Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari 1-2 but it was the lizard 1-2, apparently two different lizards according to George Russell, who stole the show in FP1 for the Singapore Grand Prix.
Although the drivers were just about mistake-free in Friday’s opening practice hour, there were not one but two yellow flags for lizards crossing the track – and taking their time doing so.
But when all was said and done, Leclerc was quickest of all with a 1:33.350, 0.078s ahead of Carlos Sainz, with Max Verstappen third.
It is, however, one of the least relevant sessions in terms of track conditions in the entire season.
Charles Leclerc leads Ferrari 1-2 but it’s Lando Norris who shines
Lance Stroll led the field onto the track on a sweltering evening in Singapore with all the cars – except Haas – sporting a host of upgrades as the drivers had their first taste of the revised layout with Turns 16 to 19 flattened to make one straight.
Lando Norris set the early pace with a 1:37.8, his McLaren featuring no fewer than nine revisions from a front wing endplate, to an engine cover, to a new beam wing. The Briton says it’s McLaren’s biggest upgrade “since Austria”.
As 19 drivers toured the circuit, Stroll in the garage as Aston Martin removed the aero rakes from the rear of his car, Norris upped his pace to a 1:35.7 with Carlos Sainz up to second and Max Verstappen reporting downshift issues.
As Verstappen’s troubles continued, Charles Leclerc went quickest, then Sainz, then Lewis Hamilton and back to Norris. He was on top after 20 minutes with a 1:34.7 with the McLaren driver running the medium tyres with those behind him on the hards.
Despite complaints about “instability under braking”, Leclerc moved up to second before he was overhauled by George Russell.
As the clock ticked off into the second part of the session, the drivers began to swap onto the soft tyres with Pierre Gasly shooting up to second place, Kevin Magnussen up to fourth, and Oscar Piastri – running the old McLaren spec – only 11th.
And then out came the yellow flags with a bit of confusion as to why. The radio messages then made it clear. “Lizard” says Hamilton, “dragon on track” said Norris, and race engineer GP Lambiase told Verstappen: “Godzilla had a kid.” “Lizard has stopped on track. No, we’re not joking,” was the message from Williams.
📻 Max: “There’s a lizard again on the track. It’s a smaller one this time!”
📻 GP: “Okay understood. Maybe Godzilla had a kid”
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 15, 2023
The lizard resumed action (insert ‘why did the lizard cross the track’ joke) and so too did Formula 1 with more drivers heading out on soft tyres. Sainz was briefly P1, then Norris, then Leclerc with a 1:33.350. But Verstappen, this year’s pace-setter, had yet to do a soft tyre run.
That put him only P3, the Red Bull driver a tenth down on Leclerc with Sainz splitting them. As for Hamilton, he was perplexed by his eight-tenths of a second gap to Leclerc asking Mercedes “where did that come from?”
There was another late yellow flag, “another lizard but a different one this time” said Russell although how he knew it was a different one, who knows.
The session ended with a Ferrari 1-2, Verstappen third ahead of Norris, Hamilton and Russell. Perez, Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.
FP1 times: 2023 Singapore Grand Prix
1 Charles LECLERC Ferrari 1:33.350
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.078
3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing +0.126
4 Lando NORRIS McLaren +0.172
5 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.190
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.345
7 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing +0.375
8 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +0.624
9 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +0.692
10 Esteban OCON Alpine +0.716
11 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +1.218
12 Pierre GASLY Alpine +1.289
13 Alexander ALBON Williams +1.307
14 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.452
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team +1.537
16 Liam LAWSON AlphaTauri +1.544
17 Nico HULKENBERG Haas F1 Team +1.635
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +2.106
19 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.124
20 Logan SARGEANT Williams +2.428