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.