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.