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.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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