Carlos Sainz pips Charles Leclerc by 0.018s to lead another Ferrari one-two in Singapore Friday practice; George Russell third for Mercedes; Red Bull off pace with Sergio Perez seventh and Max Verstappen eighth; Practice Three at 10.30am Sat ahead of Qualifying at 2pm, live on Sky F1
By Jonathan Green in Singapore
Last Updated: 15/09/23 3:19pm
Ferrari laid down a marker at the Singapore Grand Prix as Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc for another 1-2 in Practice Two, while Red Bull were well off the pace.
The two Ferraris were comfortably ahead of the rest of the field under the lights at Marina Bay on Friday, with Sainz posting a best time of 1:32.120.
After topping the opening session, Leclerc had to settle for second in the Practice Two timesheet as he was 0.018s off his team-mate’s leading time.
George Russell was the closest challenger, but he could only get his Mercedes within 0.235s of Sainz’s benchmark.
“The Ferraris are looking good on track at the moment,” Sky Sports F1’s Karun Chandhok said in commentary.
“No real imbalances, the drivers are ready to attack the corners.”
While the Ferrari car looked very balanced, the same could not be said for Red Bull who were surprisingly off the pace.
Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen ended up seventh and eighth respectively, around seven-tenths off Sainz with both drivers visibly struggling with handling and Perez saying on team radio he felt like he was “going to crash” in every braking zone. Verstappen’s hot lap was impacted by traffic in the middle sector.
Red Bull can secure the Constructors’ Championship this weekend but that is only possible if they secure a one-two finish in Sunday’s race.
Fernando Alonso was fourth fastest in the Aston Martin 0.358s off Sainz’s time, with Lewis Hamilton a further tenth back in the second Mercedes and Lando Norris another tenth further back in the upgraded MCL60.
“I’m excited for qualifying already. We have five teams in the top seven and Red Bull are only seventh,” Chandhok said. Qualifying takes place at 2pm on Saturday.
The top 10 was rounded out by Kevin Magnussen’s Haas and Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo.
Alex Albon will be playing catch-up on Saturday after his session was ended after only 10 minutes and five laps of running due to a power unit issue on his Williams.
Ferrari well placed to end Red Bull’s win streak?
Ferrari have arrived in Singapore with fresh buoyancy after finishing third and fourth last time out at their home race in Monza.
Leclerc was on pole for last year’s Singapore GP, but the Monegasque had looked to play down expectations on Thursday saying that he felt the SF23 is weaker on high-downforce tracks like Singapore compared to the low downforce set-up required in Monza.
But after two one-two finishes in Friday practice, the Scuderia appear favourites going into the remainder of the weekend with Sainz and Leclerc appearing able to attack the kerbs of Singpore’s streets more than other teams.
Red Bull are on a 16-race win streak and have not been beaten in any Sprint or Grand Prix in 2023, but both Verstappen and Perez were struggling with the handling of the RB19 under braking in Practice Two.
“It’s going to be interesting to see if they can get on top of their problems,” Sky Sports F1’s Bernie Collins said.
“This is a circuit where braking is so important. The drivers need that confidence going into a braking zone.
“You might only get one lap in Qualifying here because of red flags and the soft drivers will struggle in the heat, so it’s vital that you can confidently brake.”
More to follow…