Mercedes Formula 1 team boss Toto Wolff says Ferrari remains “a force to be reckoned with” following its surprise charge to pole position in Singapore on Saturday.

Ferrari was expected to struggle on the high downforce layout in Singapore after difficulties at similar circuits earlier in the year, only for Charles Leclerc to score his third straight pole ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc’s pace was underpinned by that of teammate Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third, a further three-hundredths of a second behind Hamilton as both benefitted from a raft of updates for the Ferrari SF90 car.

“I think you always need to have Ferrari on the radar. They’ve had some pretty good races at the beginning of the season and then it somehow fell apart and a strong run most recently,” Wolff said after qualifying on Saturday in Singapore.

“When we came into this weekend, I heard so many times, ‘well you are the favourites and it’s going to be between you and Red Bull and Ferrari is going to be nowhere because their car only goes fast on the straight’.

“I always said try to be cautious about these things, and here we go. It’s maybe a bit of an extravagant track and a little bit of an outlier, and maybe they were lucky.

“But I don’t think so. I think Ferrari is a force to be reckoned with always.”

Mercedes appeared to have an edge over Ferrari through the long run pace in second practice on Friday night, but Wolff stressed the importance of track position around the tight Singapore circuit.

“Obviously if you are fast on one lap, you’ve got to have the heat in the car and the tyres for this one lap, and it’s something that can bite you on a race distance,” Wolff said.

“Having said that, once you’re in front, you have a decent opportunity in managing from there. I’d rather be on pole with a slightly compromised pole than have a great race car and not be on pole.

“I think it’s more difficult here, a little bit like Monaco, where it’s really difficult to overtake, especially if you have a fast car on the straight – unless the pace difference is enormous. You don’t expect it.

“Nevertheless, we’re going into the race tomorrow with full steam ahead and the points are being awarded tomorrow, not today.”

 

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