Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix. The Dutchman set a 40.259 to go a tenth and a half quicker than Sebastian Vettel, with Mercedes Lewis Hamilton third. Red Bull had targeted Marina Bay as a circuit where they could be in a battle with Mercedes, given it high downforce.
Although Verstappen was half a second faster the session took place in the late afternoon, with the rest of the weekend taking place after sunset the times will not be the full picture. But, a street circuit can bring the times closer together.
Hamilton was four-tenths faster than his teammate Valtteri Bottas, however, the Finn crashed the Mercedes after locking up the rear and taking too much power through Turn Nineteen. He went straight on into the wall and brought out the red flag.
It was a blow for the Finn, who enters the weekend sixty-three points behind Hamilton in the championship with seven races remaining.
Hamilton had set the pace during the first half of the session, when drivers were on their first set of tyres, setting a time of 41.469 to lead the way by 0.469. Then Vettel and Verstappen went fastest but Mercedes as usual. chose not to run on the softer compounds, effectively looking as he was the fastest.
The four-times champion needing a really strong weekend in a series of mistakes in the last race in Italy, and faced questions about his performance on his arrival in Singapore. But while he was in the top two, it was clear he lacked grip like he has done at similar circuits this year.
Red Bull’s Alex Albon was fifth, a second behind Verstappen on his first outing around Marina Bay. The British-Thai driver going three tenths faster than the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, the German setting his best times on the softs before the red flag.
Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc only managed nineteenth, a gearbox fault brought his afternoon to an end. The winner of the last two races expecting a tougher weekend on a track that does not play to their 2019 car’s strengths.
The red flag halted McLaren’s running, but they headed out immediately when the session restarted. Carlos Sainz went seventh, two tenths ahead of teammate Lando Norris. Norris went wide on his first lap, going off at the Memorial Corner.
Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten, the Toro Rosso drivers separated by seven hundredths, the Frenchman beginning to settle in going a tenth and a half ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.
Haas’s Romain Grosjean was twelfth fastest ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian set his time after the red flag. Lance Stroll couldn’t improve following the red flag settling for fourteenth, going three tenths faster than the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen. The Dane struggled with braking problems.
Robert Kubica was seventeenth ahead of Sergio Perez, with George Russell twentieth.