Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton pipped birthday boy Max Verstappen by less than a tenth of a second, to top the first free practice session of the Singapore Grand Prix here at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Friday.
Hamilton’s fastest time of 1:43.033 was set on a set of soft tyres five minutes before the end of the session.
Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari was third quickest with the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez fourth. Mercedes' George Russell posted the fifth quickest time, one second off his teammate Hamilton with Carlos Sainz rounding out the top six in his Ferrari.
Earlier, Russell had a nervous moment at the start of the session kissing the barriers but fortunately had no damage to his car.
Later, half an hour into the session, Aston Martin Racing’s Lance Stroll clipped the barrier and suffered damage to the left side of his car necessitating a brief red flag period.
Verstappen, celebrating his 25th birthday, led the times for most of the session and was on the pace from the start lowering the times every time he went on to the track.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon, Stroll, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso were placed from seventh to tenth respectively.
The twilight first session is largely unrepresentative as both qualifying and the race will be held at night. The second practice session to be held later in the night will give more answers regarding the pecking order and whether Mercedes’s pace is genuine enough to challenge Red Bull and Verstappen this weekend.