Published: Sun, September 16, 2018

Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari domination of final Singapore practice

Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari domination of final Singapore practice

Openly coming into the Singapore Grand Prix weekend saying that damage limitation was at the top of the agenda, Mercedes and Hamilton had zero expectations of taking pole position.

Vettel was unhappy with his team after qualifying in third place behind Verstappen, and the German driver sounded irritated during Sunday's race after a team strategy error to send him into the pits for a tire change before Hamilton failed to work.

When pressed further on the choice to take on Ultrasofts, Vettel said: "I think the decision we took in the race, the decisions to try to be aggressive, if it works it's great, today it didn't work".

Hamilton's team mate Valtteri Bottas was fourth fastest, ahead of the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who dominated the first practice session on Friday but were more than a second slower than the Ferraris on Saturday.

"I think we should have done better".

"I was very confident [the engine] would last, but it was just really poor to drive", he said. "We did our own race, tried to follow Lewis a little bit, but in the end we knew second was the best result, so we brought it home". "I said before the weekend we can only beat ourselves and today we didn't get everything out of the package".

In indomitable form, there is now a relentless, intimidating quality to Lewis Hamilton's driving that seems to simply brook no dissent. But shortly afterwards Vettel's race engineer told him: "Hamilton reports there's not a lot left of his tyres". Two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who won the inaugural race here 10 years ago, was seventh for McLaren. "So positioning is everything".

Hamilton and Mercedes' main concern in this race was to ensure they retained the lead at the first corner, with a feisty Verstappen with nothing to lose behind them, and then to avoid being passed by Verstappen or Vettel during the pit-stop period. Unfortunately we couldn't make up any ground and finished third.

Fernando Alonso drove an excellent race, starting 11th, passing Renault's Nico Hulkenberg at the start and using a long first stint on the ultra-soft tyres to move into the position of best of the rest - a rare fillip for McLaren as their season collapses around them with a auto the team have admitted is "poor". Romain Grosjean and Sergey Sirotkin may have been battling for position, but the pair failed to leave room for the leading duo, and it nearly allowed Verstappen to make a move for the race lead, one that would have been highly controversial.

Dejected Vettel has cost himself 60 points this season for a series of accidents but yesterday he appeared to point the finger at his Ferrai team for pitting him too early. Verstappen held position, Vettel dropping to third.

"With the way we raced we didn't have a chance".

"For us it was a bit of a messy qualifying", he lamented.

Time is running out for Vettel, who realistically has to win in Russian Federation in two weeks' time if he is to get back into title contention.

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