Lewis Hamilton tops opening practice

Updated: Sep 21, 2019, 08:45 IST | Abhishek Takle

The Briton, third in the evening on a set of the less grippy hard compound tyres, lapped the Marina Bay track in one minute, 38.773 seconds at night under the floodlights

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

Singapore: Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton edged Max Verstappen off the top of the timesheets to go fastest on the opening day of practice for the Singapore Grand Prix yesterday. The Briton, third in the evening on a set of the less grippy hard compound tyres, lapped the Marina Bay track in one minute, 38.773 seconds at night under the floodlights.

That was good enough to dislodge Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who topped the opening session, by 0.186 seconds. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, a four-time winner in Singapore and hunting for his first win since last year's race in Belgium, was third.

The German was nearly a second off the pace, however, after having to make put in a second flying lap on used tyres having encountered traffic on what his initial attempt.

Hamilton, who leads team mate Valtteri Bottas by 63 points in the overall standings with seven races left, has won four times in Singapore including in the last two years. He is gunning to turn that into an unprecedented fifth Singapore success this weekend and return Mercedes to the top of the podium after successive defeats in Belgium and Italy. Friday’s timesheets indicated he could face a challenge from Verstappen.

Red Bull have finished second in Singapore for the last five years and the Dutchman, runner up last year, is bidding to go one better on Sunday. “I think they are very much going to be the favourites here,” Red Bull boss Christian Horner said of Mercedes.

“But we’ve got a competitive car and hopefully we can take the fight to them.” Valtteri Bottas, who had crashed in opening practice prompting a brief halt to the session, enjoyed a trouble free run under the floodlights. He ended both sessions fourth. Alexander Albon, in only his third race for Red Bull after switching from Toro Rosso, stayed fifth despite running off the track into the barriers and breaking his front wing. Sunday’s race in Singapore is the closest the British-born Thai rookie has to a home race.

Charles Leclerc, winner for Ferrari in Belgium and Italy, was only sixth. The Monegasque, running a new gearbox after an issue sidelined him in the opening session, was also held up during his fastest lap. Carlos Sainz was seventh for McLaren ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. The Spaniard’s team mate Lando Norris was ninth while Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly rounded out the top ten.

There was plenty of arm waving and complaining on the radio as drivers on a quick lap got held up behind slower cars. There were also some close calls with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, in particular, squeezing the Haas of Kevin Magnussen up against the wall in an incident that attracted the attention of the race stewards.

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