Singapore Free 1 has never been the most representative. Firstly, because this is a game played during the day, in the afternoon rather than on the night of the game. The temperature is always higher, so time is slower.
This means no one is going to jump right into a soft start ride. Hard tires were the most commonly used, although six drivers opted for mediums, including two Alps, two McLarens, Zhou Guanyu and Alexander Albon. Lando Norris started the race on the front row, although Ferrari soon improved their time slightly at a slower pace.
As time went on we saw a few changes to the leaderboard and it was Norris who ended the first half on the medium tyres. The Briton set a time of 1 minute 34.776 seconds, two tenths faster than even Pierre Gasly, who was the first driver on the entire circuit to use soft tires .
Gasly eventually sparked a soft tire party and it took Aston Martin Racing a while to get on board. After using the compound, the improvement in times was considerable, with Leclerc eventually running a 1’33″350, a tenth ahead of Verstappen and Norris. Mercedes was almost behind in the first instance For a second, it’s very strange. Lewis Hamilton, he led Free Practice 1 here last year.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement in the star’s results, and that was even more true on Friday, when Hamilton finished fifth, less than two-tenths of Leclerc’s time. Two Ferraris topped the list, with Sainz improving until he was seven or eight thousandths behind his team-mate. Alonso, for his part, had a somewhat cautious time, eight tenths behind the leaders and even behind Esteban Ocon.
The gap between the first seven cars, two Ferraris, two Red Bulls, two Mercedes and Norris’ McLaren (the only one to roll out improvements this weekend) is about three and a half tenths. Alonso finished eighth in the green section, half a second off first place and with plenty of room for improvement in his Aston Martin.
Leclerc ended free practice in first place, with little disruption and only three yellow flags due to the Lizard’s appearance, this time smaller than in 2016. Sainz remained second, with Verstappen third and Norris fourth, with the two Mercedes just behind. Last year’s winner Sergio Perez was seventh.
Alonso was eighth, more than half a second slower than Leclerc’s time, Yuki Tsunoda was ninth and Ocon was 10th in what was a less than representative race. Free Practice 2 will be key as they are the only practices that take place at the same time as qualifying and the race, so all the data collected will be of additional value to each team.