Hamilton promises 'aggressive' fight with Leclerc having lost Singapore pole

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Two weeks after their duel at Monza, Lewis Hamilton promises to up the ante with Charles Leclerc on Sunday in Singapore.

The world champion was left relieved to qualify second at Marina Bay, finishing less than two-tenths behind the Monegasque who stormed to his fifth pole of the season.

And on a weekend when it was expected Max Verstappen and Red Bull would be their his main competition, Hamilton was as shocked as anyone by Leclerc's pace.

“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,” he commented.

“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.

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“[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.”

Frustratingly for Hamilton though, he admits the performance of his Mercedes had slipped since Friday, when he had led second practice.

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

“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.”

The expectation is though that Mercedes will still have the faster race car on Sunday in Singapore and Hamilton isn't prepared to be as kind to Leclerc as he was in Monza.

"Charles obviously put some great laps in. I really needed something special at the end, I gave it absolutely everything I had," he said.

"Very, very close. It was as much as I could get out the car, and I'm happy to be on the front row in the mix with them.

"Tomorrow we can be aggressive."