Sebastian Vettel will believe he has a hat-trick of Singapore Grand Prix wins in his sights, although will have to wait for Mercedes to show their full hand.
- Related Content
In the opening 90-minute session, as dusk turned to dark and the Marina Bay Street track was lit up by the power of 1,500 halogen lamps, so Lewis Hamilton also illuminated the stunning venue.
On the medium-compound tyres, Hamilton posted a time of one minute 47.055secs, leaving Red Bull duo Mark Webber, and in particular three-times champion Vettel in the shade.
Come second practice, and eventually a switch to the significantly faster supersoft rubber, Vettel was the one in a class of his own.
Vettel shaved 2.8secs from Hamilton's time, with the Briton down in fourth behind Webber and Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, trailing by 1.119secs.
The picture to emerge, however, was that Mercedes were more focused on their long-run pace than blazing a trail, although the stage is set for another Red Bull versus Mercedes qualifying battle.
Vettel ultimately clocked a lap of one minute 44.249secs, finishing six tenths of a second clear of Webber, with Rosberg exactly a second off the pace.
On the back of successive wins in Belgium and Italy, and after taking the chequered flag at this venue for the last two years, there is no denying Vettel will again be the man to beat on Sunday.
As for Hamilton, he desperately needs a victory if he is to have any hope of clawing back Vettel's current 81-point advantage, with 175 up for grabs from the final seven races.
As for fellow title long-shots in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus - 53 and 88 points down on Vettel respectively - they were sixth and eighth in the standings.
Alonso was almost 1.5secs back, with Jenson Button in his McLaren and Raikkonen in close attendance, with the latter's team-mate in Romain Grosjean outshining the Finn as he was fifth fastest, 1.162secs down.
Force India's Adrian Sutil and McLaren's Sergio Perez, the latter a man under pressure given his team's interest in Alonso, were ninth and 10th on the timesheet, both around 1.7secs back.
Paul Di Resta was 13th in his Force India, 2.357secs off the pace and 0.6secs behind Sutil, with Felipe Massa in his Ferrari a miserable 15th, a staggering 1.2secs behind Alonso.
At the rear of the field came Marussia pairing Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, with the former 5.370secs adrift of Vettel.