Singapore GP: Lewis Hamilton close to Ferrari in Friday practice
Title leader just 0.011s behind Raikkonen in Practice Two; But Vettel's pace an unknown after Ferrari hits the wall
By Jonathan Green and James Galloway in Singapore
Last Updated: 06/12/18 10:22am
Lewis Hamilton believes Mercedes may have discovered the form on the streets of Singapore to put themselves in a three-way fight with Ferrari and Red Bull.
In a competitive evening practice in hot and sticky Singapore, Hamilton said he "lost almost two kilos" in weight en-route to finishing just 0.011s behind Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the timesheet.
Sebastian Vettel was down in ninth after hitting the wall and missing half the session.
Although winners in Singapore in three of the last four seasons, Mercedes have still struggled to transfer their pace on faster tracks to the twisty streets and qualified well behind Ferrari and Red Bull last year.
But, in a topsy-turvy season that has rarely respected past form, Hamilton said: "We got through our programme, tried some different options and got some good results from it.
"We were close to the Ferraris, but we will only find out on Saturday how quick they really are.
"The guys have been working so hard both here at the track and back at the factory to improve the car and it is definitely feeling better than it did in the past."
Vettel's clash with the barriers meant he missed out on a full qualifying simulation and the later race runs. But the title contender saw enough from the timesheet to also end Friday predicting a tight battle for supremacy
"I think it is close," Vettel said. "Especially on the long runs, Red Bull look quick."
'Red Bull must improve one-lap pace'
Red Bull had made the perfect start to the weekend with Daniel Ricciardo leading Max Verstappen in Practice One but they were unable to replicate that form under the Marina Bay lights.
Verstappen edged Ricciardo for third in the second session but both were over half a second off the pace set by Raikkonen and Hamilton.
"I don't expect we have the pace to fight for pole position, but let's see," said Verstappen.
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Red Bull chief Christian Horner admitted to Sky F1 his team had struggled to get the right balance on the fastest hypersoft tyres, but Red Bull did have the best long-run pace in the second session.
However, Ricciardo believes that will count for nothing if Red Bull cannot qualify in the top three on Saturday.
"I'm not really concerned," Ricciardo said. "It's important to learn from today but I think we know where we stand and I think we're going to be alright.
"On the tyres we're looking as good, if not better than anyone. But honestly if we don't qualify in the top two or top three it's not that important. Qualifying is nearly as important as Monaco around here. Race pace is alright but we need to sort out the one-lap pace. I think we will but we've got a little bit of work to do.
"I think Saturday is going to be very close."
Analysis from Sky F1's Paul di Resta
"I'm not so sure Red Bull are in [the battle for pole]. When Mercedes and Ferrari turn up the juice and start putting the qualifying modes in, I think they're in front.
"Where Red Bull come into it, they could be second best in the race just because of their tyre wear and they can be very aggressive. That's key to the championship - if Vettel's at the front, they can hamper Hamilton. Equally, if Hamilton is at the front they are really going to hurt Vettel."