FP1: Verstappen narrowly leads Vettel, as Bottas crashes out
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen narrowly led Sebastian Vettel in FP1 on Friday as drivers began to make sense of the Singapore surface, with Lewis Hamilton third. There were mixed fortunes for Ferrari and Mercedes, however, as Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas both retired early from FP1.
Verstappen’s time of 1m 40.259s put him ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari by just 0.167s, both drivers setting their best laps on soft tyres. Hamilton, who started the session on softs and moved to hard tyres, could only finish 0.666s off Verstappen for Mercedes at the flag.
Reliability issues struck again for Ferrari as Leclerc’s car appeared to get stuck in fourth gear – just after Vettel set his personal best lap – and had to be wheeled back to the garage with just over 30 minutes remaining.
The Monegasque Monza winner ended the session 19th as he failed to set a flying lap on soft tyres, and it was an unfortunate turn for the team keen to test their new barge board and nose for Singapore.
For Mercedes, it was a cruel snap of oversteer that ended Bottas’s session – and brought out a red flag – as he crashed into the barriers at Turn 19 just a few minutes after Leclerc retired. The Finn still ended the session fourth, albeit a second off the pace, and ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon.
Nico Hulkenberg, confident that he will remain in F1 next season, finished sixth for Renault, three-tenths behind Albon and ahead of the McLaren pair that was led by Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard nearly collided with Hamilton early in the session and was irate as Hamilton seemingly blocked his late effort to set a flying lap.
In P9 was Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, his team mate Pierre Gasly rounding out the top 10 that was separated by 2.118s.
Daniel Ricciardo spent the whole session on soft tyres, like his Renault team mate, but finished 11th ahead of re-signed Haas driver Romain Grosjean in 12th.
A number of teams boasted significant upgrade packages, including Alfa Romeo whose drivers Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen were in P13 and P14, and the Racing Point pair of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, 15th and 18th, respectively.
Robert Kubica was 17th and seven-tenths faster than his Williams team mate George Russell, who rounded out the standings 3.734s off the leading time.