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SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX - Friday round-up

Fasten your seatbelts, folks – this is going to be quick. Daniel Ricciardo is threatening to be the quickest man of all after setting the fastest lap times ever seen around the 5.065-km Marina Bay Street Circuit when practice got under way on Friday. 

A podium finisher here in each of the last three seasons, the 28-year-old Australian arrived with confidence high and justified that attitude as his Red Bull team threw down the gauntlet for Sunday’s tenth F1 night race in Singapore.

Ricciardo blitzed the opening 90-minute free practice session in bright sunlight with a time of 1:42.489, trimming 0.095 off the pole-position time set by 2016 race winner Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes.

That was merely the prelude to a lightning-fast second session when the Marina Bay track came into its own under the lights.

As he and team-mate Max Verstappen traded blows, Ricciardo came out on top with a brilliant lap of 1:40.852 to edge out his younger sidekick by a full half-second.

Most F1 followers had expected Singapore to suit the Red Bulls, but behind them expectations were confounded. Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were third and fourth, even though Singapore is not supposed to suit the Silver Arrows and at one point the Finn called the rear of his car “undriveable”.

So what happened to Ferrari?

Four-time Singapore winner Sebastian Vettel could finish no higher than 11th, and even that was two places behind team-mate Kimi Räikkönen and two seconds away from the flying Ricciardo. But FP2 is all about balancing mid-session qualifying simulations with longer runs so Ferrari fans will be hoping the scarlet cars found race pace rather than pure one-lap speed.

Singapore rookie Lance Stroll worked hard to get his Williams up to speed on a track that doesn’t favour the team, finishing 16th – but only one place adrift of his vastly experienced team-mate Felipe Massa, the first man ever to sit on pole at Marina Bay.

Antonio Giovinazzi sat in for Kevin Magnussen at Haas and Indonesian Sean Gelael took over the second Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz for FP1, both men performing creditably with 16th and 18th places respectively in the early session.

Meanwhile Singapore’s Ringo Chong took an outstanding pole position for the first Ferrari Challenge race on Saturday, clocking 2 minutes 22.311 to head series leader Philippe Prette, the Hong Kong-based Italian, by 0.176 of a second. 

The man chasing Prette for the 2017 title, Shanghai-based Angelo Negro, could finish only ninth in the half-hour session, 1.7 seconds off Chong’s pole-winning pace, while Coppa Shell competitor Eric Zang claimed an excellent fifth place ahead of the man leading that series within a series, Makoto Fujiwara, in seventh overall.

Over at the Padang, over 50,000 fans were ‘Counting Stars’ with American pop-rock superstars OneRepublic as they capped off the night with chart-topping hits such as ‘Apologize’ and ‘Stop and Stare’.