Singapore swing puts title race focus on Hamilton
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton could only clock the third fastest time in Singapore as Australian Daniel Ricciardo completed a practice double on an impressive day for his Red Bull team.
Ricciardo set the fastest lap in opening practice before he went even quicker under the lights of the Marina Bay circuit to finish half-a-second clear of his Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen with a record-breaking time of 1min 40.852sec.
Briton Hamilton, who holds a three-point advantage in the title race, was next in the order and the only other driver within one second of Ricciardo and his rampant Red Bull.
In contrast, Hamilton’s title rival, Germany’s Sebastian Vettel was just 11th, but his result was skewed as he failed to post a fast lap on the ultrasoft tyre, the quickest of the three compounds available.
Vettel went quicker than any other driver in the opening sector of what should have been his best lap, only to be blocked by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson before abandoning his run.
To cap a scrappy evening, the four-time champion then thudded the wall on the exit of turn 10, dislodging an advertising board, but escaped the incident without any significant damage to his car.
But with Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen only ninth in the standings, there will be some concern in the Ferrari camp with the slow-speed nature of this 3.2-mile street circuit expected to have played to their strengths.
Tomorrow’s race could prove to be the only course of the remaining seven grands prix where Ferrari will hold the advantage on Hamilton and his Mercedes team.
Hamilton, who is in charge of the title race for the first time this season following his triumph at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, was relieved to have seen Vettel behind him with Mercedes braced for a difficult weekend of driving.