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Singapore Grand Prix: F1 Free Practice 1 results

Formula 1 took to the Marina Bay circuit for the first session of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend

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Formula One returned to the Marina Bay street circuit in Singapore today, which saw Charles Leclerc top the timesheets of the first Free Practice session ahead of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. 

Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore (Credit: X @Formula1)

For the 16th round of the 2023 season, Formula 1 is racing under the night sky in Singapore. Ahead of the weekend, Max Verstappen was continuing to dominate the championship standings, having won his 10th consecutive win last time out at Monza.

Red Bull are leading the championship and the Milton Keynes outfit could clinch the title this weekend. Red Bull currently have 583 points whilst Mercedes have 273 points. For the Constructors’ Championship to continue, Mercedes will have to score two or more points, otherwise Red Bull will take the championship in Singapore.

The Marina Bay track has also undergone some track changes for this year’s Singapore Grand Prix. The circuit now has an extra straight between Turns 15 and Turns 16 ahead of the penultimate chicane. The track changes have caused mixed reactions from drivers with Lando Norris preferring the old layout whilst the likes of Max Verstappen praise the new straight but would like a DRS zone to be added.

Ahead of Free Practice 1, no driver had been on track with the new layout. And as for Liam Lawson, who is stepping in for Daniel Ricciardo, the entire Singapore circuit is new to him.

For this weekend, several teams have new upgrades. Red Bull have a new rear wing endplate, taking inspiration from competitors, and a new floor edge. Alpine have a new side pod entry whilst Alfa Romeo have a new floor, new diffuser and a new brake duct. AlphaTauri also have a new floor and diffuser.

However, McLaren are the most upgraded car this weekend with nine new parts, including a new front wing and engine cover. Lando Norris’s car has all nine upgrades for this weekend whilst Oscar Piastri only has some.

So with the new layout and lots of upgrades, let’s get into what happened during Free Practice 1 at the Marina Bay Circuit.

Free Practice 1

For FP1, the session was very different to what the rest of the weekend will look like. It’s a lot earlier in the day than others and the heat is a lot higher. With the new track changes, Bernie Collins of Sky Sports F1 confirmed that the session was mainly about trying different set ups of the cars, learning the new track layout etc rather than qualifying runs, for example.

Fernando Alonso, who has his eyes on the victory this weekend, set a fast lap of 1:40.337. This put him P2 behind Valtteri Bottas. Alonso had a moment brushing the kerbs much like Norris, whose McLaren was sporting a new livery this weekend.

As the session went on, other drivers began setting lap times. Norris on the mediums went fastest with a 1:37.895 ahead of Pierre Gasly on the mediums in P2. Max Verstappen was the leading car on hards but only managed a time good enough for P3 with a 1:38.169.

Zhou Guanyu, who just signed a new contract with Alfa Romeo, reported something smelling a “little bit smoky” in the early stages of the session.

Lance Stroll, who didn’t have a great weekend in Monza, was still sat in the garage. The aero-rake probes needed to be removed from the sidepods of Stroll’s car, meaning the Aston martin driver was forced to wait until he could go out on track.

Verstappen was complaining of a downshift problem whilst his teammate, Sergio Perez, admitted he was struggling to see the apexes of the corners. However, both Red Bulls were P5 and P6 with 10 minutes completed of the session.

A battle for P1

Ferrari, who had a positive weekend in Monza, were looking to be strong this weekend as well. On hard tyres, Carlos Sainz was able to go fastest ahead of Norris with a 1:35.718 as the track evolved. Charles Leclerc, however, set three purple sectors, beating his teammate by 0.035 seconds.

Free practice 1 Singapore
Charles Leclerc of Ferrari in the pitlane at the Singapore Grand Prix’s Free Practice 1 session (Credit: X @scuderiaferrari)

As for the performance of Mercedes, it was Hamilton who drove the fastest in the W14. Russell’s fast lap on the hard tyres put him P6 whilst Hamilton’s saw him go P1 with a 1:35.571. Further down the pack, Alex Albon of Williams had a close call as he just missed the scraping the wall.

All 20 drivers out on track

Stroll was able to get out on track  after the first 20 minutes of the session. He set a time of 1:39.982 on the hard tyres.

At just after halfway through the session, all drivers apart from Gasly, Bottas and Alonso came into the pits. Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren, told the Sky Sports F1 team that Norris was reporting the upgrades were working well. This proved true as Norris was once again fastest of the session. As for Piastri, he was P12 but this weekend is his first time around Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit.

Whilst others sat in the pits, Gasly was out on track completing a lap. The Frenchman completed a purple sector two, whilst more drivers began their second stints of the session, leaving the pits. Overall, Gasly’s lap put him P2, 0.204 seconds off Norris, but Gasly was on the soft-compound tyre.

More and more drivers were putting the soft tyres on as the track was evolving. However, a yellow flag was brought out at 27 minutes left of the session.

Yellow flag

A yellow flag was brought out in sector two. But the commentary team couldn’t see that anybody had stopped on track. Instead, a lizard was on track.

The yellow flag lasted only a few minutes but as Bernie Collins said, the yellow flag conditions aren’t what those on the soft tyres would have wanted, having taken a little out of the red-walled compound.

On the soft tyres, Russell managed to go fastest but was soon beaten by Sainz. Hamilton went 0.211 seconds off his teammate whilst Norris was setting purple sectors and went four tenths quicker than his former teammate.

Red Bull have admitted that Singapore may not be their strongest weekend with Verstappen not too confident in the team’s dominance. So far in FP1, at 20 minutes, neither Red Bull driver has been able to go fastest. However, the Dutchman set a time that put his car in second when testing out the soft tyres.

Final 15 minutes

Drivers were setting more lap times in the final 15 minutes of the session. But another yellow flag was brought out in sector two again. Sainz confirmed it was for “another lizard at Turn 9”.

The green flag was quickly brought out again once the track was cleared. At this point, Leclerc was topping the timesheets ahead of Sainz in P2 and Verstappen in P3.

Drivers kept setting fast laps on the soft tyres but the teams with the biggest difference between drivers were McLaren and Williams. For McLaren, Norris was in P4 whilst Piastri was in P19. As for Williams, Albon was in P13 whilst Sargeant was in 20th.

Another flag was brought out in sector two again for another lizard.

With two minutes left, Leclerc was back on the hard tyres and managed to set a time of 1:38.639. However, the Monegasque retained P1 with his 1:33.3 on the softs from earlier in the session.

FP1 Results

P1: Charles Leclerc

P2: Carlos Sainz

P3: Max Verstappen

P4: Lando Norris

P5: Lewis Hamilton

P6: George Russell

P7: Sergio Perez

P8: Fernando Alonso

P9: Yuki Tsunoda

P10: Esteban Ocon

Headline Image: GettyImages

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