Singapore GP: Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen dominate practice

Max Verstapen
Final practice and qualifying is live on the BBC Sport website from 10:55 BST on Saturday

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.

Verstappen needs to get pole

On the evidence of Friday, the race looks to be a fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, 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.

Marina Bay Street Circuit
When night falls, 1,600 custom-made floodlights illuminating the Marina Bay street circuit

'It's like a sauna in the car'

"It's been a good day. It's so hot out there," said Hamilton. "It's always a shock to the system when you get in the car here because it's so bumpy, it's a long, long lap. It's like a sauna in the car but it's been a solid day.

"We got through our run plan and continued to improve the car so I was really happy with it. I felt much better in the car than I have for a while. I hope that says over the weekend. If you can get into a groove, it's such a beautiful lap. I've really been enjoying it."

Verstappen said: "We seem to be competitive in short and long runs. It was a good start to the weekend."

Vettel: "I don't think it has been a clean Friday but Mercedes look very fast and faster than us. They left with the strongest impression today. The car is not yet doing what I want and we can improve the balance.

"All the bits we brought seem to work so that's good news but let's see how close we can get tomorrow."

Nico Hulkenberg
Sparks fly from Hulkenberg's Renault

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