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Ricciardo heads Red Bull 1-2 in opening session

NEWS STORY
14/09/2018

Today's opening session in Singapore, got underway in temperatures of 32.4 degrees C (air) and 45.2 degrees (track).

With the high risk of accidents, and thereby damage, there were no reserve drivers on duty. Tyre choice is soft, ultrasoft and hypers.

With the session taking place in daylight and earlier than any other session, particularly qualifying and the race, the teams are using this as a glorified test, hence an abundance of flo-vis as teams try new parts.

The early stages saw the Finns, Bottas and Raikkonen battle for supremacy, and then Verstappen joining in the fun and games.

Soon they were joined by Hamilton, Vettel and Ricciardo and it was business as usual as the three big teams filled their usual spots.

There was an early spin for Stroll after Williams driver ran wide over the kerbs and dipped a toe on the artificial grass causing the rear of the car to kick-out.

Bottas was another early spinner, but again the Finn was able to steer clear of the barriers.

As ever, the battle for best of the rest was frantic and looks likely to be so for the remainder of the weekend, this being an anomaly of a track that will favour some teams and compromise others.

Half-an-hour into the session, Ricciardo went quickest with a 1:41.814, this being a track that should suit Red Bull.

The spins continued, with Perez and Bottas (again) among them, which other than the obvious damage to their pride did their tyres no good.

Once the hypersofts began to appear, roundabout fifty minutes into the session, the times began to tumble, first with the Mercedes drivers deposing Ricciardo and then the Ferraris, Vettel banging in a 1:39.997. However, the Ferraris were subsequently split by Verstappen who posted a 1:40.257 on the softs.

Shortly after Verstappen's mega-lap, teammate Ricciardo gave us a true glimpse of what was possible when he bolted on a set of hypers and raised the benchmark to 1:39.711. Other than Vettel, the only driver to break the 1:39 barrier at that stage.

Shortly, after Verstappen, now also on the pink-banded rubber, posted 1:39.912 to go second, 0.2s down on his teammate.

As at Monza, Red Bull is the only team using the latest engine upgrade from Renault.

That said, Mercedes has yet to try the softest compound, though we know from experience that this can either be a good sign or a bad sign for the German team.

If the Red Bulls were showing good pace, so too were the Renaults, with Hulkenberg and Sainz both well up the order, the German contesting his 150th GP weekend and the Spaniard his 75th. As it happens, this is the 75th GP weekend for Magnussen and Verstappen also. And the 149th for Perez.

Late in the session there was a little silliness when Gasly and Ocon looked as though they were on the verge of a Magnussen/Alonso incident, such squabbles really not necessary at this stage of the weekend.

"Sorry guys, my fault, I hit the wall," admitted Leclerc after an unforced error which saw him clout the wall after the bridge, destroying his right-front suspension in the process.

The session ended with Ricciardo quickest, ahead of Verstappen, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Sainz, Bottas, Leclerc and Grosjean.

Ericsson was eleventh, ahead of Perez, Magnussen, Alonso, Ocon, Gasly, Hartley, Stroll, Sirotkin and Vandoorne.

In terms of qualifying and the race, we should get a better idea of the standing order later in FP2, when conditions are more representative.

However, other than the work that Sauber faces over the break, the question on many minds after this session is whether this is going to be a good weekend for Mercedes or a bad weekend.

Check out our Friday gallery from Singapore, here.

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