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Red Bull’s Ricciardo shines in Singapore practice

SINGAPORE- Daniel Ricciardo put on a dazzling display under the floodlights as Red Bull laid down a marker on the opening day of Singapore Grand Prix practice on Friday.

The Australian, who had set a record lap time during Friday’s opening 90-minute session, ended the day with an even quicker effort of 1 minute 40.852 seconds.

That was over 0.556 seconds faster than second placed team mate Max Verstappen’s best.

“I’m sure it will tighten up tomorrow, but I still expect we will be able to stay where we are,” said Ricciardo, who has finished second in Singapore for the past two years with the fastest race lap on both occasions.

Formula One championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who is seeking his third successive victory, was third quickest ahead of Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.

The pair were fourth and sixth respectively in the evening.

“We had a clean day and got through our sessions without problems. It was pretty hot out there, the conditions are pretty awesome to cope with, but the grip on the track is fairly good,” said Hamilton.

“We have still got some improvements to make with the car. Red Bull seem like they’re very strong and they’re thereabouts with Ferrari, so we’ve got some work to do. But nothing is out of reach.”

The Briton is three points clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with seven races remaining after leading Bottas to a one-two finish at the previous race in Monza.

The Singapore venue’s tight twists are expected to play to Ferrari and Red Bull’s strengths but the Italian team were off the pace.

Kimi Raikkonen, seventh in the evening, ended the day as the fastest Ferrari in ninth. Vettel, second in the opening session, was only 11th.

“I said the Ferrari could be a problem, and now it’s Red Bull,” Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Sky Sports television.

“Here, what I’ve seen today, Red Bull is outstanding. In the long runs they are one second quicker so they are really doing an incredible performance at the moment. For some reason Ferrari are slower, I don’t know why.”

Vettel hinted at the Ferrari’s potential speed when he briefly lit up the timing screens with the fastest first sector, but he aborted that lap after running into traffic and later nudged the wall.

He then focused on long-run race simulations.

Nico Hulkenberg went an impressive fifth-fastest for Renault, ahead of McLaren pair Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso.

McLaren and power-unit supplier Honda announced earlier that they were ending their partnership at the end of the season. The British-based team will switch to Renault next year, with Honda moving to Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso.

(Abhishek Takle)