Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz (5/1 to qualify on pole) set the quickest time in the second practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday with team mate Charles Leclerc (7/4) closely following in second.

The Scuderia cars performed well at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, which has returned to the F1 calendar for the first time in three years following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ferrari’s progress has stalled since a promising start to the season, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen (5/4 to qualify on pole) winning each of the past five races as he marches towards a second-straight title.

However, the Italian team put up a defiant performance during Friday practice in Singapore, with Sainz outpacing his team mate by 0.208 seconds.

The Spaniard, who won this year’s British Grand Prix, set a time of 1:42.587, while George Russell continued his progress by running faster than Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to finish third.

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Title leader Max Verstappen, celebrating his 25th birthday, could only manage fourth as his Red Bull ran just eight laps in second practice, with a change to the car’s setup delaying his start.

Verstappen’s team mate, Sergio Perez, was only ninth, with questions over a potential budget-cap breach clouding the team this weekend.

Speaking after Friday’s practice, Verstappen insisted his speed in FP2 was not indicative of where the car is and they were simply using the session to experiment.

He said: “For FP2 we wanted to try a few things, but they just took a bit longer to change. Then we wanted to try something else and, again, that took quite a long time to change again.

“We couldn’t really run a lot [so] that’s why I think it’s not really representative, what we showed in FP2. Of course, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s not the worst day.”

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