Ferrari led both practice sessions for the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix on Friday, with Charles Leclerc fastest in the first and Carlos Sainz in the second, as Red Bull’s record unbeaten run appeared in danger of ending.
Runaway championship leader Max Verstappen, chasing an unprecedented 11th win in a row, was third in session one but only eighth in the second and one place behind team mate Sergio Perez, last year’s winner.
“Every braking zone I feel like I’m going to crash. The rear is just stepping out massively,” said Perez over the team radio.
Red Bull have won the last 15 races, and are expected to be fighting for pole again on Saturday, but they had already identified Ferrari as their major rivals coming into the weekend.
The Italian team lived up to expectations, Leclerc leading a one-two in the late afternoon and the positions then reversed later on.
George Russell was third for Mercedes in session two, with Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso fourth.
Seven times world champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth fastest for Mercedes with McLaren’s Lando Norris sixth.
“I think this track is going to be one of the toughest of the season for us,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports.
“The characteristics don’t play naturally to the strengths of the car and we’re going to have to be right at the top of our game to keep this winning momentum going.
“You can see Ferrari look quick, McLaren look like they’re there, Mercedes are there as well so it could be very, very tight this weekend.”
Leclerc started on pole position in last year’s night race on the Marina Bay street circuit and led Friday’s session one with a best time of one minute 33.350 seconds.
Team mate Carlos Sainz was 0.078 slower, with yellow flags warning drivers of monitor lizards on the track.
The reptiles stayed away in the second session, with Sainz lapping in a best time of one minute 32.120 seconds and 0.018 faster than Leclerc.
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Verstappen was 0.732 slower than the Spaniard on a shortened track with two fewer corners than before due to construction works.
The Dutch driver, who has yet to win in Singapore or start on pole in the city-state, leads Perez by 145 points after 14 of 22 races. Red Bull could take the constructors’ championship on Sunday if results go their way.