Daniel Ricciardo lays down early marker in opening practice at Singapore

Hamilton chasing Singapore hat-trick

It may only be qualifying, but Sebastian Vettel took his Ferrari round the street track in Singapore at the absolute edge of both the car and his own abilities - and he blew away the rest of the field.

In the midst of this battle Red Bull has put new engines in their cars and knows it's now or never if they plan to make a move on the championship.

The Ferraris set a quick pace at the start of Q2 as first Raikkonen and then Vettel went top, before Verstappen returned to the head of the table with a time of 1:40.379. The Briton is one of only four drivers to have won the race since it joined the calendar in 2008 but Hamilton has only two wins there to Vettel's four.

"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".

Several drivers briefly lost control early in the session, including Nico Hulkenberg who kissed a wall, and his under-pressure Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer. But whether he can keep the lead this weekend will depend on how he rebounds from a pair of tough races here the last two years, third in 2016 and retiring in 2015.

With that in mind however, and looking beyond 2018, Bottas, aware that Mercedes is likely to be the team to beat for the foreseeable future would like to retain his current berth. Saturdays they're very strong, which obviously has its contribution to Sundays, it's not a big secret but I think we are strong, we don't need to hide and there's plenty of positives.

The struggle of Williams so far this weekend continued with both Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll eliminated in the first session.

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Mercedes have been on pole in 66 of the last 71 races.

"I had to go for it!"

"I got everything I could out of the car - I got everything and more, I literally threw the sink at it. I squeezed every bit out of it and was just hoping".

Valtteri Bottas, whose future at Mercedes alongside Hamilton was confirmed earlier in the week, struggled in eighth.

No driver has had more podium finishes in Singapore than Vettel, whose impressive streak at the night race includes three straight wins from 2011-13 during his run of four straight F1 titles with former team Red Bull.

"If the team delivers another perfect performance like in Italy that will be a very good starting point". "There seems to be a certain pattern that some cars go better on the slow, twisty stuff".

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