Verstappen on top in FP1
Max Verstappen prepares to drive in the garage during practice for the F1 Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 20, 2019 in Singapore. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Verstappen on top in FP1

On a track favouring the Red Bull, Max Verstappen returned to the top of the timesheets whilst Valtteri Bottas’ crash red flagged the opening session of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.

matthewwatkinson
Matthew Watkinson

After Ferrari domination in the previous two race weekends, the battle at the front is anticipated to be much closer with Red Bull and Mercedes strong favourites to lead the field and battle it out for pole position.

Every race at Singapore this decade, the Red Bull has ended on at least the second step of the podium and after Max Verstappen’s performance in FP1, the Dutchman looks set to challenge for another race victory this season.

Bottas in the barriers, but Mercedes and Ferrari not far off

Valtteri Bottas had several close shaves with barriers, clipping the wall in the opening third of the session before burying his Mercedes into the tyre barriers after losing the rear end, not only ending his session but causing a red flag as a result of the incident.

His teammate Lewis Hamilton often reigns supreme at Singapore and the early signs for the championship leader were promising as the Brit ended the session in third ahead of his teammate in fourth.

Sebastian Vettel dragged his Ferrari into second and the four-time world champion will be hoping to put in a performance of redemption this weekend after his horror show in Italy.

As Verstappen lead the way, his teammate Alexander Albon was unable to match him but after a slow start, he grew into the session finding himself in 5th place.

After back-to-back race wins Charles Leclerc was brought back down to earth in FP1 with a gearbox failure, causing the Monegasque to coast around the final sector stuck in fourth gear and as a result had to be pushed back to his pit box after stopping at the entrance of the pitlane.

The gearbox issue was under investigation by the stewards and Ferrari will be hoping to avoid any grid penalties ahead of the race on Sunday.

Mattia Binotto revealed that Ferrari had brought several upgrades to reduce the gap that was expected to be evident between themselves, the Red Bull and Mercedes around a circuit that shouldn’t suit the Scuderia.

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Renault leading the midfield pack

After Renault’s best finish last time out in Monza, they looked to emulate that pace and found themselves leading in the battle for ‘best of the rest’.

Nico Hulkenberg was driving with a point to prove as his position in the shop window is becoming critical as fewer seats look to be available, but the German closed the session with a lap to put him sixth place.

Daniel Ricciardo had a very close call with the wall after skating across the kerb, as the Aussie was one of many drivers who struggled with the back-end of the car sliding out of shape, but he finished 11th.

McLaren’s Lando Norris had a quiet session in eighth behind his teammate Carlos Sainz, but late-on was forced to take avoiding action in Turn 7 after a snap in the rear nearly caused the rookie to plough into the barriers but the run-off area allowed him to re-join the track unharmed.

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The Toro Rosso pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly finished ninth and tenth respectively and were evenly matched throughout FP1.

Haas yesterday announced that they will be retaining both their drivers for the 2020 season, and in FP1 Romain Grosjean finished in 12th whilst Kevin Magnussen struggled in 16th place.

Alfa Romeo also brought upgrades with a new rear wing amongst other improvements which was only able to help their drivers to 13th and 14th.

After yesterday announcing he will be leaving Williams, Robert Kubica finished ahead of his teammate once again and concluded the session in 17th, also ahead of Sergio Perez and Leclerc’s limp Ferrari.

Perez’ teammate Lance Stroll placed his Racing Point in 15th place as the pink cars looked to struggle in the opening session despite several upgrades.

George Russell had a tough outing in FP1 and rounded out the field in 20th position.

 

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