The purpose of Free Practice 1 was to be able to gather data to feed back to the team’s respective factories around the world so that they can make some more educated judgements and new ideas that would assist them through the weekend. For Free Practice 2, the teams were on track in conditions more similar to that of the race seeing how the cars would now be navigating the Marina Bay Street Circuit whilst glistening under the lights. First though, would Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas take part in the session following their lack of running for two different reasons earlier in the day.
Having a quiet Free Practice 1, Kimi Raikkonen was the first to record a time 1:43.996, hardly a benchmark for the session but his presence pleased the crowd which was sat enduring the humidity. Alex Albon headed out, on a track he his unfamiliar driving around, with menace and speed but was not fast enough as George Russell gave Williams fans a wry smile putting the team on top due to the lack of runners on circuit – with a 1:43.229. Next, it was time to pay tribute to the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport mechanics as the sound of the W10 was heard and Valtteri Bottas headed down pit lane to join the fray.
Whilst Bottas was entering the running, his teammate Lewis Hamilton (a 4-time winner in Singapore) put in the fastest lap of the session to that point with a 1:39.991. The recently fixed pair of Leclerc and Bottas would slot into 3rd and 4th respectively, then came the first drama of the session.
Alex Albon, having carried a bit too much speed under braking, lost his front wing at Turn 10 and in recovering from the error promptly drove over the recently dislodged wing with his right front tyre – a trip to the pits would soon follow for the rookie but it was minimal damage so he was soon back out on track.
Whilst the tussle was taking place out in front, Sergio Perez was recording some consistently fast laps and found himself in 5th position as the half way mark approached. Just behind Perez was George Russell running the medium compound. With all runners out on track, where had the young Brit found this pace from?
Lewis Hamilton’s 1:39.991 had seemed very impressive early on as it was seven tenths quicker than second placed man Max Verstappen. However, the other Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver would soon dislodge the 5-time World Champion as Albon recorded a stunning 1:39.943. Not to be outdone by his teammate, Verstappen (also on the soft compound) became the first driver of the session to break into the 1:38s with a 1:38.957.
All eyes turned to Lewis Hamilton and whether he could respond. He certainly could as he positioned himself at the top with a time just under two tenths quicker than Verstappen thanks to the last chicane by running both kerbs as the end of the lap approached. Hamilton was quick but traffic was the reason Verstappen could not respond…for now.
Whilst traffic impacted the contenders for quickest of the day - namely Kevin Magnussen being accused on team radio of sleeping by Sebastian Vettel - McLaren were enjoying a much more successful run of laps with Carlos Sainz sitting temporarily in 5th and his teammate was a couple of spaces back in 7th. The Woking based manufacturer would finish the session with their drivers remaining in these positions.
Also continuing to impress, was Nico Hulkenberg (recently removed from Renault Sport) recording lap times 5 tenths quicker than his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. By the time the 90 minutes came to an end Hulkenberg would place 8th in the ranking with his teammate down in 12th. Hulkenberg is certainly doing a good job putting himself in the shop window…but is anyone in a position to buy?
Prior to the ‘front teams’ heading in to the pits (having completed qualifying simulations) Lance Stroll drew gasps from the crowd as he lightly glanced the wall whilst approaching the final corner, what came next were sparks, but seemingly no damage.
Almost as if to keep the stewards busy due to the lack of runners on track, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen were under investigation for an on track incident. Perez was at a slow speed to build up to the lap (as is becoming the trend) and in doing so made Magnussen hesitate. Each driver complained on radio about the incident and the stewards chose for it to be ‘noted’.
With just over 20 minutes remaining, the session fell into race mode and with it any chance of Lewis Hamilton’s 1:38.773 being beaten this evening. To prove this statement, Sebastian Vettel came across the line with a 1:47.330
Having not ignited the day in FP1, Hamilton was untouchable this evening with only Max Verstappen managing to hold onto the reigning champ, through improving to a time just under two tenths slower. If Hamilton continues with such elegant speed tomorrow, he will surely become the favourite for the race victory under the lights on Sunday.
Although, seeing how Vettel was quickest in sector 1, Verstappen was quickest in sector 2 and the fastest through sector 3 was Lewis Hamilton...maybe the talented Brit won’t have it his own way after all.