Daniel Ricciardo quickest in opening Singapore F1 practice

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Daniel Ricciardo made a flying start to Formula 1’s Singapore Grand Prix weekend by topping opening practice for Red Bull at Marina Bay with a new track record.

Red Bull entered the Singapore weekend fancying its chances of putting up a stronger fight to F1 pace-setters Mercedes and Ferrari, with the tight and twisting nature of the street circuit suiting its RB13 chassis well.

Ricciardo showed a good pace throughout FP1, ultimately rising to the top of the timesheets with a best lap of 1:42.489, the fastest time recorded around the Marina Bay Street Circuit’s current configuration.

Ricciardo edged out pre-race favorite Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets, with the Ferrari racer finishing one-tenth of a second off the pace.

Max Verstappen underpinned his Red Bull teammate’s pace by finishing third-fastest, less than two-hundredths of a second back from Vettel, while F1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton wound up fourth for Mercedes.

Sergio Perez made a solid start to the weekend by taking fifth for Force India, finishing ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, who was almost a second off the pace during a raggedy session.

Kimi Raikkonen was seventh-fastest for Ferrari ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, who reported a loss of engine power, limiting his track time.

Nico Hulkenberg was ninth for Renault, while Daniil Kvyat completed the top 10 for Toro Rosso, leading its charge as FP1 stand-in Sean Gelael finished over three seconds behind in P18.

Ferrari youngster Antonio Giovinazzi also appeared in FP1 for Haas, taking Kevin Magnussen’s seat for the session, and finished just three-tenths slower than regular driver Romain Grosjean.

Practice in Singapore continues with FP2 live from 8:30am ET today on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds