Lewis Hamilton was fastest in opening practice for the Singapore GP
Track changes bring much quicker lap times than last year
By Mike Wise in Singapore. Last Updated: 21/09/13 12:18pm
Lewis Hamilton: Set the P1 pace in Singapore
Lewis Hamilton topped the times in the opening practice session for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The Mercedes star lapped the 5.065km track in a time of 1:47.055s - a time well over three seconds faster than that which Sebastian Vettel achieved in the corresponding session last year.
The difference will, in part, be explained by the revamped Turn Ten - the so-called 'Singapore Sling' now being a thing of the past. The chicane, as it used to be, was always unpopular with drivers and has been replaced by a faster left-hand corner.
Simulations had predicted that the change would account for a one-second improvement but it seems that other resurfacing work and kerb modifications have also played a part. "The new surfaces on the track are twice as grippy as the old surface," Hamilton reported during the session.
It was a session that took a long time to get going, with McLaren's Sergio Perez the first driver to set a lap time half an hour in. The Mexican eventually wound up eighth on the timesheets, with Jenson Button 14th in a session which saw McLaren creating more headlines off the track.
Red Bull's Mark Webber was second fastest 0.365s down on Hamilton, with team-mate and current Championship leader Vettel third ahead of Nico Rosberg in what was a promising start to the weekend for Mercedes.
Kimi Raikkonen was fifth for Lotus ahead of team-mate Romain Grosjean, who only took to the track in the final half-hour after a steering change lost him time.
Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was seventh fastest ahead of Perez, with Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) completing the top ten.
Elsewhere, Felipe Massa was 12th fastest in his Ferrari while the Force Indias of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil were 15th and 16th respectively.
Red Bull-bound Daniel Ricciardo was nine places down on team-mate Vergne in 18th, with Max Chilton 20th as both he and fellow Marussia driver Jules Bianchi edged out Caterham rivals Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic.
The day's second session starts at 2.30pm BST.