Raikkonen on the back foot in Singapore after 'difficult' day

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen topped free practice for the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday, as McLaren's move to dump engine supplier Honda triggered a wave of upheaval off the track.

Lewis Hamilton was left surprised by the pace title rival Sebastian Vettel found to claim pole position in Singapore, saying fifth was all he could manage to extract from his Mercedes.

"In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year".

"There are still many races to go and plenty of time to score points". The potential for high temperatures will also be factored in.

Singapore is like Monaco and Hungary in that it is a hard-braking track which is tough to overtake on, and more suited to Ferrari and Red Bull than Mercedes. A dominant weekend is what I am after.

The Formula One circus heads to Singapore following the conclusion of the European leg of the season at the Italian Grand Prix.

But Ricciardo arrives in Singapore in very consistent form, with six podiums in the last nine races. I should start sooner than later to finish ahead of them, as the season end is coming closer.

"Red Bull will be fast and it is known that it is not going to be the easiest of weekends for us", said Hamilton yesterday. It's the longest race of the season in terms of duration.

For starters, the biggest story, which can't be stressed enough, is the drivers championship only being separated by three points.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had this to say as the weekend approaches: “This is another circuit and another race. The Renault driver is currently tied on 128 with Germany's now-departed Adrian Sutil. So that is the reason why there is not a massive difference from the feelings. Vettel's run at five straight was interrupted in 2014 by none other than Lewis Hamilton, who also took the top spot in 2009.

It was a properly thrilling qualifying, and if the race is half as good it will be a good 'un.

Red Bull have won the race three times, Ferrari and Mercedes twice each.

"It's still better than the original contract I had", he said. Obviously the tyres are always the key.

The Mercedes drivers were speaking to guests and the media at the private meet-and-greet session at The Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore.

"Singapore will be a different story but it's better to go there in the lead than behind", the team's non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Reuters after the Monza race. "I knew we'd come here with a good car, I feel prepared, so I'm not surprised with our performance today".

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