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Verstappen quickest in FP3

NEWS STORY
16/09/2017

Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 30 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was quickest in both of yesterday's sessions, and while Mercedes always feared the threat from Ferrari here, with the Italian team yet to show its hand, it is the Austrian team that appears to have the edge, strong on hot laps and long runs.

Due to a mistake and then traffic, we never got a representative time from Sebastian Vettel, therefore the fact he was eleventh on the timesheets doesn't signal the fact that the Maranello outfit's Monza misery has carried over.

Nonetheless, Red Bull currently looks strongest, ahead of Mercedes and then Ferrari, while McLaren - oh, the irony - also looked good.

Renault had a mixed day, for while Nico Hulkenberg finished a strong fifth, teammate Jolyon Palmer could only manage 14th, thereby compounding a thoroughly miserable day for the Briton who learned that he is not to be retained by the French squad for 2018.

Also at the wrong end of the timesheets were Haas and Williams, while the Toro Rossos were also off the pace.

Much like yesterday's opening session, due to the falling light and temperatures, this session is pretty much unrepresentative of qualifying and the race, but vital in terms of preparations nonetheless, especially the final minutes when drivers attempt their qualifying sims.

The lights go green and the Ferrari duo lead the way, followed by Wehrlein, Magnussen, Grosjean and Ericsson. All but the Ferraris (softs) are on ultras.

More and more drivers head out, each completing a sole installation lap before heading back to the pits. Like the Ferraris, the Red Bull duo are on softs.

8 minutes into the session and all but the Force Indias, Toro Rossos and Hamilton have been out.

Meanwhile, the Ferrari pair are the first out for a second run.

Bottas posts the first time of the day (45.222), while Stroll can only manage 47.481, both well off yesterday's pace.

Raikkonen responds with a 44.271 and then Vettel bangs in a 43.237 despite hitting the wall as he exits T21.

Hamilton finally appears and on his first lap splits the Ferraris with a 44.230, but the Briton was clearly struggling with his car.

His teammate is also struggling, Bottas improves (45.010), but remains fifth, 1.77s off the pace.

Raikkonen improves to second but remains 0.939s off his teammate's pace.

Sainz goes fourth and Ocon fifth, but 21 minutes into the session there are only 9 names on the board.

A 44.031 sees Perez go second, while Ocon posts 44.071 to take third.

Finally, Ricciardo posts a time, and with his first effort the Australian goes second, just 0.310s down on Vettel. Moments later teammate Verstappen crosses the line at 42.249 to go quickest.

As Hulkenberg goes 4th (43.808), after thirty minutes of running we have yet to see times from Palmer or the McLarens.

At half-time, it's: Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Perez, Sainz, Ocon, Raikkonen and Hamilton.

All but Stroll and the Ferraris are on track.

Out comes the red flag after Ericsson clouts the wall at T19. He is able to continue but he has damaged the rear of the car. "OK?" he is asked. "No," he replies as he heads slowly back to the pits.

Replay shows him spinning after the collision and almost collecting a Toro Rosso. The red flag is due to the amount of debris.

At the time of the red flag, Ricciardo was on a hot lap having gone quickest in S1.

Race Control announces that the session will resume at 18:41, leaving just 19 minutes of running.

The session resumes, Bottas and Vandoorne leading the way.

Hamilton is told he has a qualifying lap available from yesterday.

While Bottas is in clear air, Hamilton is running not far behind Vettel.

Bottas posts PBs in the first two sectors, but Vettel posts purples. The Finn crosses the line at 42.686, while the German posts 41.919. Hamilton can only manage 42.952.

No sign of the Red Bulls which are both being worked on in the garage.

Alonso goes fourth with a 42.612, while Raikkonen can only manage 42.708.

"Track is clear, you can push," Vettel is told.

As was the case yesterday, the Haas and Williams duos are well off the pace, both teams over 3s off.

Hamilton improves to third with a 42.425 but the Briton had to work hard for it.

Another strong lap from Hulkenberg sees the German go fifth with a 42.549.

Perez and Verstappen are both on strong laps. The Mexican improves to 9th with a 43.010, while the Red Bull driver goes top with a 41.829.

No such improvement for Ricciardo however, the Australian having clouted the wall at T10 with his front-right. He sheepishly advises his team before pitting.

Moments later Verstappen has an issue, the Dutchman heading slowly back to the pits with a gearbox issue. "The car is shifting all by itself," he reveals.

Meanwhile, Hamilton has gone quickest in S2, finally crossing the line at 41.971, 0.142s off Verstappen's pace.

A 42.439 sees Vandoorne go fifth, just behind his teammate.

Despite their issues, the Red Bull pair are back on track with just over two minutes remaining.

Massa has improved to 15th but remains 1.8s off the pace. Stroll, however, despite a strong opening sector, remains 17th, 2.394s off the pace.

The session ends with Verstappen quickest, ahead of Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Vandoorne, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Raikkonen and Perez.

Ocon is eleventh, ahead of Sainz, Palmer, Kvyat, Massa, Magnussen, Stroll, Grosjean, Wehrlein and Ericsson.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Singapore, here.

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