Fernando Alonso closes out practice in Singapore fastest

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Fernando Alonso has finished fastest in the final practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of qualifying later today (live on CNBC from 9am ET).

The Ferrari driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:47.299 to finish just 0.05 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo as the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton were forced to settle for third and sixth place respectively.

A brief rain shower on Saturday morning washed away much of the grip on the circuit, making it more difficult for the drivers looking to find their optimum lap time as night fell in Singapore. Further to that, the drivers needed to make sure that they saved their super-soft tires for the sessions later in the weekend with tire degradation being critical.

In the early stages of the session on the prime tire, Mercedes did appear to have a run on the rest of the field with Rosberg pulling clear ahead of Ricciardo in the Red Bull. However, the Silver Arrows could not repeat their form from Friday practice, and may face a serious challenge for pole position in qualifying later today.

Alonso, a two-time winner in Singapore, looked at ease with his Ferrari, and could be a genuine contender for pole position in Singapore if he can carry this form over into qualifying. However, he will have to be wary of Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel, who both finished inside the top five.

Jean-Eric Vergne enjoyed a very good session on Saturday evening in Singapore, finishing fourth for Toro Rosso ahead of Vettel and Hamilton. Although Williams would not ordinarily be happy with seventh and eighth place, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas certainly appear to be in better shape than they did on Friday in practice.

Just when Mercedes appeared to be back on top, Ferrari and Red Bull have thrown themselves well and truly into the mix. Quite whether there is a genuine issue at Mercedes, or if the team was just sandbagging, is unclear. However, what we do know is that it will make for a thrilling qualifying session later today.

You can watch qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix live on CNBC from 9am ET.