Carlos Sainz topped the final practice session in Singapore, as Ferrari maintained their momentum, while Red Bull continued to struggle despite slight improvement.
Red Bull were not as bad as they seemed to be on Friday, but Max Verstappen, and more so Sergio Perez, still lacked the confidence in the RB19, the reigning Formula 1 Champion complaining about his upshifts on his car.
But Ferrari, on the other hand, were in a happy place as Sainz was fastest once again, showing the Scuderia were the team to beat come qualifying around the Marina Bay Circuit.
Mercedes seemed to be in a better position evident by George Russell’s pace second fastest, while Lando Norris put McLaren up there in the fight for pole as well. He was third.
Aston Martin were off the pace in FP3, and unless Red Bull and Verstappen can find some pace between the final practice and qualifying, pole will be a three way fight between the Ferraris, Mercedes, and Norris’ McLaren.
On his in-lap, and after finishing fourth fastest. Verstappen’s engineer asked him for feedback about the upshifts; he said: “Yeah, maybe a little bit smoother, but miles off still.
“It’s just giving me wheelspin, it’s not only upshifts, it’s downshifts,” he added, before going on to complain about lacking rear grip.
“I’m just struggling for rear group. You see that last sector? I’m just drifting. I think if I’m going to compete in drifting if I might win the race,” he said sarcastically.
Buildup towards FP3
Friday night must have been a busy one in the Red Bull engineering room – not to mention the simulator – as the team would’ve been looking for answers for the worst Friday form we have seen from them so far this season.
Red Bull have been playing down their chances ahead of Singapore, insisting it will be a challenge, but even they didn’t even expect to be so bad, and will be definitely working hard to turn things around before qualifying and the race in their bid to maintain their winning streak.
Ferrari on the other hand surprised many with their form in the first and second practice sessions, Charles Leclerc and Sainz taking turns at the top and it will be interesting to see whether they can maintain that form for the rest of the weekend.
McLaren seemed to be in decent form with the upgraded MCL60 in the hands of Norris, while Mercedes are definitely in a better place compared to Monza with Aston Martin – Fernando Alonso that is – there or thereabouts, but it is very close between the them, which as the Spaniard said, will make for an close qualifying.
The top ten were separated by less than nine tenths of the second in FP3. Qualifying will be something to look forward to.
Singapore FP3 session highlights
The humid conditions continued at the start of the final practice in Singapore, 68%, with ambient temperature at 31 degrees, the track temperature at 39 degrees.
The track lost all the rubber the cars laid down on Friday due to an early downpour earlier on Saturday, but the track was dry for the start of FP3.
The two Alfa Romeos were the first to head out on track with the Red Bulls and Ferraris following.
The early signs showed that whatever changes Red Bull did to the RB19 overnight worked, as Verstappen went fastest on his first timed lap, over six tenths faster than the competition. But will the changes be good enough for pole?
Sergio Perez was still not happy, he reported over the team radio: “The rear is still on the edge. Feels a bit too pointy, the entries.”
Replay showed Verstappen missing the corner at Turn 14 while on a cool down lap, bet gets back on track and heads directly to the pits.
However Sainz soon hit back taking the fastest time, over six tenths faster than the Dutchman, as Russell soon slots in second 0.316s slower than Sainz. Russell however was on Soft tyres, Verstappen and Sainz on Mediums.
Verstappen soon hit back and took the top spot, but complained about the upshifts on his RB19.
Mercedes, Williams, and Alfa Romeo where the only cars running the Soft tyres at the start of FP3. Medium was the tyre of choice for the others, except Piastri who was running the Hards.
25 minutes into the session, Leclerc had a moment going into Turn 1, losing the rear of his SF-23 but keeping it out of the walls thanks to the run-off area.
Liam Lawson, and not a lizard, brought our the first Yellow flag of FP3, as he slid into the run-off area after losing the rear of his AlphaTauri at Turn 2. No damage there, he was back on track in no time.
Liam Lawson loses the back end through Turn 2 but manages to keep the car out of the barriers
In the meantime, halfway into the session, Verstappen started a long run with high fuel loads on Medium tyres, his RB19 looking better out on track compared to Friday.
Perez’s engineer asked him if there was any improvement after changes made in the pits. The Mexican’s response was: “Not really. I’m still sliding on entries and then the front is feeling quite light under braking.”
Verstappen had a moment at Turn 1, the front of his RB19 sliding into the run-off area, the team asking him to box.
McLaren had Oscar Piastri collecting race data as he car did not have the full upgrade, while Norris was getting ready to do the business in qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas was given a black and white flag for failing to follow the race director’s instructions while entering the pits, as he crossed the line at the pit entry.
In the final 15 minutes, more Soft tyres started to appear as the track grip improved as the temperatures also went down, with qualifying runs making more sense now.
With ten minutes to go, Alex Albon couldn’t stop his car in time for Turn 14 and ended up in the run-off area bringing out a brief Yellow flag.
Just before that Albon came very close to the walls while on a timed lap.
Verstappen in the meantime was still unhappy with his upshifts claiming he cannot drive with them labeling them “unacceptable” after which he was asked to pit to test something on the upshifts.
Sainz, while on a fast lap, hit the kerbs hard at Turn 7, kept it together, but had to abort his lap. Leclerc soon after had a similar moment.
Red Bull might have slightly improved but have a hill to climb if they need to challenge Ferrari for pole.
How they finished
Sainz registered a lap time of 1:32.605 to go fastest of all, 0.069s faster than Russell in the Mercedes, while Norris was 0.169s further down the road in third.
Verstappen could not do better than fourth in his RB19, 0.313s off the pace, and 0.003s ahead of Leclerc who was fifth fastest in the #16 Ferrari.
Hamilton was sixth fastest in the other Mercedes with a 1:32.535, 0.195s ahead of Piastri, seventh in the un-upgraded McLaren.
Perez was notably struggling more than Verstappen, and ended the session eighth fastest, 0.719s off the pace and 0.112s ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who was ninth fastest. Yuki Tsunoda was tenth fastest for AlphaTauri.
Worryingly for Aston Martin, Alonso was down in 13th, the Spaniard dropping back after being closer to the likes of Mercedes and McLaren in Friday.