Following the conclusion of Free Practice 1, the man on top of the timing screen was Max Verstappen. By the time night had wrapped itself around the Marina Bay Street Circuit at the culmination of Free Practice 2, Lewis Hamilton had indicated he was certainly in contention for the race victory, once again, due to his lap time of 1:38.773. Therefore, if the battle around the home of the night race was to become a three team battle it was down to Scuderia Ferrari to deliver. If the Prancing Horse was to be quickest ahead of qualifying, would it be Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel taking the plaudits? The answer was…Charles Leclerc!
‘Cars on track’ is the sentence heard around the circuit said by the tireless marshals as an indication that action is taking place. Unfortunately, 10 minutes had to pass before any consistent running was seen due to the fact that the opening laps negotiated by the midfield teams proved to be nothing more than installation laps. After the first tussle at the front, Valtteri Bottas recorded a 1:40.926s. The Finnish driver showed no signs of repeating yesterday’s error from FP1 but he soon fell down the time screen into fourth with his teammate Lewis Hamilton placed in second with a Ferrari either side of him.
There is much expectation that this weekend could be Sebastian Vettel’s revival but for the time being it was the other car in red leading the pack as a result of his 1:39.364. Just as excitement was building, Daniil Kvyat's engine gave up as indicated by smoke pouring out of the back followed shortly after with a complete halt to any action following the requirement of a virtual safety car.
Sergio Perez, having found his way to 5th, made contact with the wall at turn 22. This was a heavy impact causing a spattering of debris resulting from the tyre as well as the rim being broken. Unsurprisingly, to clear the debris, the red flag came out for a few minutes to return the track to its beautifully bumpy condition.
Prior to the red flag, Max Verstappen had been running the soft compound but the interruption to proceedings halted that attempt and the number 33 racer found himself as the only driver without a recorded lap time…with less than 20 minutes remaining.
When a time was eventually recorded, it would take the form of two purple sectors for Verstappen resulting in P3 following his 1:39.366. Sector 1 would need improvements if the main Fed Bull man was to get in front.
Whilst much excitement was had assessing the front runners, slightly back in the midfield was just as appetizing a battle within a team, the team being Renault Sport. Having been quicker than his previous teammate on both sessions the previous day, the recently released Nico Hulkenberg was looking for the hat trick over his Aussie teammate Daniel Ricciardo ahead of qualifying. Ricciardo showed his first sign of pace with a 1:40.153 but still Hulkenberg edged it and claimed the hat trick by the slightest of margins with a 1:40.118. How’s that for close between teammates?!
Also making noteworthy drives were the pair of McLaren’s. A 1:39.507 for Carlos Sainz and a 1:39.709 for Lando Norris showed the times were tight and 7th and 8th were theirs. Just in front of the McLaren pair of drivers and also Max Verstappen…was Alex Albon. The rookie driver continued to grow in confidence setting a 1:39.258 to claim 5th.
Back at the front, Charles Leclerc made a statement with a tidy and fast lap amounting to 1:38.192 and just under seven tenths quicker than second placed Bottas. Therefore, all eyes were on Sebastian Vettel to see if he could respond but on this occasion 1:38.811 was all he could muster and so it was second for now. With this, the gauntlet was laid down for Lewis Hamilton and he was quicker than Vettel and just over two tenths slower than Leclerc…but slower nonetheless. Prior to this, the 5-time Champion had a little moment by spinning as he exited the pits which lit up his rear soft tyres in turn 3.
Free Practice 3 serves as the opening course to the real business end of the Formula 1 race weekend. A 60-minute session for the drivers to ‘get their eye in’ whilst being mindful as to not cause damage which would hinder their qualifying performance. In 2018, Lewis Hamilton recorded a blistering pole position lap which he himself described as a moment when ‘the stars aligned’ on this form with such a close pack – the 5-time World Champion will need to produce something similar if he wishes to claim the crucial position of P1 on the starting grid under the lights tomorrow in Singapore. Charles Leclerc is a back to back winner and has just closed out FP3 on top, as such his confidence will be high.