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Vettel confident Mercedes will up its pace for qualifying

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Sebastian Vettel believes that Mercedes remains the team to beat in Singapore despite only finishing third-fastest in practice on Friday.

Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat tore up the formbook to finish as the fastest driver in FP2 on Friday night, leading Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at the top of the timesheets.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg could only finish fourth and seventh respectively, while Vettel ended the day fifth-fastest.

The FP2 results prompted many to question whether Mercedes could face a serious challenge in Singapore this weekend, including Hamilton, who admitted that Ferrari and Red Bull had closed the gap.

However, Vettel thinks that Mercedes will show its hand on Saturday in qualifying and still be the team to beat at the front of the field.

“It is always difficult to make predictions after the Friday sessions,” Vettel said. “In general, I think it was a good day for us. The car seems to work, but other than that I think we can still improve.

“I was not entirely happy with my short-runs, so for qualifying we still have to improve a bit, but for the race it looked okay. The pace seems to be there, but it’s also fair to say that I haven’t seen too much of the data yet. So we will see.

“Obviously, we can expect the Mercedes to be quick tomorrow. I don’t know what happened to them today, they looked a bit slow, but for sure they will change it for tomorrow. We know that the Mercedes don’t show everything on Friday, and as expected the Red Bulls are fairly quick here as well.

“So tomorrow it will be tight. I look forward to Saturday, I like the circuit, it is a big challenge: there’s a lot of corners, it is a long lap and it’s not easy to get everything right. For tomorrow we should be a bit quicker, but it is only Friday and we should keep our feet on the ground.”

Raikkonen was a man of few words after practice despite finishing second-fastest, but was pleased with the work that he had completed.

“It was a normal practice session,” Raikkonen said. “We were doing our normal things and everything worked more or less okay. There is always something we can improve but overall the car was behaving well.

“As usual, Mercedes will be very strong and also Red Bull seems to be quite quick here, but today it’s only Friday and it’s hard to judge from the lap times. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll have a good day and then we’ll go from there.”

Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix is live on CNBC and Live Extra from 9am ET on Saturday.

Michael Schumacher’s son to make F1 practice debut at Nurburgring

F1 Mick Schumacher
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MARANELLO, Italy — Mick Schumacher, son of the legednary seven-time champion, will have an official Formula One drive during an F1 race weekend for the first time next week at the Nurburgring, Alfa Romeo and Ferrari said Tuesday.

Schumacher gets the practice drive in an Alfa Romeo on Oct. 9 on his home track in Germany as a member of Ferrari’s young driver program, taking over Antonio Giovinazzi’s car for the first session of the weekend.

“I am overjoyed to get this chance in free practice,” Schumacher said in a statement. “I’m going to prepare myself well, so that I can do the best possible job for the team and gain some valuable data for the weekend.”

The 21-year-old Schumacher leads the Formula 2 standings after winning races in Monza and Sochi. He won the European Formula 3 championship in 2018 and tested a Ferrari F1 car in Bahrain in April 2019. He also has done demonstration runs in his father’s old cars, most recently this month ahead of the Tuscan Grand Prix in a championship-winning 2004 Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher holds the F1 record with 91 victories, which Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of tying.

Ferrari said two other drivers in its academy program will also get practice drives in Formula One.

Callum Ilott, a British driver who is second to Mick Schumacher in F2, will drive an F1 Haas at the Nurburgring on the same day as Schumacher. Russian driver Robert Shwartzman will drive in practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 11, though Ferrari hasn’t said for which team.

The German round was added to the F1 schedule after the coronavirus pandemic disrupted the season and will be officially known as the Eifel Grand Prix after a nearby mountain range. The Nurburgring last hosted F1 in 2013.