘one of my top three ever’

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Nico Rosberg believes that lap that took him to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night is among the best three of his Formula 1 career.

Rosberg stormed to his 29th pole position under the lights at Marina Bay, his first lap in Q3 good enough for pole by over half a second from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

After cutting Hamilton’s championship lead down to just two points with victory in Belgium and Italy, Rosberg can move back ahead in the standings with a third straight win on Sunday.

Speaking after qualifying, Rosberg made no secret of his delight after taking pole on the weekend of his 200th F1 start.

“Yeah definitely happy with that one for my 200th grand prix – for sure one of my top three laps ever,” Rosberg said.

“Happy with that, really went well.

“At times it wasn’t clear in qualifying how we were going to stack up against Red Bull because they were very quick on the super-soft in Q2.

“I knew I had to give it everything and really pull one out of the bag which is cool. Great feeling.”

Rosberg will start alongside Ricciardo on the front row in Singapore, who opted to fit the super-soft tire in Q2, meaning he can go longer into the race before stopping and has more strategy options.

When asked if he was worried about Ricciardo, Rosberg replied: “No, but for sure I’ll be keeping an eye on him yes.

“They were quick on race pace on Friday, I think more so than the qualifying pace.

“For sure he’ll be a threat, especially with that super-soft tire.”

Pole position in Singapore was the 29th of Rosberg’s F1 career, drawing him level with five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio for eighth place on the all-time record list.

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.