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Red Bull tops Singapore times as Ferrari new boy Leclerc crashes

Daniel Ricciardo recorded the fastest lap in the first free practice session on Friday for this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix but Ferrari’s replacement for Kimi Raikkonen had a moment to forget.

Charles Leclerc marked his first session since being announced as Sebastian Vettel’s new teammate for 2019 with a blunder near the end of the session.

The 20-year-old Leclerc misjudged his Sauber’s exit from the Anderson Bridge, clipped the wall hard at turn 13 and destroyed his right front wheel.

Singapore specialist Ricciardo, who has finished on the second step of the podium for the past three years, powered his Red Bull round in 1 min 39.711 sec at the spectacular Marina Bay street circuit which snakes its way through the heart of Asia’s “Lion City”.

Max Verstappen completed a Red Bull one-two just two-tenths of a second behind but championship leader Lewis Hamilton was only sixth fastest, 1.521sec off the pace, after Mercedes opted not to use the fastest hypersoft tyres in the session.

Sebastian Vettel, who trails Hamilton by 30 points in the drivers’ championship, was third fastest and less than a tenth of a second behind Verstappen. Raikkonen was fourth.

Nico Hulkenberg in his Renault was an impressive fifth fastest but Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes could only come in eighth fastest. 

The Marina Bay track has 23 corners, more than any other on the current Formula One calendar, and is a severe test for both drivers and cars with temperatures topping 30 Celsius.

But the first session, which takes place in daylight and the searing heat of the afternoon, is often not a true guide to the pace of the cars for the night race. 

The green track traditionally gets much quicker as the race weekend progresses and more rubber is laid down. 

The track was noticeably dusty in some sections and several front-runners experienced loss of grip and spins on the bumpy surface.

Hamilton ran wide a couple of times, Bottas and Williams’ Lance Stroll both spun at the second corner, as did Force India’s Sergio Perez at turn 20, and Raikkonen missed a turn and ended up in a run-off dead-end before spinning his car 360 degrees to get back on track.        -AFP

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