Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix could be a three-way fight between Mercedes-AMG, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari after Charles Leclerc became the third different driver to finish on top of the timesheets.
Saturday evening’s final one-hour hit-out before the all-important fight for the grid saw the Monégasque driver unleash some extra pace from his heavily revised SF90, which was not considered a likely contender at the slow-speed Marina Bay street circuit.
With the red cars lapping almost a second off the pace on Friday where Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton shared practice honours, Leclerc edged the current championship leader by two-tenths of a second.
A 1:38.192 effort – some two seconds quicker than his best time in a Friday disrupted by a gearbox problem – saw the Belgian and Italian Grand Prix winner emerge as the fastest driver in FP3, having led much of the session.
Hamilton sought to challenge Leclerc’s benchmark time, but had his session disrupted with a cold-tyre low-speed spin at Turn 2 after exiting the pits and later hit traffic while attempting a flying lap.
Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel finished the session third-fastest, with the German continuing his solid run of form at a venue where he has celebrated victory no less than four times.
Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was fourth-fastest, fractionally slower than Vettel but a full six-tenths of a second off Leclerc’s benchmark time.
The more-fancied Red Bull Racing Honda cars failed to crack the top-four on a circuit well-suited their cars. Despite a harmless spin at Turn 9, Alexander Albon managed to upstage teammate Max Verstappen to snatch P5 on the timesheets, with the more experienced Dutch driver one spot behind thanks to an untidy lap impacted by traffic.
The battle for ‘best of the rest’ honours went McLaren’s way, with its pairing of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Lando Norris upstaging the factory Renaults of Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo.
The session was red-flagged at its halfway mark when Sergio Pérez clouted the wall at the exit of the final chicane, breaking his right-rear wheel and suspension and leaving debris scattered across the track.
Also having drama in the session was Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, whose car emitted smoke from its Honda power unit while he was attempting his first timed lap. The Russian was quickly called back into the pits, where an oil leak was diagnosed. He will switch to a previously used power unit for qualifying, ensuring that he will not take a grid penalty for Sunday night’s race.
More positively, Williams rookie George Russell finished the session outpacing not only his teammate Robert Kubica (as usual) but also the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi and the Haas Ferrari duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
|FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX 2019 – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 3|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:38.192||15|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:38.399||+ 0.207||15|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||1:38.811||+ 0.619||13|
|4.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||1:38.885||+ 0.693||16|
|5.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:39.258||+ 1.066||14|
|6.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||1:39.366||+ 1.174||9|
|7.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:39.507||+ 1.315||14|
|8.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||1:39.709||+ 1.517||13|
|9.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:40.118||+ 1.926||15|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||1:40.153||+ 1.961||12|
|11.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:40.209||+ 2.017||11|
|12.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||1:40.339||+ 2.147||15|
|13.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:40.953||+ 2.761||16|
|14.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1:40.985||+ 2.793||4|
|15.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:41.156||+ 2.964||13|
|16.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||1:41.169||+ 2.977||14|
|17.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:41.494||+ 3.302||12|
|18.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||1:41.542||+ 3.350||12|
|19.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||1:41.954||+ 3.762||13|
|20.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||no time||3|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari