Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Formula One: Good Friday for Red Bulls

Daniel Ricciardo negotiating Turn 17 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit during the first practice session. He went on to top both practice sessions.
Daniel Ricciardo negotiating Turn 17 of the Marina Bay Street Circuit during the first practice session. He went on to top both practice sessions.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Ricciardo sets track record, Ferrari duo lack pace as teams announce new engine deals

Red Bull were the pace-setters after two practice sessions at the Marina Bay Street Circuit yesterday, finishing with the two fastest times, but Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen know they still have it all to do.

"This is a good day, but it's important that we do it tomorrow and Sunday, those are the days that count," said Ricciardo, who set a track record of 1min 40.852sec in second practice.

"I think (Mercedes and Ferrari) will all bunch up but my plan is quite the same - just stay in front."

Verstappen (1:41.408) echoed his team-mate's sentiments: "We're looking good, but this is Friday. We know we have to perform here, this is our track, and we'll try to make the most of it."

The Red Bulls and Ferrari had been expected to shine at Marina Bay, a high-downforce, 23-turn track. Securing a good position on the starting grid in today's qualifying is especially important as overtaking chances are hard to come by on the tight, winding circuit.

Seven of the nine previous Singapore GP pole sitters went on to win the race, with only Felipe Massa (2008) and Hamilton (2012) failing to secure victory.

Red Bull are the most successful team in Singapore to date with three wins (2011-2013), ahead of Mercedes and Ferrari (two each).

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes had the third fastest time of 1:41.555, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas in fourth (1:42.104) in second practice.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg (1:42.448) was fifth.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, running on the soft tyres which have less grip than the ultra-soft tyres most other drivers were using, was 11th in 1:43.104, behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen (1:42.835) in ninth.

Said the German: "We're not yet where we want to be (but) today's Friday, we tried various options, different tyres. Come Sunday, we'll know what we want."

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was not reading too much into yesterday's results.

"Both guys had a strong day today, particularly Daniel, but we didn't really see Ferrari's true hand and Mercedes always hold a bit up their sleeves," he said.

Meanwhile, the grand switcheroo between McLaren, Honda, Renault, Red Bull and Toro Rosso continued to play out.

McLaren have made the switch from Honda to Renault as engine suppliers, with Toro Rosso going the other way.

The move has implications for Red Bull as well, with speculation mounting about whether they will follow their junior team in switching to Honda come 2019, when their contract with current engine supplier Renault runs out.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz's move to Renault on loan for the 2018 season was also confirmed. He will replace Jolyon Palmer.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 16, 2017, with the headline 'Good Friday for Red Bulls'. Print Edition | Subscribe