Sebastian Vettel laid down an impressive marker as he looks to win a third consecutive race and extend his lead atop the drivers’ standings, by dominating second practice at the Singapore Grand Prix. The triple world champion was 0.604 seconds faster than teammate Mark Webber and over a second quicker than the best-placed non-Red-Bull driver, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Lewis Hamilton, who led the way in practice on Friday morning, was next quickest, followed by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The man set to be the Spaniard’s teammate for next season, Kimi Raikkonen, could only manage the eight best time in his Lotus.
It is the fourth Friday afternoon practice in succession that Vettel has topped the timing sheets. Yet, in both Hungary and Belgium, Mercedes and Hamilton hit back to take pole the following day. And Vettel is not yet taking anything for granted.
“The time we set was a surprise today, I got a good lap in, but I don’t think it’s completely representative,” he said, according to Formula1.com. “We seem to be quick, but I think Mercedes will be very strong in qualifying tomorrow.”
Hamilton’s championship hopes are now on life support, with the Mercedes man trailing Vettel by a massive 81 points. And he accepts that it will be difficult to disrupt Red Bull’s dominance in qualifying.
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“There is a lot of work to do this evening but we're used to that on a Friday night and will just get on with it and focus on our car and performance,” he explained. “It's so difficult to overtake around this circuit that you want to qualify as high up as possible and, of course, aim for the front row but that will be tough.”
With six races remaining after this weekend, Alonso is now, perhaps, Vettel’s only realistic challenger for the title. Yet he has been involved in more speculation off the track this weekend, with McLaren admitting that they want to bring him to their team next season. Alonso had a tumultuous single season with the British outfit in 2007.
"Yes, any team would,” McLaren team boss Martin Whitmash said when asked if wanted Alonso, according to BBC Sport. “He's the best driver. I don't know his contractual situation. I assume he's under contract."
But, despite an apparent thawing of the relationship with his team in recent times, Alonso has reiterated that he wants to stay with Ferrari.
“Not really,” the former double world champion responded when asked by Sky Sports whether he was interested in returning to McLaren. “I keep repeating every weekend -- and I don't know why I have to keep repeating - I love Ferrari and I will stay in Ferrari until the end.”
Where to watch: Qualifying for the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix will get underway at 9 a.m. ET. A live stream will be provided by NBC Sports Live Extra. The session will be shown in delayed form on the NBC Sports Network at 1 a.m.