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Verstappen leads final Singapore F1 practice, Red Bull completes sweep

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Red Bull Racing will head into qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix fancying its chances of a first Formula 1 pole position in 2017 after completing a sweep of practice on Saturday afternoon courtesy of Max Verstappen.

Red Bull arrived in Singapore eager to make the most of the engine-limited track layout and take the fight to the front-runners, but was expected to struggle to match Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

However, Daniel Ricciardo was able to lead its charge throughout Friday, topping both FP1 and FP2, with Verstappen following in second place in the night-time session.

The Dutchman moved to the top of the timesheets in final practice on Saturday, posting a best lap time of 1:41.829 to edge out Ferrari’s Vettel come the checkered flag.

Verstappen had a late scare on his Red Bull car, appearing to slow and reporting it was “shifting by itself”, but got back out on-track a few minutes later with no further issues.

Vettel was left to settle for P2, 0.072 seconds behind Verstappen, but it nevertheless marked a solid improvement from Friday when he could only finish 11th-fastest. Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes, also recovering from a disappointing Friday.

McLaren enjoyed its best practice session so far this season as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne took P4 and P5 respectively, also benefitting from the lack of engine power required at Marina Bay.

Friday pace-setter Ricciardo took sixth ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with the Finnish pair of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen slotting into eighth and ninth. Sergio Perez completed the top 10 for Force India.

Besides the late trading of lap times, the session’s other big incident of note came at the halfway point when Marcus Ericsson broke the rear wing of his Sauber by hitting the wall, causing a red flag period.

Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 9am ET on Saturday.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.