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Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel recovered from his crash on Friday to top the third practice session at the 2018 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel hit the wall in FP2, curtailing his session early. But the German showed no signs of rustiness on Saturday, as his time of one minute, 38.054 seconds put him on top. Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was second—0.362 seconds behind—while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was third.
The race at Marina Bay will be a crucial one in the battle for the drivers’ title. Hamilton leads Vettel by 30 points going into the weekend, with seven races remaining in the 2018 season.
The drivers will be back in action again later in the day for qualifying, with the pole-sitter for Sunday’s race still to be determined.
Here are the final standings from third practice in Singapore:
Formula 1 @F1
FP3 CLASSIFICATION: @ScuderiaFerrari are looking very strong ahead of qualifying #SingaporeGP 🇸🇬 #F1 https://t.co/phSi8bBX62
Having fared better than many anticipated on Friday around this tight street circuit, all eyes were on Mercedes on Saturday to see if they were able to live with the pace of Ferrari. But the Silver Arrows were happy to bide their time in FP3, as they were one of the last teams to post a timed lap.
Once again, it was Ferrari who set the early pace, with Vettel shooting to the top of the standings in the Marina Bay dusk.
The Pirelli Motorsport Twitter account outlined the unique challenges that racing at this time of day poses:
Pirelli Motorsport @pirellisport
The sun’s going to set soon, so this is the only race of the year where the drivers have specially-tinted visors on their helmets to help them see better. Although the 1500 or so light projectors help as well. https://t.co/LKlfyV6vCP
As Autosport Live noted, Vettel was a long way clear of the rest of the field with his opening timed lap:
Autosport Live @autosportlive
…and that’s Vettel’s new benchmark. He lights up the timing screens and sets a 1m38.054s. That’s 0.6s faster than Raikkonen managed yesterday and puts Vettel two seconds clear for now. #F1
Team-mate Raikkonen was able to cut the gap down to 0.362 seconds, although the rest of the field did appear to be floundering in an attempt to rein in the Ferraris. Hamilton, on his first timed lap, moved into third, almost seven tenths behind the leader. He eventually closed that gap to around half a second.
Per F1 journalist Luke Smith, Hamilton said he wasn’t confident of finding the time needed to seriously challenge Vettel:
Luke Smith @LukeSmithF1
Hamilton on radio: “I can’t gain four-tenths in that first sector” #F1 #SingaporeGP
In the latter stages, all eyes were on the Red Bulls, as Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen put on the quickest tyre compound in an attempt to pressure the Mercedes pair. In the end, they had to make do with fifth and sixth, respectively.
With Raikkonen topping FP2 and Vettel dominant in FP3, it appears Ferrari are going to be difficult to get the better of in the scrap for pole position on Saturday.