It was an impressive day for Ferrari in Singapore on Friday, with team mates Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz delivering a 1-2 lockout in both first and second practice at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Leclerc was on top in FP1, while Sainz proved the master of the after-dark conditions under the floodlights once the sun had set in time for the start of FP2.
There was just 0.018s between them at the end of the day, and they were two tenths quicker than George Russell who was best of the rest followed by Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris.
But the big surprise was how far back the normally dominant Red Bull cars were today, suggesting that this weekend might be Ferrari’s best chance of the year so far to stop their rivals’ unbroken run of wins.
However, while understandably buoyed by Ferrari’s performance so far, Leclerc was quick to urge the team and their fans not to get ahead of themselves.
“We cannot get carried away,” he told the media in the paddock after the end of track time. “But it is true we did not expect this kind of performance on a Friday, at least.
“I think that our competitors are not showing their true pace yet,” he continued. “So it’s a good start, but now we need to focus on ourselves and hopefully we reproduce the same tomorrow.
“The car looks a bit more competitive than we had expected on a track like this,” he acknowledged. “We will work on optimising the balance on my side overnight and I’m sure we will see some further improvements.”
On the other side of the Ferrari garage, Sainz admitted that he had been surprised by how quickly the SF-23 had been once it set foot on the Singapore circuit.
“A positive Friday,” beamed the Spaniard. “The car seemed to be in the right window from the very first lap in FP1 so we kept focused on fine tuning the set-up during the second session.
“I expect the track to improve for tomorrow, so we should have higher grip – and then we’ll see how much our competitors and ourselves can improve for qualifying.”
Sainz wasn’t as surprised as others in the paddock by how the balance of power had swung so suddenly this week compared with recent outings where Red Bull had held all the cars.
“You always need to arrive to Singapore very open-minded,” he said. “You’ve seen in the past very weird performance swings at this track, because it’s a very particular track.
“So far it looks like it’s suiting our car well and it’s going well,” he agreed. “It looks good, but I do believe the track is going to change tomorrow, it’s going to ramp up the grip a lot and it’s all about who finds the perfect set-up.
And he also doubted that Red Bull’s apparent ‘slump’ was for real.
“No I don’t believe it,” he said. “When you look at the long run pace, they looked like the strongest car. Once they sort out the one-lap pace they’ll be there fighting for pole.
“Hopefully we will be in that fight, but it also looks like Aston, McLaren, Mercedes should also be in that fight,” he added. “So I think we’re on for an exciting day tomorrow, and hopefully we can get the best out of it.”
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