Max Verstappen set the pace in an opening practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix that was interrupted by a red flag when Valtteri Bottas crashed.
Bottas had already tapped the wall exiting Turn 19 and damaged a wheel rim that led to him missing out on some running on his first set of tires, but he had a much more spectacular incident with half an hour remaining. The Finn caught some early oversteer as he tried to change direction between Turns 18 and 19 — the two turns where the track cuts underneath a grandstand — and in doing so he was immediately off-line.
Locking the brakes, Bottas was unable to turn properly to make the corner and hit the barrier on the outside of the track heavily, damaging the front left corner of the car and bringing out the red flags. The session was delayed for 10 minutes while the Mercedes was removed.
After the resumption, it was Verstappen who led the way on a 1m40.259s, leading Sebastian Vettel by 0.167s at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Lewis Hamilton was third fastest to make it three different cars at the top of the timing screens, but while the leading pair were on soft tires both Mercedes drivers used hards for their best laps, explaining plenty of the 0.6s gap.
Bottas ended up fourth despite his crash, with Alexander Albon fifth on his first visit to Singapore. Albon was 1.2s slower than teammate Verstappen, having warned on Thursday he would need some time to get up to speed with a new circuit to him.
The name missing from the top of the standings was the winner of the last two races, as Charles Leclerc also had a problematic session. A gearbox issue slowed him around the halfway point and led to him crawling back to the pits, leaving him 19th overall after completing just 12 laps.
Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Renault as the early signs are for a close battle with McLaren as the French manufacturer attempts to close the gap to fourth in the constructors’ championship even further. Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris were seventh and eighth respectively — Sainz 0.15s off Hulkenberg — although Norris did go straight on at Turn 7 at one stage and spent a little while rejoining the track.
The Toro Rosso pair of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10, although lap times are less relevant during FP1 at Singapore due to the timing of the sessions. FP2, qualifying and the race all take place after dark. However, with haze being an issue this weekend, temperatures are unlikely to change dramatically from day to night.