Hamilton bests Verstappen in opening Singapore GP practice

Lionel Ng/Motorsport Images

Hamilton bests Verstappen in opening Singapore GP practice

Formula 1

Hamilton bests Verstappen in opening Singapore GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton pipped Max Verstappen to the top spot in twilight first practice at the Singapore Grand Prix, with Charles Leclerc in third.

Mercedes driver Hamilton waited until the final five minutes to set his best time on soft tires, his best lap of 1m43.033s topping Verstappen’s Red Bull by just 0.084s.

Track evolution is usually very high around the Singapore street circuit as the track rubbers in and the sun begins to set, which played into the Briton’s hands given his lap came around 15 minutes after Verstappen’s best effort.

Leclerc followed in third, the Ferrari driver 0.4s off Hamilton’s benchmark pace. Whereas the Red Bull looked supremely hooked up on the soft tire, the SF-75 looked skittish as Monegasque attempted to tackle the curbs.

It was nonetheless a decent return for Leclerc, who spent the first 25 minutes in his garage with a technical problem discovered on his first installation lap.

Sergio Perez was fourth and 0.8s off the pace, but the Mexican retired early from the session with what sounded like a gearbox problem in the back of his RB18. George Russell slipped into fifth, a full second behind his leading teammate, after nosing the barrier at Turn 11 early in the hour.

Carlos Sainz’s quickest lap was similarly sketchy compared to Leclerc’s, but the Spaniard couldn’t extract the same kind of performance, and he noted that he was struggling for pace from his soft tires after a single flying lap.

Esteban Ocon was the quickest of the midfielders, 1.7s adrift in his upgraded Alpine car, which is equipped with a heavily revised floor.

Lance Stroll followed in eighth despite crashing out of the session with 22 minutes to go, whacking his left-rear wheel against the barriers at Turn 5 and stopping on track, causing a five-minute red flag.

Pierre Gasly was ninth for AlphaTauri ahead of Fernando Alonso in the second Alpine, the Spaniard undertaking the entire session with one set of medium tires.

Sebastian Vettel was 11th without using a set of soft tires ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas, the Finn also eschewing the softs. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda followed in 14th and 15th respectively.

Alex Albon, returning to the cockpit after a brief stay in ICU following an appendectomy, was 16th for Williams ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris, while the Thai driver’s Williams teammate, Nicholas Latifi, was last.

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