Sebastian Vettel has put the favourite tag on Mercedes at the Singapore Grand Prix but feels Ferrari can stay within reach if it can solve its grip instability at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

The German driver ended Friday practice third fastest, 0.818s off timesheet-topper Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, and duly expects the reigning Formula 1 world champions’ to have the fancied packaged in Singapore this weekend.

Having lost time during his qualifying simulations due to traffic from rival F1 cars, Vettel feels the representative gap to the leading cars is smaller than what is shown from Friday practice and is confident of closing the deficit even further if Ferrari can find fixes to its grip issues ahead of qualifying.

“I think Mercedes was very strong today, but I think you could see that not just on one lap and on the timings,” Vettel said. “I think overall, they were a bit faster. On our side, I think we can do better, I think we can improve the car, so let’s see.

“Balance [was lacking]. Just to distribute the grip a bit differently, I’m suffering a bit with the front, then on long runs everything was getting a bit too hot and sliding a bit too much.

“Our laps on the short run were not very clean because we got traffic I think both of us, so not great to judge, but overall I think we can fine tune the balance, improve the car, and then we’ll see what comes.

“Difficult to say where Red Bull was today, I don’t know if their runs were clean. So tomorrow I think in qualifying you have enough tyres and enough shots to have a fair say. We’ll see. It should be okay. I hope we’re not too far out.”

Vettel is searching for his first F1 win in 22 races as he hopes to bounce back from a tough Italian Grand Prix last time out when he spun during the opening stages before picking up a penalty for clashing with Racing Point’s Lance Stroll while trying to re-join the track.

The four-time F1 world champion finished down in 13th place, one lap down, with his Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc winning in Monza.

Leclerc ended Friday practice in Singapore down in sixth place and 1.245s off Hamilton’s leading lap time.