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Vettel beats Verstappen to Singapore GP pole with Q3 stunner

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Sebastian Vettel produced one of the stand-out qualifying laps of his Formula 1 career to beat Max Verstappen to pole position for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday night for Ferrari.

Verstappen had been vying to become F1’s youngest ever pole-sitter in his final qualifying session as a teenager, and looked poised to do so after topping both Q1 and Q2 for Red Bull.

However, Vettel was able to bounce back for Q3, taking provisional pole ahead of Verstappen with his first run before finding yet more time on his last flying lap.

Vettel’s final time of 1:39.491 marked the fastest ever lap around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, giving him his second pole of the year, as well acting as a big victory in the title fight with Lewis Hamilton.

Championship leader Hamilton had a difficult day in the office, ending up fifth overall ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas as both Mercedes drivers struggled to dial in their cars and match Red Bull or Ferrari.

Both Verstappen and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo were left somewhat disappointed after finishing second and third, having dominated in practice, but nevertheless look in the fight for victory.

Just 24 hours after announcing their break-up for 2018, McLaren and Honda enjoyed a rare high moment under the lights in Singapore by qualifying eighth and ninth, albeit rather aptly behind Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. And naturally, the other driver in the McLaren, Honda, Toro Rosso and Renault news whirlwind, Carlos Sainz Jr. completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso.

Jolyon Palmer’s weekend of heartache continued in qualifying as he missed out on a place in Q3, finishing P11. Both Force India drivers struggled, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon taking P12 and P14 respectively, split by Daniil Kvyat. Romain Grosjean wound up 15th for Haas.

Kevin Magnussen missed out on a place in Q2 by one-tenth of a second, finishing 16th overall ahead of Felipe Massa, who was limited to just one run after hitting the wall early and sustaining a puncture.

Massa’s Williams teammate Lance Stroll followed in P18, while the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson propped up the timesheets, more than three seconds off the pace.

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

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony Ménard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

Ménard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, Ménard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. Ménard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”