Rosberg tops FP3, as Hamilton falters and Verstappen gets close

World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Mercedes AMG Petronas W07 Hybrid – Nico Rosberg. Friday 16th September 2016, F1 Singapore GP Practice 2, Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore. Digital Ref : 1717CB5D5452

Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Nico Rosberg topped the times in the final practice session of the weekend ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, but it was by less than a tenth of a second from Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, the Milton Keynes based squad as expected, looking strong here.

Although FP3 is a good session for getting some laps under the drivers belts, it does not give a true representation of the conditions that will be experienced during qualifying later today and the race, as it is held much earlier in the day. Interestingly, Pirelli have again amended the minimum tyre pressure levels ahead of FP3. The fronts will remain at 20 psi, but the rear levels have been reduced from 17.5 psi to 16.5psi.

Rosberg set a time of 1:44.352 to take the top spot on a set of new ultra-soft tyres, but was run close by the Dutchman who bizarrely encountered a giant lizard on track during the early part of the session.

The eighteen-year-old was four tenths ahead of the third placed Scuderia Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, who out drove team-mate Sebastian Vettel during this session.

Daniel Ricciardo was fourth, five hundredths of a second down on the Finn, but definitely looked like he had more to give, and pleasingly for the Australian, he was ahead of Vettel in the second Ferrari.

The German appeared unhappy with the SF16-H for most of the FP3 session, asking for more rear on entry, and complaining of feeling like a passenger as he went through the corners.

Nico Hulkenberg was sixth in the Sahara Force India, just two tenths down on the Ferrari and looking strong this weekend. The German was just ahead of Danill Kvyat in the first Scuderia Toro Rosso, a result which must come as a relief for the Russian driver after so many poor weekend’s, following his return to the team.

The Faenza based squad, who have an upgraded aero package here in Singapore, have looked impressive so far this weekend and could perhaps spring a surprise result on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton finished way down the order in eighth place, and as is often the case during practice, looked less comfortable with the W07 than his team-mate. The Brit had a knack of running down the escape road at Turn 7, just as he had set the fastest first sector of the session. The final time he did that, unfortunately saw Hamilton lock up and flat spot his tyres, ruining his qualifying simulation in doing so.

The Brit also once again complained of heat in the cockpit, this time coming up from the right-handside of his seat, and the current world champion really needs to get a handle on things ahead of qualifying.

Carlos Sainz Jnr was ninth, seeing both Toro Rosso’s finish in the top ten for the first time in a while. The Spaniard did have a hairy moment during the FP3 session, when he had to take evasive action coming through the final sequence of corners, when a slowing Marcus Ericsson got right in his way.

Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten for Williams Martini Racing, a far better showing from the Oxfordshire based squad, than where they were on Friday, and the Finn was two tenths clear of Sergio Perez in the second Force India.

McLaren-Honda F1 Team driver Fernando Alonso was a further tenth off the pace in twelfth. The Woking based squad had hoped they could challenge further up the order at Singapore this weekend, that however does not appear to be the case so far.

Esteban Gutierrez was thirteenth in the first of the Haas F1 Team runners, The VF16 looked particularly difficult to drive, with the Mexican having to slide his way around most of the track like a rally car on occasion.

Felipe Massa was fourteenth, six tenths down on team-mate Bottas, but a further six tenths clear of Kevin Magnussen in the first of the Renault Sport F1 Team cars.

The Dane was just ahead of former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button, who struggled with the MP4-31 during this FP3 session. The Brit reported over team radio that he had massive understeer and lack of low grip. and the team seemed unable to rectify the issues, seeing Button finish down in sixteenth place and over a second slower than his team-mate.

Sauber F1 Team driver Felipe Nasr was seventeenth, and the Brazilian was lucky to recover from a spin at Turn 13 early in the session, after misjudging an overtake on Gutierrez.

Romain Grosjean yet again struggled to get a good set-up in the Haas, and complained of issues with the front going through Turns 1 to 3. The Frenchman finished down in eighteenth place and was clearly unhappy with the handling of the Haas throughout the session.

Ericsson was nineteenth in the second Sauber, just ahead of Jolyon Palmer who reported a problem with his throttle pedal, which meant the Brit was struggling to keep the car steady at low revs.

Manor Racing Team driver Pascal Wehrlein was twenty-first, having had an early return to the pits after losing the rear of the car coming into the right-hander at Turn 11 and tagging the wall. The German was able to continue on but sustained damage to the rear wing and endplate, which detached from the car and littered the track, bringing out the red flags briefly whilst stewards cleared the debris away.

Wehrlein required a rear wing and floor change, which the mechanics did manage to repair before the session had finished, and with ten minutes remaining the German was back out on track. He finished just ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon who brought up the rear of the pack.

Heading into qualifying, Mercedes still look to have the edge and outright pace over their rivals, but both Red Bull and Ferrari look to be right there with them, which should make for an interesting battle for pole position later today.

2016 Singapore Grand Prix – FP3 Results

16Nico Rosberg GERMercedes1:44.352
233Max Verstappen NEDRed Bull Racing1:44.411
37Kimi Räikkönen FINFerrari1:44.860
43Daniel RicciardoAUSRed Bull Racing1:44.903
55Sebastian VettelGERFerrari1:45.104
626Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso 1:45.316
726Daniil KvyatRUSToro Rosso1:45.503
844Lewis Hamilton ENGMercedes1:45.806
955Carlos Sainz SPAToro Rosso1:45.879
1077Valtteri BottasFINWilliams1:45.947
1111Sergio PerezMEXForce India1:46.112
1214Fernando AlonsoSPAMcLaren1:46.164
1321Esteban Gutierrez MEXHaas1:46.316
1419Felipe MassaBRAWilliams1:46.529
159Marcus EricssonSWESauber1:47.116
1622Jenson ButtonENGMcLaren1:47.277
1712Felipe NasrBRASauber1:47.293
188Romain Grosjean FRAHaas1:47.411
199Marcus Ericsson SWESauber1:47.956
2030Jolyon PalmerENGRenault1:48.689
2194Pascal Wehrlein GERManor1:49.201
2231Esteban OconFRAManor 1:49.565