Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo went fastest in opening practice for the Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari but it was announcements off-track that garnered most attention at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Following months of speculation McLaren and Honda announced that they will end their partnership at the close of the 2017, with the Woking squad then quickly announcing that its power units will be supplied by Renault in 2018.
As well as issuing its own statement about the McLaren supply, Renault subsequently announced that it has signed Toro Rosso racer Carlos Sainz ‘on loan’ from Red Bull for 2018. The Italian squad meanwhile revealed that it will cease using Renault engines in 2018 and instead has signed a multi-year partnership with Honda. The confirmation of Sainz by Renault means that with Nico Hulkenberg already on a multi-year deal qwith the French quad, team-mate Jolyon Palmer is without a drive for 2018.
The slew of announcements somewhat overshadowed the earlier action from FP1, with Ricciardo confirming pre-race weekend opinion that Red Bull would be quick around Marina Bay’s 23-corner layout.
With just under half an hour of the 90-minute session remaining, the Australian posted a time 1:42.489s on ultrasoft tyres to secure top spot. Vettel, also using ultrasofts then went out and set a time just 0.109s adrift of the Red Bull to slot into second place ahead of the second Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton had set the pace during the early stages of the session using supersoft Pirelli rubber, when there were a few damp patches on the circuit, but all drivers used slicks before they were shuffled back by Verstappen and Ricciardo’s first-run pace.
Lewis Hamilton, who arrived in Singapore on the back of consecutive wins, in Italy and Belgium, was fourth in the session. The championship leader was almost half a seconds adrift of Ricciardo, however, as he began his preparations for a weekend on which Mercedes are expected to be much more closely matched by rivals than in recent weekends.
Hamilton was separated from Mercedes team-mate Valterri Bottas by Sergio Pérez who took fifth place for Mercedes-powered Force India. Kimi Räikkönen was seventh in the second Ferrari, some 1.1s behind team-mate Vettel.
Fernando Alonso was eighth for McLaren, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat completing the top 10 order.
2017 Singapore Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 21 1:42.489
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 21 1:42.598 0.109
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 23 1:42.610 0.121
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 27 1:42.904 0.415
5 Sergio Perez Force India 25 1:43.423 0.934
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27 1:43.434 0.945
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 25 1:43.734 1.245
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 19 1:43.759 1.270
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 24 1:44.101 1.612
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 25 1:44.220 1.731
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 25 1:44.340 1.851
12 Jolyon Palmer Renault 25 1:44.961 2.472
13 Esteban Ocon Force India 25 1:45.053 2.564
14 Felipe Massa Williams 27 1:45.084 2.595
15 Romain Grosjean Haas 20 1:46.456 3.967
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Haas 27 1:46.782 4.293
17 Lance Stroll Williams 11 1:47.190 4.701
18 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso 26 1:47.570 5.081
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 23 1:47.699 5.210
20 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 24 1:47.886 5.397