Lewis Hamilton found it a “struggle” to fight with Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix, admitting the team’s pace had come as a surprise.

Despite winning the last two races in Belgium and Italy, Ferrari was expected to struggle in Singapore given the high-downforce nature of the circuit, only for Leclerc to claim his third consecutive pole position.

Sebastian Vettel qualified third in the sister Ferrari, having sat on provisional pole ahead of the final Q3 runs.

Mercedes driver Hamilton managed to split the Ferrari drivers after making up more than eight-tenths of a second to Leclerc with his final Q3 run, and was content with the result after feeling he was on the back foot.

“Knowing how the Ferraris have been in other places with high downforce and not been so strong, Budapest for example, then all of a sudden they’ve bought an upgrade here and it seems to have worked,” Hamilton said.

“Of course we were not expecting to have such a strong performance from them and have that deficit to them, but they did a great job. I’m grateful that I was able to split them, only just, but we were definitely lacking pace today.

“[It was] definitely a struggle out there to battle with them and be out there. But I liked how close it was between us all. Hopefully that puts us in good stead for more good fights.”

Hamilton managed to top second practice for Mercedes on Friday, but felt the team made a step backward compared to its rivals through Saturday.

“The day’s not been that great. Yesterday was a much smoother day for me, today just a little bit harder,” Hamilton said.

“I feel our performance was lost a little bit today, or everyone else generally just improved. Q3, the first lap was so-so, didn’t feel so good, we were a second away and it looked like quite a leap to catch them up.

“But yeah, I just managed to pull back half a second in that last run, had a clean run, but still two-tenths down in that first sector which is obviously where it was lost.”

 

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