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Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 in opening Singapore GP practice

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Red Bull made a rapid start to the Singapore Grand Prix weekend as Max Verstappen headed up a one-two finish for the team in the opening Formula 1 practice session at Marina Bay.

Red Bull arrived in Singapore expected to challenge Mercedes’ recent supremacy, the tight and twisting nature of the street circuit playing to the strengths of the RB12 car.

The opening session started in daylight before finishing in darkness, with floodlights illuminating the circuit.

The session saw Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari all enjoy spells at the top of the timesheets, but it was Verstappen who ultimately finished fastest.

A best lap of 1:45.823 on the ultra-soft tire saw Verstappen finish 0.049 seconds clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, sending out a warning shot to the team’s rivals.

Four-time Singapore winner Vettel was third-fastest for Ferrari, four-tenths of a second off Verstappen’s time, while defending world champion Lewis Hamilton had to settle for fourth place.

Mercedes fitted both its drivers with the soft compound tire, with the 0.6 second gap to Verstappen likely to be made up once the switch to ultra-softs is complete later in the afternoon.

Nico Rosberg finished the session fifth in the second Mercedes, yet his running came to an early end after crashing into the wall at Turn 18. The German lost his front wing and damaged the front of his car, but was able to return to the pits so Mercedes could repair the damage ahead of second practice later today.

Rosberg was not the only driver to hit trouble. Vettel and Fernando Alonso both clipped the wall at Turn 21, while Carlos Sainz Jr. damaged his front wing when trying to leave his pit garage.

There was bigger trouble for Jenson Button as his McLaren ground to a halt early in the session. The Briton was wheeled back to the pits where the issue was resolved, allowing him to get back out on track.

Romain Grosjean failed to post a single lap time, a power unit issue resigning the Frenchman to a game of cards in the Haas hospitality unit.

Behind Rosberg in P5, Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth for Ferrari ahead of the Toro Rosso duo of Sainz and Daniil Kvyat. Felipe Massa was P9 for Williams, while Esteban Gutierrez put Haas’ updates to good use by rounding out the top 10.

Second practice for the Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 9:30am ET on Friday.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.