Daniel Ricciardo leads in Singapore GP practice with Lewis Hamilton third
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished third fastest after second practice for the Singapore Grand Prix as Daniel Ricciardo completed an impressive double for a rampant 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 one minute and 40.852 seconds.
Hamilton, who holds a three-point advantage in the title race, was next in the order and the only other driver within a second of Ricciardo, pictured, and his rampant Red Bull.
Hamilton’s title rival Sebastian Vettel clocked just the 11th best time, but his result is somewhat skewed, given that he failed to post a fast lap on the ultrasoft tyre, the quickest of the three compounds available this weekend.
Vettel went fastest in the opening sector of his quickest 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 the Rolex advertising board, but escaped the incident without any significant damage to his car.
But with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen only ninth in the standings, there will be some concern for Ferrari with the slow-speed nature of this street circuit expected to have played to their strengths.
Indeed this could prove to be the only course of the remaining seven rounds where Ferrari should hold the advantage over Hamilton and his Mercedes team.
Hamilton, in charge of the championship for the first time this year following his triumph at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago, will feel somewhat relieved to see Vettel behind him with Mercedes anticipating to struggle here this weekend.
The 32-year-old Englishman has won here in Singapore on two occasions, but has struggled in recent years, failing to get to the finish in 2015 before he ended a distant third to long-time rival Nico Rosberg in last season’s race.
But aside from the dominant Red Bulls, Hamilton was half-a-second clear of his fourth-placed Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, and seemingly in with a chance of retaining his title lead over Vettel ahead of the concluding six fixtures of this year’s title race.
Nico Hulkenberg was fifth for Renault, while McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne finished sixth for McLaren ahead of his team-mate Fernando Alonso. The McLaren pair will be powered by Renault next year after the British team formally announced their divorce from Honda. The Japanese engine maker will instead move to Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso in 2018 with Carlos Sainz to partner Hulkenberg at Renault.
Renault’s move to appoint Sainz leaves British driver Jolyon Palmer in the lurch. Palmer, 26, has failed to score a single point this year, and was only 14th on Friday, 1.4 sec slower than Hulkenberg in the sister Renault.
The Singapore Grand Prix, the sport’s first night race, will be on the calendar for at least another four years after the announcement of a new deal yesterday.