Just 0.1s separated Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes in Saturday evening’s final practice in Singapore, as Max Verstappen topped the times from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. A surprise best-of-the-rest were McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
Verstappen got it all together to lap his RB13 in 1m 41.829s, slower than team mate Daniel Ricciardo’s best of 1m 40.852s from FP2, but 0.072s quicker than Vettel went in a Ferrari that predictably had been improved since that session. The German might have gone quicker still than 1m 41.901s, but for hitting a wall with his right-rear wheel and later complaining that something felt odd on his SF70H’s left-hand side.
Ricciardo’s hopes of having a “dominant” weekend took a hit – literally – when he clipped a wall on his last attempt, and such was the oddness of this session that he ended up only sixth.
Hamilton and team mate Valtteri Bottas struggled initially with the rear ends of their Mercedes after set-up changes since FP2, but right at the end the triple champion got it together nicely to jump up to third with 1m 41.971s, 0.142s off Verstappen and right on arch-rival Vettel’s tail.
So who was fourth and fifth? Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen? No. It was the McLaren duo. Alonso was actually third with 1m 42.383s before Hamilton’s improvement, while Vandoorne was right with his team mate on 1m 42.439s.
Behind Ricciardo, who was stranded on 1m 42.517s, it was super-close. Nico Hulkenberg was again quick with 1m 42.549s for Renault, which put him seventh ahead of Bottas on 1m 42.592s and Raikkonen on 1m 42.708s. Neither Finn was happy with his car.
Sergio Perez completed the top 10, just ahead of Force India team mate Esteban Ocon, followed by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz, Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and the second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.
The session was halted for nine minutes midway through as debris was cleared away after Marcus Ericsson backed his Sauber into a wall and removed its rear wing. The Swede is set to take a five-place grid penalty after the damage forced the team to replace his gearbox.
Meawhile, right at the end of the hour Verstappen had to creep home when his RB13 started shifting gears on its own. Hopefully that won’t lead to any grid penalties for a gearbox change, because qualifying looks set to be a humdinger.