Rosberg fastest as three-way battle looms

Fri Sep 16, 2016 11:56am EDT
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By John O'Brien

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Nico Rosberg clocked the fastest time of the day in the second free practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday in a race that appears to be shaping up as a three-way battle between Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

The German, who will start his 200th Formula One grand prix on Sunday, lapped the 23-turn Marina Bay Street Circuit in one minute 44.152 seconds to edge out Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull's Max Verstappen.

The top three finishers were separated by just 0.380 seconds on the timesheets as Rosberg's Mercedes was unable to fully tap into its superior power on the slow, tight circuit in downtown Singapore.

Rosberg has won the last two races to close the gap on championship-leading team mate Lewis Hamilton to two points and the Briton cut a frustrated figure on Friday, finishing seventh in the second session after suffering a hydraulics issue.

Mercedes have won 13 of 14 races this season but the race pace during Friday's long runs would suggest a repeat of last year's result when Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel led home Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo is entirely possible.

Australia's Ricciardo was fourth fastest on Friday, ahead of Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India.

In the first session of the day, Verstappen and Ricciardo achieved a Red Bull one-two as the 18-year-old Dutchman lapped in one minute 45.823 seconds to head his team mate by 0.049 seconds. Vettel was next fastest, 0.464 off the pace.

Hamilton finished 0.603 seconds behind Verstappen but fifth-placed Rosberg had his session ended prematurely when he damaged his front wing after crashing late in the 90-minute session.   Continued...

Formula One - Singapore Grand Prix - Marina Bay, Singapore - 16/9/16 Mercedes' Nico Rosberg of Germany in action during first practice. REUTERS/Jeremy Lee