'Box, Max! Box, box, box!' - How a rare Red Bull mistake cost Verstappen pole in Singapore

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  • Max Verstappen qualified eighth for Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix after, it seems, Red Bull under-fuelled his car.
  • Verstappen was on course for pole position before Red Bull called him into the pits.
  • Verstappen will have an uphill battle if he wants to win his 12th race of the season.

Red Bull Racing pulled a rabbit out of the hat when they somewhat inexplicably called star driver Max Verstappen into the pits on his final run in qualifying for tomorrow's Singapore Grand Prix. Verstappen looked on course to secure his first pole at the venue, but a radio call in the final sector of his final lap called him into the pits.

"Box, Max! Box, box, box!" the team exclaimed over the radio, and Verstappen's explicative response was definitely expected. The team's decision to bring Verstappen back into the pits confused everyone, especially because the defending champion was already 0.9 seconds quicker than Charles Leclerc's (Ferrari) provisional pole time.

In the end, Verstappen qualified in eighth place for tomorrow's race.

Verstappen had never started the Singapore GP from the front, and to see it being 'stolen' from him - by his own team! - left more questions than answers. Though Red Bull is yet to release an official statement, there might be a reason for doing what they did.

It could be fuel

A lap around the Marina Bay Circuit takes around 1min50, with Leclerc securing the position with a 1:49.412. It's not the fastest qualifying time of all circuits on the F1 calendar, but it definitely takes the longest. And with Q3 being 12 minutes long, it's better to fuel an F1 car for the session and let the driver deliver attack-and-cool-down laps until the end.

Everyone did this, but it would seem that Red Bull got their calculations wrong, leaving Verstappen vulnerable and exposed. And when the now-dreaded call came over Verstappen's radio, you could hear the disappointment in the Dutchman's voice.

READ: WRAP | Leclerc takes pole for 2022 Singapore GP as Red Bull fumbles

But, as per FIA regulations, an F1 car needs at least one litre of fuel in the tank for the mandated fuel tests. Anything less than this could have you disqualified from qualifying. And this could have been what Red Bull realised when they revisited the data on Verstappen's car.

"It's bizarre," said F1 commentator Jolyon Palmer. "The rules state that you must have about a litre of fuel left at the bottom of the tank to be able to do your FIA-mandated fuel sample after qualifying. Maybe Red Bull saw he was critical on fuel?

"But he was so close to the start-finish line, he could have just always shut it (the engine) off as soon as he crossed the line. It must have been very marginal."

Verstappen will be chasing a sixth consecutive win tomorrow and his 12th of the 2022 campaign.

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