Leclerc leads the way in FP3 as Red Bull struggles

Image by Glenn Dunbar/LAT

Leclerc leads the way in FP3 as Red Bull struggles

Formula 1

Leclerc leads the way in FP3 as Red Bull struggles


Charles Leclerc was fastest in the final practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix as Red Bull struggled for pace.

After Max Verstappen was quickest in FP1 and second to Lewis Hamilton in the second session, Leclerc’s performance on Saturday ensured all three of the top teams set the pace in a practice session each. It was a surprising performance at a track where Ferrari had not been expected to be as competitive as Mercedes and Red Bull, but opens up the potential for some unpredictability in qualifying.

Leclerc’s lap of 1m38.192s was nearly 0.6s quicker than the fastest time on Friday, and left him just over 0.2s clear of Hamilton in FP3. Hamilton remains the most consistent performer in terms of lap time as he has been near the front throughout the weekend, but he did suffer a tame spin exiting the pits on cold tires ahead of his fastest attempt.

Hamilton also backed off on his next lap after encountering traffic, meaning his tires will not have been at their best when he finally set his time and suggesting there is more pace to come from the championship leader.

Sebastian Vettel was third quickest but 0.6s off his team-mate in the second Ferrari, losing most of the time in the final two sectors. He still edged out Valtteri Bottas by 0.074s, with the Red Bull pair unable to get within a second of Leclerc.

Alexander Albon was the lead Red Bull, with Verstappen failing to hit double figures in terms of lap count. Albon was 1.066s slower than the fastest time but 0.1s ahead of his teammate despite a trip into the run-off area and a spin to rejoin the track late in the session.

Verstappen had been comfortably quicker than Albon throughout Friday, suggesting an issue for the Dutchman in FP3. Given his best lap was 0.4s slower than his FP2 lap time, Red Bull could still remain a threat in qualifying later today.

The other Honda-powered team of Toro Rosso suffered a troublesome session, with Daniil Kvyat having to return to the pits due to smoke emerging from the rear of his car on his third lap. The Russian appeared to get the call to come in late, but once back in the garage the team discovered an issue that prevented him running again and left him bottom of the standings without setting a time.

There was also an error from Sergio Perez when he hit the wall on the exit of Turn 21, leaving debris on the track and causing a red flag. Perez damaged the right rear corner of his Racing Point that ended his session after just four laps, leading to a delay of seven minutes.

Behind the top six, McLaren pulled clear of Renault in final practice with Carlos Sainz in seventh just over 0.1s off Verstappen and a whole 0.6s clear of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo in ninth and 10th. Lando Norris was 0.2s off his teammate in eighth place, as the rookies impressed in FP3.

George Russell also falls into that category as he ended up 15th quickest and in the midfield mix ahead of both Haas drivers, Antonio Giovinazzi, Robert Kubica and Kvyat.