Hamilton leads Red Bulls in first practice for Singapore GP

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Lewis Hamilton has begun his Singapore Grand Prix weekend in style by finishing quickest in the first free practice session ahead of the race on Sunday.

The Mercedes driver posted a best time of 1:47.055 to finish ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, with the early signs suggesting that the fight will be between those two teams for the win this weekend. For Vettel’s closest rival in the championship, Fernando Alonso, the session was less fruitful as he finished down in P7 behind Nico Rosberg and both Lotus drivers.

The first practice session of the weekend got underway when it was still daylight, with most drivers conducting an installation lap before returning to the pits and waiting for conditions to become more representative for the rest of the weekend. With one-third of the session gone, Sergio Perez emerged from the pits to set the first benchmark time of 1:50.103 on the medium tire, initially followed by the two Caterhams of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde with the latter scraping the wall at turn twenty-one. Pastor Maldonado was the first driver to top Perez’s time, going three-tenths faster before teammate Valtteri Bottas went faster still.

With half of the session complete, the front-runners came out to set their first times. Red Bull’s Mark Webber was the first to lay down the gauntlet, going six-tenths clear of the Williams pair and he was joined at the front by the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Fernando Alonso could only go fifth with his first competitive time, and the Spaniard appeared to be wrestling with the car through the tight final sector of the circuit unlike Sebastian Vettel who eventually came out to go P3.

As more and more laps were completed, the times became quicker and quicker due to the nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, causing Hamilton and Webber to trade fastest lap times at the top of the timesheets. Kimi Raikkonen was the first driver to be caught out by the re-profiled turn ten (formerly the Singapore Sling chicane), taking to the run-off area. In the midfield, Williams ran well along with Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, with the Mexican driver looking to score his first points in Formula One this weekend.

Hamilton reclaimed top spot from Webber with around twenty-five minutes remaining as Vettel looked to join the sparring duo. However, he could not match their pace, with the Briton eventually finishing the session quickest for Mercedes.

Having won the race back in 2009, Hamilton will be hoping to continue this form across the rest of the weekend to clinch his second win at Marina Bay.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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