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Singapore FP1: Leclerc kicks off Ferrari's weekend strongly

Singapore FP1: Leclerc kicks off Ferrari’s weekend strongly

Singapore FP1: Leclerc kicks off Ferrari's weekend strongly

Charles Leclerc topped the first practice session for the 2023 Singapore Grand Prix, kicking off Ferrari’s Formula 1 weekend at the Marina Bay Circuit in the best way possible.

While it may be too early to take make any predictions from the first session which is not very representative to the race and qualifying conditions, it is nevertheless a decent start for Ferrari as Carlos Sainz posted the second-fastest time in the sister Ferrari behind his teammate.

Max Verstappen was third fastest in the Red Bull, but as usual, the reigning F1 Champion looked formidable in his long runs.

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Lando Norris, whose McLaren had a major upgrade bolted to it was fourth fastest in the McLaren.

Buildup towards FP1

After a short break, F1 is back in Singapore, one of the most physically demanding races on the calendar for both drivers and cars, due to the extreme heat and the brutal humidity.

But it remains one of the most race fans and drivers look forwards to, a race that runaway Championship leader Verstappen has not won before, and he will be intent on sorting that matter this weekend.

The track will have a slightly revised layout this weekend due to developments around the tracks meaning the corners between 16 and 19 are now a straight.

Red Bull are downplaying their chances this weekend adamant the Marina Bay Circuit will be a challenge to them, and as much as we and their rivals would like to believe them, the remain the team to beat. Don’t forget, Sergio Perez won the race last year.

But that doesn’t mean the teams behind them might be reshuffled, maybe Mercedes enjoying a better weekend with the high downforce nature of the race, while McLaren and Aston Martin may be slightly better as well, while it would be interesting to see if Ferrari do well following their strong weekend at Monza last time out.

On other fronts, Daniel Ricciardo remains on sick leave, but is present in the Singapore paddock as Liam Lawson continues deputizing for him at AlphaTauri, while Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu should be fired up after the team confirmed him for 2024.

Ricciardo is reportedly in Singapore to help AlphaTauri with setup advice for the car, and area Lawson and Yuki Tsunoda are lacking in.

Williams will catch the eye this weekend as well, but not for overachieving like they did at Monza, they will probably be rubbish in Singapore, but they will do so in style with their gorgeous “Bolder than Bold” Gulf livery.

The FIA have also debuted a new front wing test procedures to clamp down on some solutions teams have found to make their wings flex under load.

Pirelli went soft for Singapore with their C3 (Hard), C4 (Medium), and C5 (Soft) tyres available for the teams.

Singapore FP1 session highlights

FP1 started in hot conditions, 44 degrees track temperatures, while the ambient temperature was 32 degrees with humidity 62%.

Before we set off into the session proceedings, several teams brought some upgrades to their cars this weekend in Singapore.

McLaren have brought the biggest upgrade, the MCL60 featuring new sidepod inlets, new floor, new front wing end plate, new Halo, as well as reshaped sidepods and engine cover.

The team also made revisions to their rear brake duct geometry, rear suspension, rear wing endplate and beam wing.

Norris will benefit from the full package while Oscar Piastri, who has some new parts, will receive it fully in the upcoming race.

AlphaTauri also brought a major upgrade including a new floor and floor edge, revised sidepod inlets, reshaped engine cover, a new diffuser and a new rear suspension.

Alfa Romeo brought a new floor fence, a new diffuser, revised rear brake ducts and suspension covers as well as a revised front wing.

Ferrari have a revised front wing while Red Bull have a revised floor edge and revised rear wing endplate, as Alpine brought revised sidepod inlets, cooling louvres and beam wing.

Five minutes into the session, Fernando Alonso, on his first timed lap, suffered a slide into Turn 1, ending up in the runoff area with no harm done to this AMR23.

After his first run in his RB19, Verstappen reported: “Quite aggressive downshifts and I struggle in the [corners] mid to exit all the time. A lot of oversteer in every corner, basically.”

In the other RB19, Perez was not happy with his seating position, he said: “I struggle to see the apexes, so I may need to come up a bit with the seat.”

Perez, 15 minutes into the session, suffers the same error as Alonso in Turn 1, but survives to keep going.

Early signs show that McLaren’s upgrades are working well, as halfway into the session Norris was leading the timing screens, over two tenths faster than George Russell.

In the second half of the session, the teams started bolting on the Soft tyres after a mix of Hards and Mediums were used in the first half, getting some early idea of how qualifying will look like this weekend in Singapore.

The first Yellow flag of the session came up with 27 minutes remaining on the clock, as a lizard made it’s way on the track. It seems it wasn’t the first time as Verstappen said over the team radio: “There’s a lizard again on the track, a smaller one this time.”

To which his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase jokingly responded: “Ok understood, maybe Godzilla had a kid.”

“I think it makes sense,” was the Dutchman’s response who came along a lizard on track back in 2016 and he nicknamed it Godzilla.

Mercedes informed Lewis Hamilton he was losing eighth tenths per lap on the qualifying runs to the fastest driver – Leclerc at that point – with most of the time lost in Turn 9.

The teams soon set out on high fuel runs towards the end of the session.

Another lizard soon decided to invade the track bringing out the second Yellow flag of the session in sector two. Godzilla and his family planning to crash the party?

How they finished

Leclerc clocked a 1:33.350 to go fastest at the end of FP1, with teammate Sainz second fastest, 0.078s off the pace, while Verstappen was 0.048s further down in third.

Norris was fourth fastest in the McLaren, 0.046s behind the Dutchman with Hamilton chasing in fifth, 0.018s slower than his compatriot.

Russell was sixth fastest in the sister Mercedes, 0.155s slower than Hamilton and 0.030s faster than Perez, seventh fastest in the Red Bull.

Alonso posted the eighth fastest time of FP1, a 1:33.974, over six tenths slower than Leclerc’s session topping time.

Tsunoda was ninth fastest in the AlphaTauri ahead of Esteban Ocon tenth in the Alpine.

FP1 Results

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