Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg topped the opening practice session despite switching to old-spec fourth Mercedes power unit in Singapore ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo
The track temperature was already soaring at 36C with 20℅ chance of rain forecasted for the first Friday practice session of the Singapore Grand Prix. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was the first to head out on track while all eyes were focussed on Alexander Rossi who received a late call-up from Manor for driving five races in 2015 starting at Singapore.
As Rosberg was asked to improve temperatures on the front tyres, he set the first timed lap of the weekend with 1:50.393 before Hamilton, Sainz and Steven registered their respective laps.
With sparks flying spectacularly from Raikkonen’s Ferrari, he put himself up fifth while concerns were raised regarding seat positioning in Alexander Rossi’s car over the radio.
Hamilton improved to a 1:50.099s and slotted in second behind Rosberg before Vettel was displaced two places to fifth. At the half-hour mark, following an off-track excursion the reigning world champion further improvised his lap time from second before Ricciardo did a lap good enough to split the Mercedes with a 1:49.596s.
Kvyat reported loss of power but nothing serious as he regained it back again. After a brief pause, the American Rossi, who posted a time already quicker than teammate Stevens, came back out and moved up a place to 18th – 5.384s off the ultimate pace as he acclimatised himself in the MR03B cockpit.
Whilst Nico Rosberg went over a second quicker on his own benchmark time, Verstappen complained that his temperature sensors were not working. Hamilton closed the gap to his teammate and was only 0.310s behind Rosberg on his next run with an improved time through the first sector.
McLaren’s Fernando Alonso jumped up the order to sixth while Rosberg endured issues with his drinks tube system before dipping into high 1:47s staying at the top of the timing sheets.
As Hamilton understeered and locked up into Turn 1, Maldonado rubbed tyres with the wall in the final sector and progressed to sixth. Meanwhile, Red Bull’s Ricciardo reported lack of front-end grip and was sliding all over the track.
With less than 25 minutes remaining, Bottas propelled himself into the top ten while his Williams team-mate Massa languished in sixteenth. Five minutes later, Maldonado’s session was curtailed with a gearbox issue and was asked to box to fix the problem ahead of the second practice session.
Vettel stopped at Turn 4 briefly and rejoined after understeering off the road as his Ferrari bottomed out severely on the exit. Desperate to get more laps in, Alexander Rossi lost the rear on the entry at Turn 18 with three minutes remaining and brought out the red flag by damaging the right side of his Manor.
That effectively put an end to everyone’s session as Rossi got a lift back to pits from the medical car. Despite running with the old-spec engine, Rosberg finished the first practice session fastest with a 1:47.995s, three tenths ahead of team-mate Hamilton who seemed a bit struggling with the balance of his WO6 car.
An encouraging ninty minutes for Red Bull as Ricciardo came home third fastest ahead of the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen. The top five were separated by only 0.790 seconds. Sixth was Williams’ Bottas while Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Sainz and Maldonado rounded out the top ten.