Singapore GP 2023
SEPTEMBER 16, 2023
Practice 3 Report - Sainz at the front in P3
By Luis Vasconcelos
Carlos Sainz has continued to be quickest in his Ferrari in final practice for the Singapore GP with a lap of 1m32.065s, but the gap to the other runners was tight.
George Russell in his Mercedes was just 0.069s behind, while Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc was only fifth quickest, more the 0.3s behind.
But with track conditions being considerably different from the ones the drivers will encounter in this night’s qualifying, the FP3 results can be a bit misleading, even though, in many ways, they confirmed the early indications seen on Friday.
The expected track evolution never really came, as a heavy shower hit the circuit three hours before the session and took away some of the rubber that had already been put down on the new tarmac that covers a few parts of this circuit, so there was almost no lap times improvements from FP2 to this session.
That didn’t help the teams that needed to make big steps with their set-up after a difficult Friday, mainly Red Bull, who continued to be off the pace, albeit a late effort from Verstappen put him up to fourth, marginally ahead of Leclerc.
Verstappen spent the entire session very unhappy with the upshifts on his Red Bull RB19, twice coming into the pits to try change the settings that would make them smoother. And he also complained of lack of grip, particularly in the last sector, telling his race engineer that, “if there’s a drift race in Sector 3 I’ll win it!”.
Team mate Sérgio Pérez was only 8th fastest, 0.4s behind his teammate. The Mexican insisted, “the car has become more pointy, the rear is very loose and light under braking” and never felt as comfortable to attack as his team mate.
At Mercedes there was an unusual gap between Russell and Hamilton, on a track where the veteran always excels, the younger Brit being 0.4s faster than him. The entire gap was made up in the first sector, as Hamilton was extremely quick in the other two sectors, so the seven-times World Champion could be still in the battle for pole if he manages to get on top of his lack of speed in the first five corners of the track.
McLaren made a step forward with the upgrade introduced only on Lando Norris’ car here, as he was third quickest, ahead of Verstappen and Leclerc, being very quick in the middle sector as well. Team mate Oscar Piastri made a huge step forward from Friday, setting the seventh quickest time, just 0.4s off the English driver in spite of running very few parts of the new upgrade.
Nico Hulkenberg completed the top ten, the German finally getting on top of his VF-23 after a difficult Friday. Alpine and Aston Martin were on their back feet, as was Alfa Romeo, after a promising Friday, but everything can change in the cooler conditions the drivers will face later this evening.