Leclerc fastest as lizard steals Singapore show
By Mat Coch
Friday 15th September, 2023 - 8:40pm
Charles Leclerc ended the opening practice session in Singapore fastest as a curious lizard stole the show in opening practice.
A large lizard twice found its way onto the Marina Bay circuit, drivers doing well to avoid the creature until – inevitably – one didn’t.
Ferrari topped the session with Leclerc fastest over Carlos Sainz while Max Verstappen was third best.
Lando Norris was fastest for the opening half of the 60-minute hit out before ending up fourth.
Track action began under the late afternoon sun, though temperatures remained north of 30 degrees ambient, the track at 44 degrees.
Even though conditions were not representative of those in which qualifying and the race will be run, most headed immediately out.
The early running saw the medium and hard tyres preferred as teams zeroed in on fundamentals such as ride height and wing levels around the revised Marina Bay layout.
Lando Norris was the early pace-setter with a 1:35.782s, contrasting the session-best 1:43.033s from the same time a year ago.
That was broadly in line with expectations from teams who expected a nine-second delta following the removal of The Float section of the circuit this year.
Naturally, it was only an early indication of what was to come as times steadily improved as the track rubbered in, and teams got their cars into a better set-up window.
While others had a spell at the top of the timesheets, Norris was again fastest after 25 minutes, the benchmark having dropped to 1:34.776s.
That coincided with a quieter moment on track, which itself was transitioning out of daylight with long shadows falling across it for the most part.
Air and track temperatures were also beginning to drop, creating something of a moving target for engineers.
Pierre Gasly was the first to switch to the soft compound rubber.
Soon after, the yellow flag came out for a lizard on track, Max Verstappen reporting back that it wasn’t Godzilla on this occasion – a reference to a previous encounter with a lizard, on that occasion at Turn 3 in 2016.
The wayward wildlife was soon cleared and the flags at Turn 7 were withdrawn without anything untoward happening to the curious creature.
Still fastest, Norris’ car was coated in flo vis as McLaren looked to gain data on its new high downforce package.
McLaren and Scuderia AlphaTauri introduced significant packages this weekend.
With 20 minutes remaining, the focus shifted to low-fuel running, with the bulk of the field swapping onto the soft compound tyres.
Charles Leclerc emerged fastest as times fell into the 1:33 bracket, the Ferrari driver heading team-mate Carlos Sainz by just under a tenth, with Verstappen third fastest.
With 12 minutes remaining, the yellows were out again, only marginally further up the road from where the lizard had been on track before, along with the slippery surface flag.
The flags were promptly withdrawn before reappearing – the lizard having made its return – in the closing minutes of a session that otherwise ran without interruption; Leclerc fastest from Sainz, Verstappen and Norris.
At the other end of the timesheets was Logan Sargeant, with Oscar Piastri only 0.3s faster in 19th best.
Liam Lawson was 16th best as he clocked up useful laps for Scuderia AlphaTauri.