SINGAPORE: Spaniard Carlos Sainz set the pace in Friday’s Formula One practice for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of team-mate Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari one-two at the top of the timesheets.
The 28-year-old Sainz lapped the 5km Marina Bay track in one minute 42.587 seconds.
Leclerc was second, 0.208 seconds slower than his team mate, with George Russell third for Mercedes.
“Overall I was feeling more comfortable in second practice,” said Sainz. “But still not quite where I wanted to be. We still have to make some steps going into tomorrow.”
Max Verstappen, who will have a first shot at wrapping up a second successive title this weekend and is on a streak of five consecutive wins, was only fourth.
The Dutchman, who turned 25 on Friday, had gone second quickest in the opening session behind his pace-setting former rival Lewis Hamilton but completed only eight laps around the floodlit track at night.
“For second practice we wanted to try a few things but they just took a bit longer to change first of all and then we wanted to try something else and again that took quite a long time to change again,” said Verstappen, adding his time in the second session was not representative of the true pace of his Red Bull.
“With the changes we made were they good, were they bad, we still need to analyse,” he said.
Hamilton ended the day fifth.
Hamilton had earlier sprung a surprise with the quickest time in the opening practice session of the first Singapore race weekend since 2019 because of the Covid pandemic.
It was the first time the seven-time champion had topped the timesheets this season, giving him hope of being able to score a first grand prix victory in 2022 and maintain his run of winning a race in every season since his 2007 debut.
But the seven-time world champion later struggled with stability over the bumps and kerbs which caused him to run wide on the last corner of his final flying lap to leave him fifth, 0.595sec adrift of Sainz.
“It started off well,” Hamilton told reporters. “It wasn’t as great in the second session but pretty much like every other weekend. The car is as it is and is bouncing around like crazy but it doesn’t feel like we’re massively off this weekend.”
The Singapore event, which takes place at night against a backdrop of glittering skyscrapers, is termed the most demanding on the calendar by drivers because of the nature of the street circuit, with 23 corners and around 91 gear changes a lap.
Couple that with the heat and humidity of the tropical city-state and even Hamilton, who has won in Singapore four times, was suffering.
“I definitely felt a little bit dehydrated after that session and very hot,” he said. “But the biggest problem was literally just that you’re bouncing so much that you just have a headache all of the time and this is a very bumpy track.”
Esteban Ocon was sixth for Alpine ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Spaniard Fernando Alonso in the other Alpine.
Perez was only ninth for Red Bull, also logging low mileage, with Canadian Lance Stroll rounding out the top 10 for Aston Martin.
Thai racer Alexander Albon, who underwent appendicitis surgery and suffered respiratory failure from post-operative anaesthetic complications earlier this month, was again 16th fastest for Williams.
He completed a total of 45 gruelling laps of the punishing Marina Bay track over both sessions.
Pierre Gasly endured a fiery end to his session with his AlphaTauri spewing flames from its airbox as it was wheeled back into the garage.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022