By Andrew Benson
Chief F1 writer in Singapore
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen were in a league of their own in second practice at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton set the pace, 0.184 seconds ahead of Verstappen. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was third, 0.818secs off.
Valtteri Bottas in fourth was 1.121secs off team-mate Hamilton.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon was fifth, 0.986secs slower than Verstappen, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in sixth.
The Ferrari drivers both had compromised runs when they were simulating qualifying on the ‘soft’ tyres, but the Italian cars look a long way off the form they showed when Leclerc won the last two races in Belgium and Italy.
The Ferrari’s lack of grip in the corners is proving a major handicap around the twists and turns of the Marina Bay circuit.
Four-time world champion Vettel made the latest in a series of mistakes in the last race in Italy, and faced questions about his performance on his arrival in Singapore.
He admitted it was “not great but not a disaster” but there is a perception that he could do with a good weekend to get his season back on track, especially as he has been in Leclerc’s shadow for most of the past seven races.
- Singapore GP first & second practice results
- Chequered Flag podcast: Singapore preview
- Vettel: ‘It’s not great but season not a disaster’
Verstappen needs to get pole
On the evidence of Friday, the race looks to be a fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, and Hamilton and Verstappen left their team-mates for dust.
Both men were in excellent form, and they did their lap times in very different fashion – Verstappen was 0.2secs quicker in the first sector, while Hamilton made back all that and more in the final sector, a quick-fire succession of 90-degree corners.
Bottas, who crashed in first practice at one of those final-sector corners – Turn 19 – was struggling.
And so was Albon, as he found his feet on his first experience of Marina Bay and in just his third race with Red Bull.
The Anglo-Thai made two errors – running wide at Turn Seven early on, and then breaking a front wing after locking up and going straight on at Turn 10.
The car was otherwise undamaged, but he has a lot of work to do overnight to study Verstappen’s data and try to get closer to the Dutchman.
On race pace, the battle between Hamilton and Verstappen looked far less close – the Mercedes was nearly a second a lap quicker on average over the race-simulation runs on the soft tyre later in the session.
Behind the big three teams, McLaren’s Carlos Sainz was best of the rest in seventh place, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and the second McLaren of Lando Norris, and the Toro Rossos of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat.