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Rosberg braced for ‘big battle’ with Ferrari, Red Bull in Singapore

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Nico Rosberg is braced for a “big battle” between Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix after Friday’s closely-fought practice running.

After seeing Max Verstappen head up a Red Bull one-two in FP1, Rosberg responded in second practice by topping the timesheets for Mercedes.

Each of the three leading teams enjoyed spells at the head of the field and set a similar long-run pace, stoking the fire nicely for a scrap between them in Singapore.

“It’s really close between ourselves, Red Bull and Ferrari,” Rosberg acknowledged after the session.

“Much closer than at some other tracks for sure, so it looks like a big battle ahead.

“I’m looking forward to it.”

Rosberg’s Friday did not go by without one issue, though, after a mistake in FP1 saw him hit the wall and damage the front-end of his Mercedes W07 Hybrid car.

“The first session was going OK until I hit the wall at Turn 18,” Rosberg explained.

“That wasn’t ideal, but luckily the impact wasn’t too heavy, so I managed to get the car back to the pits and the guys had it ready in time for FP2.

“The second session felt better but we still have some room for improvement.

“It’s been a solid start to the weekend. Definitely better than last year.”

Rosberg enters the Singapore weekend trailing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by just two points at the top of the drivers’ championship.

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

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

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Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

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“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”