Charles Leclerc was a surprise pacesetter in final practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, with Scuderia Ferrari turning around their Friday form to lead the way at the b.
Leclerc suffered a gearbox issue in first practice on Friday and was only sixth in the second session, but the Monegasque racer stormed to a best time of 1:38.192 in a session that was halted around half way by a red flag to clear up debris from turn twenty-two following a brush against the wall for Sergio Pérez.
It was a quiet start to the session, with only a handful of drivers performing an installation lap in the opening ten minutes, Kevin Magnussen the first driver to take a trip around the circuit before returning to the pit lane.
Valtteri Bottas, who crashed during the opening practice session on Friday, was the first driver to set a time, the Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver cutting the timing beam with a lap of 1:40.926, with Alexander Albon quickly settling into second, 0.135 seconds off in his Red Bull Racing RB15.
Lewis Hamilton’s first flying lap eased him to top spot, his 1:40.320 more than six tenths to the good ahead of his team-mate, although Bottas then responded by improving to a 1:40.721.
Leclerc was the first driver to dip into the 1:39s, the Scuderia Ferrari driver setting a time of 1:39.364. Ferrari continued to use their upgraded front wing and floor package with both Leclerc and team-mate Sebastian Vettel as they felt it was a better option. Vettel’s first lap was not as clean as his team-mates, the German slotting into second but more than nine-tenths of a second adrift.
Hamilton’s second flying lap moved him up to second, seven-tenths of a second down on Leclerc, although it must be said that the Mercedes driver was using a set of the Pirelli medium compound tyres compared to the soft compound being used by both Ferraris.
Around halfway through the session, Pérez was a major casualty of the session, the Mexican hitting the wall on the outside of turn twenty-two. The Racing Point F1 Team driver had set the fifth fastest time at the time of his crash, with his right wheel taking the brunt of the impact, with the wall breaking it and his suspension. The incident brought out the virtual safety car initially, but with debris strewn across the circuit, the red flag was flown to enable a sweep up to take place.
Max Verstappen had just taken to the track to make his first appearance of the session just prior to Pérez’s crash, with the Red Bull Racing driver being compromised as a result of the red flag.
On the resumption of the session, Bottas switched to the soft compound and hit top spot with a time of 1:39.166, while Verstappen’s first salvo was enough for third, just two tenths of a second behind the Mercedes driver. However, Leclerc then jumped to the top once more, with a lap of 1:38.192, almost a second ahead of Bottas, although the Finn improved to get to within seven-tenths of a second.
Hamilton had a small spin at turn three on his out lap on his first run after the red flag and then was forced to abort his flying lap due to traffic, just before Vettel was able to make it a Ferrari one-two, although again he was more than six-tenths of a second behind Leclerc.
After a cooling down lap, Hamilton set his best time of the session with a 1:38.399 to move into second, 0.207 seconds behind Leclerc, while Verstappen was unable to improve on his second run, ending the session down in sixth behind team-mate Albon, who was able to set an improved time before running off the track at turn nine, although he avoided the wall unlike what he did in free practice on Friday afternoon.
The two McLaren F1 Team drivers had quietly impressive sessions to finish seventh and eighth, Carlos Sainz Jr. ahead of Lando Norris, 1.315 and 1.517 seconds adrift respectively, while the Renault F1 Team completed the top ten, Nico Hülkenberg again getting the better of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, although by only 0.035 seconds on this occasion.
Lance Stroll missed out on the top ten for Racing Point, the Canadian just over two seconds adrift of Leclerc’s session setting time, while Pierre Gasly was twelfth for Scuderia Toro Rosso ahead of Alfa Romeo Racing’s Kimi Räikkönen and the crashed Racing Point of Pérez.
George Russell put in a stellar performance to put his Williams Racing machine into fifteenth, 2.964 seconds behind Leclerc, but ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi and the two Haas F1 Team drivers, Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
The second Williams of Robert Kubica was the last of those to set a lap time as there was a technical issue for Daniil Kvyat, with the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver pulling into the pit lane with a smoky engine without setting a lap time at around the twenty-minute mark. The Russian was unable to resume his running as his car was disassembled, and it could give his mechanics some work to do ahead of Qualifying.
Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari have now all each topped a session in Singapore, but who will snatch pole position later this afternoon? Continue to follow The Checkered Flag this weekend as we will have all the reports and reaction from the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Marina Bay Street Circuit Free Practice 3 Result
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