Lewis Hamilton dazzled under the lights in Practice Two for the Singapore GP as he pipped Max Verstappen to set the pace, with the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers set for a blockbuster battle over the weekend.
Hamilton topped the timesheets with a 1:38.773, beating Verstappen by 0.184s after the qualifying simulations – although the Red Bull driver was up on the championship leader before hitting traffic in the final sector.
I鈥檓 happy with today 馃挭馃徎 We seem to be competitive in short and long runs. It was a good start of the weekend #KeepPushing #SingaporeGP 馃嚫馃嚞 pic.twitter.com/xMMqMtVC2C
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 20, 2019
“I was really happy,” said Hamilton. “I felt much better in the car today than I have for a while, so I hope that stays over the weekend.”
Verstappen added: “I could have matched his time. The general feeling was very good – in both practice sessions the car was working really well. Of course, there are always things that you can do better but it’s looking pretty good.”
Ferrari have introduced upgrades this weekend in a bid to improve downforce and compete with Mercedes and Red Bull but while Sebastian Vettel was Hamilton and Verstappen’s closest challenger in third, he was eight tenths back.
Team-mate Charles Leclerc, who complained that other cars ruined his quickest lap, was only sixth, with the early signs suggesting that Mercedes and Red Bull are still the teams to beat.
And their lead drivers were in a class of their own on Friday evening.
Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon were fourth and fifth in the sister Mercedes and Red Bull but a second off the pace – highlighting their team-mate’s form around the Marina Bay streets.
Bottas may have lost confidence after his heavy shunt in first practice, while Albon had a bump of his own in P2, breaking his front wing in the process.
While Hamilton and Verstappen were evenly-matched over one lap, the four-time Singapore winner’s long-run pace appeared much quicker, described as “mighty” by Sky F1’s Paul Di Resta.
But Anthony Davidson added: “I’ve got a feeling we didn’t quite see where Red Bull really are in this session.
“To be a second away on their long-run pace doesn’t seem quite real to me.”
Who’s leading the midfield?With just seven races remaining in the season, the Singapore GP is another crucial weekend for McLaren as they bid to cement fourth place in the championship ahead of Renault.
And although the Woking team didn’t expect the street circuit to suit their car, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris both finished in the top-10 in P2. Sainz was only a tenth down on Leclerc in seventh.
Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Renault while Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, 10th and 11th, appear in contention for Q3 in qualifying on Saturday.
As ever on Singapore’s narrow streets, drivers were never too far away from each other and Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen had a hairy moment at the final corner – with Perez almost squeezing the Haas driver into the wall as they built up to flying laps.