Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg claimed top spot in final practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, beating Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by just five hundredths of a second.
After spending the bulk of the session in P1 with a lap set on supersoft tyres Rosberg was the first to make the switch to the quicker ultrasoft tyres, with 18 minutes left on the clock.
He quickly lowered his own benchmark by over a second from 1:45.544 to 1:44.352, a gain more than tallying with Pirelli’s Friday assessment of there being 0.9s between the two compounds.
Rosberg was pushed hard by Verstappen, however, with the Dutch teenager finding clear air on a busy track to post a time of 1:44.411, just 0.059s adrift of the Mercedes driver.
Given the pace of Rosberg and Verstappen the pair should haven been joined at the top of the timesheet by their respective team-mates, but both Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo had untidy ends to the session.
Hamilton was close behind his team-mate on track but despite setting the fastest Sector 1 time the championship leader suffered a huge lock-up on the approach to Turn 7. The resulting flat spot forced him back to the pit lane and though he emerged again on a used set of ultrasofts he made no attempt to set a time and thus finished the session in P8.
Ricciardo, meanwhile, caught traffic on his quali sim and ended the session in P4, 0.551s behind Rosberg. “Starting to enjoy Ocon’s company,” the Australian drily remarked of his final sector encounter with Manor’s French driver.
It meant that P3 in the session went to Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was 0.508s adrift of Rosberg, however, and with team-mate Sebastian Vettel fifth-fastest and complaining of poor rear handling, it looks like the Italian squad has work to do ahead of qualifying if it is to challenge for the front two rows of the grid.
Sixth place went to Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Daniil Kvyat impressing for Toro Rosso in seventh place ahead of Hamilton. Carlos Sainz have Toro Rosso further hope of a good result with ninth place and the top 10 order was rounded out by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.
2016 Singapore Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:44.352 15
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:44.411 15
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:44.860 15
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:44.903 12
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:45.104 13
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:45.316 13
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:45.503 19
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.806 9
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:45.879 17
10 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:45.947 16
11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:46.112 15
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:46.164 13
13 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:46.316 16
14 Felipe Massa Williams 1:46.529 17
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:47.116 11
16 Jenson Button McLaren 1:47.277 16
17 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:47.293 18
18 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:47.411 20
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:47.956 20
20 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:48.689 13
21 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:49.201 10
22 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:49.565 14