Valtteri Bottas was left searching for answers after his Mercedes team were usurped by Red Bull in Friday free practice for the Singapore GP, saying that Mercedes are missing pace compared to their rivals this weekend.
It was also his third of the season but he had to put everything on the line when it really mattered to beat the Red Bulls in a close-run session, lighting up the timing screens with a lap of one minute 39.491 seconds.
Hamilton became the first back-to-back race winner in 2017 by sweeping the final two European races of the season at Spa and Monza, moving into the lead of the drivers' standings for the first time this year in the process.
On that evening, Hamilton lost the championship lead to Nico Rosberg, and it was a deficit from which he would never recover.
With just 0.142s covering the top three teams, there is the genuine prospect of a three-way fight for pole when qualifying begins at 2pm BST live on Sky Sports F1.
Reigning world champions Mercedes AMG are certainly not getting their hopes high ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, admitting ahead of the race that it will be "more difficult". To win by more than 30-seconds, exposes how far Ferrari still have to come forward. Vettel's car needed to be checked over in the pits, costing him valuable time. "We head to Asia with the expectation that we have a big challenge ahead of us".
"Well this is a crap track for overtaking so it's usually just a long, long train".
"And now the team, it was up to the team if they want to look elsewhere or not and what kind of contract they want to offer me".
Lewis Hamilton, however, will not go down easily and has had his own success in the exotic locale and is hoping to pull off another victory and secure his place as championship points leader.
"I was very relieved when I crossed the line", he said later. "As I said many times whatever I do next year is because I want to win".
Sebastian Vettel isn't expecting the Singapore Grand Prix to be a Sunday evening cruise through the city-state's floodlit streets, despite being tipped as favourite for victory at the Marina Bay circuit. There's no reason to believe the car won't be good.
He matched, and then surpassed Michael Schumacher's pole record in Belgium and then Italy, while leading virtually every lap of both races. Nevertheless we learned a lot from our struggles in Monaco, raised our level of performance significantly in Hungary and we have made good progress in understanding what we need to do in order to get the most from the chassis.
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