In the second Silver Arrow, Lewis Hamilton ended up seventh after a technical problem forced him to sit out the latter part of the session. Ahead of him in the times were Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, while the Toro Rossos of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat were eighth and tenth, split by the McLaren of Fernando Alonso.
Rosberg put Mercedes back on top at Marina Bay for the first time since 2014, but it was a difficult session for team mate Hamilton; after setting the fastest time on supersoft tyres, nine-tenths up on Raikkonen, the world champion failed to get a better time on the ultrasofts the others had used as he struggled under braking with a hydraulic issue which forced him to stop for attention with 27 minutes remaining.
After Esteban Gutierrez had set the initial pace for Haas with 1m 48.700s, Vettel took over with 1m 47.475s on soft rubber. That was soon supplanted by Raikkonen with 1m 46.167s on supersofts before Hamilton’s 1m 45.275s undercut it by 0.892s.
When the switch to ultrasofts came, Vettel went ahead with 1m 45.266s but the ante was immediately reset by Raikkonen on 1m 44.427s before Rosberg signalled a) that his FP1 crash had not upset his rhythm and b) that Mercedes look strong again here after their upset last year, by posting 1m 44.152s. That remained the fastest time, 0.275s faster than the Ferrari.
Verstappen made the best use of the latest Renault engine; the Dutchman had the sole upgraded version available after the French manufacturer spent three development tokens on unspecified modifications. As the Barcelona winner lapped in 1m 44.532s, Red Bull team mate Ricciardo was right on his tail with 1m 44.557s. The Australian clipped a wall and spun in Turn 11, but did no damage to his RB12.
Curiously, Vettel only improved with 1m 45.161s for fifth as Hulkenberg used ultrasofts to lap his Force India sixth fastest with 1m 45.182s. Hamilton’s soft-tyre time of 1m 45.275s left him an unhappy seventh, with Sainz again shining for Toro Rossi in eighth with 1m 45.507s ahead of the feisty Alonso on 1m 45.779s and Kvyat 10th on 1m 46.029s.
For the second time in the day Alonso shaved a wall, without doing lasting damage to his McLaren. Sainz and Manor’s Esteban Ocon also hit walls, the latter with his left rear and then the right rear on the same lap. But the French rookie was impressively only three-tenths off team mate Pascal Wehrlein.
Romain Grosjean was again in the wars; he complained of poor braking and an odd feeling at the rear of his Haas before backing it into the wall in Turn 23 and tearing off most of the rear wing.