Mercedes boss Toto Wolff will be absent from this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix as he undergoes knee surgery.

The 51-year-old is set to have an operation in his native Austria to restore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg.

Wolff damaged his knee a number of years ago and blamed it for a cycling accident during Formula One’s summer break which left him with a fractured elbow.

Wolff’s role will be divided between a number of the team’s staff – including driver development director Jerome D’Ambrosio, the Belgian who took part in 20 F1 races in 2010 and 2011, and Mercedes’ long-serving British chief communications officer Bradley Lord – often seen shadowing Wolff at the back of the garage. It is understood Wolff will be on the team’s intercom across the weekend.

Mercedes will head to Suzuka perhaps fearing that their best shot at victory this year may have escaped them following Carlos Sainz’s triumph at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Sainz became the first non-Red Bull driver to win this season – ending the world champions’ unbeaten streak and Max Verstappen’s record run of 10 consecutive victories.

Lewis Hamilton finished third, just 1.2 seconds behind Sainz, after George Russell – who at one point looked likely to win following Mercedes’ roll of the strategy dice – crashed out on the final lap.

Verstappen qualified 11th and finished fifth, 21 seconds adrift of Sainz. But Hamilton fears Red Bull’s lack of speed on the streets of Singapore is because they have already turned their attention to next season.

While Verstappen can now not be crowned champion of the world for a third time in Japan, it is possible he could clinch the title in Qatar on October 8 with five rounds still left.

And asked if Red Bull’s blip provided him with hope Verstappen’s dominance could be coming to an end, Hamilton, 38, said: “If you think about it, they probably haven’t been developing their car.

“McLaren brought an upgrade here. Other teams are still bringing upgrades, and they’re working on next year’s car. They would have definitely migrated to 2024 before us.

“So it is just one of those things. They are so far ahead that maybe they’re not developing their car, while we are still pushing to develop our current one.”

Verstappen, who warned in the build-up to Sunday’s city-state race that the high-downforce street track would not suit Red Bull, said he expects to be back on top in Suzuka.

Wolff, who is likely to return for the Qatar GP, added: “They will be strong again. The track in Singapore was an outlier for us when we were dominant and I have no doubt they will be strong on conventional race tracks.”

Max Verstappen believes he will be back on top at the Japanese Grand Prix following Red Bull’s off-colour showing in Singapore.

Red Bull have ruled the Formula One roost all year – with 14 victories from 14 prior to Sunday’s round in the city state, while Verstappen had been unbeaten in his last 10 appearances, setting a new record of consecutive wins along the way.

But the Dutch driver and Red Bull finally met their match at the unique, low-speed, high-downforce Marina Bay Circuit.

Verstappen qualified 11th before driving back to fifth, taking the chequered flag 21 seconds behind Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz – the Spaniard becoming the first non-Red Bull winner of the year.

However, Verstappen, victorious at 12 of the 15 rounds so far, expects the fast-flowing Suzkua track will see him return to winning ways.

“Yes, that is the target,” he said. “This track is so different to Suzuka and it doesn’t relate.

“We have learned a bit from today, and have a few ideas with what we got wrong yesterday. I cannot go into details but I feel good about Suzuka.”

Verstappen finished three places ahead of team-mate Sergio Perez to extend his championship lead from 145 points to 151.

Verstappen can no longer secure his third world title at next weekend’s race in Japan, with the Qatar Grand Prix on October 8 a possible destination for his coronation.

Red Bull’s failure to win ends their bid to become the first team in history to go through a season unbeaten.

“We never expected it,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “To have got through 14 races, in multiple conditions, is beyond our wildest imaginings. It is a hell of a run.

“We knew it had to come to an end at some point. Max has won 10 in a row and that is insanity.

“The only driver who has done nine is Sebastian (Vettel) in one of our cars so to have the first and second most winningest drivers in F1 is great – even if statistics apparently don’t matter. This kind of dominance is testimony to everyone involved.”

A “heartbroken” George Russell struggled to hold back the tears after he believed victory slipped through his hands in Singapore on a frenetic night when Red Bull’s winning streak finally came to an end.

Max Verstappen arrived in the city-state on a record run of 10 straight victories, with his Red Bull team unbeaten this season. But Formula One’s all-conquering team were nowhere here – dashing their hopes of becoming the grid’s first ‘Invincibles’. Verstappen finished fifth.

Instead it was Carlos Sainz, who was crowned the first non-Red Bull winner of the year.

The Ferrari driver took the chequered flag just eight tenths clear of McLaren’s Lando Norris, following another fine drive by the British star, with Lewis Hamilton third for Mercedes. Russell’s bid for victory ended in the wall on the last lap with only nine corners left.

“In the moment you want to curl up in a ball and be with nobody,” said Russell as he cleared his throat and his eyes red.

“It is the most horrendous feeling in the world when you are so physically and mentally drained and you miss out on an opportunity for victory. I made a mistake. It is truly heartbreaking.”

At a circuit where overtaking is almost impossible, Mercedes rolled the strategy dice by putting both Russell and Hamilton on fresh tyres on lap 45 of 62.

Russell left the pits 17.5 seconds behind Sainz. On lap 53, he swatted Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc aside and victory – which would have been only the second of his career – looked possible.

Sainz, on old tyres, was eight seconds up the road. Norris was nibbling at the Ferrari gearbox, as Russell and Hamilton, in the other black-liveried Mercedes in tow, set about hunting them down.

Russell was soon on the back of Norris’ papaya McLaren. With Norris out of the way, Sainz would surely be easy prey.

With three laps to run, Russell was handed his golden opportunity. The Mercedes man got better traction out of Turn 14 and nearly drew alongside Norris before slipping back into his tow and attempting to plant his machine around the outside of his countryman under braking for Turn 16.

But amid of a flurry of orange sparks, Norris could not be dislodged. And Russell’s chance was gone.

Then, on the last lap of a race which ran for one hour and 46 minutes in the intense heat and humidity and is regarded to be the most challenging of the year, Russell was out. He brushed the barrier on the entry to Turn 10 and crashed into the barrier.

“No, no, f***, f***,” the breathless Briton yelled over the radio. “What the f***.”

“I had half-a-chance with Lando,” said Russell. “Half-a-car’s length difference and I think we would have won the race.

“I would have got ahead of Lando and Carlos would have been stuck without DRS and I would have flown by him. Instead, I ended the race in the wall.

“I don’t know how it happened, maybe a lack of concentration, frustration knowing that was the last lap and the opportunity had gone and a one centimetre mistake has clouded the whole weekend.

“It was such a nothing of a mistake. If I span off, or locked up and ended up in the wall I would be feeling very different. But to clip the wall on the last lap is such a pathetic mistake which is why it feels so strange right now. I put everything on the line, I was knackered at the end.

“I will have a tough night and a tough morning, but I will put it behind me and go again. I can only apologise to the team because they deserved more, but s*** happens.”

Hamilton tapped Russell on the midriff to offer his sympathy as the seven-time world champion conducted his interviews.

Russell wore dark sunglasses as he walked off into the glaring light of the paddock – perhaps to hide the pain.

Hamilton, who claimed his 196th podium, said: “For George, it was really unfortunate to finish that way, but he continues to grow and improve.

“I know he will get stronger and faster, and if can help him, I will naturally be part of that over the next couple of years. It can happen to any of us and it it just one of those things.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz beat Lando Norris and Mercedes’ tactical gamble in a frenetic finale to win the Singapore Grand Prix and end Red Bull’s bid to become Formula One’s ‘Invincibles’.

Red Bull arrived at the Marina Bay Circuit with 14 victories from 14 rounds, but Sainz finally ended their crushing dominance with an impressive victory.

Norris took second after holding off George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, who both stopped for tyres with 17 laps remaining in a gung-ho bid to take the win.

https://x.com/F1/status/1703406569973555312?s=20

But Russell and Hamilton were unable to find a way past a resilient Norris in a dramatic conclusion with the former crashing out on the final lap.

Russell’s crash allowed Hamilton to complete the podium, with Charles Leclerc fourth.

Max Verstappen’s record winning streak is also over after the Dutchman – who became the first driver in the sport’s history to rack up 10 straight victories at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago – finished fifth.

Verstappen’s lead over Sergio Perez, who finished eighth, stands at 149 points, meaning the former cannot secure his third world title at next weekend’s round in Japan.

Lance Stroll has been ruled out of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix following his staggering 110mph qualifying crash.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the final left-hander at the Marina Bay Circuit before he slammed into the barrier.

The force of the high-speed impact sent Stroll’s head rocking from side-to-side. He catapulted back across the track and pirouetted to a standstill in the middle of the circuit.

The Aston Martin driver emerged from his wrecked vehicle unaided before being given the all-clear by the on-track medical team.

But Aston Martin said the significant damage sustained to Stroll’s machine, in addition to the 24-year-old still being “sore” from the high-speed shunt, means he will be sidelined from the race.

A statement from the British team read: “Following Lance’s crash in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix, Lance and the Aston Martin team have jointly agreed that he will not participate in this evening’s race.

“The team face a huge job repairing the car today and Lance is still sore following such a high impact. Lance’s focus now shifts to fully recovering ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix (on September 24).”

Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack added: “The whole team are relieved that Lance was able to step out of the car after yesterday’s accident – however, he is still feeling the after-effects of such a high-impact crash.

“Our priority now is that he makes a full and speedy recovery. Together, we have decided that he will sit out this evening’s race and instead focus fully on returning to the cockpit for next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.”

Stroll was 20th and last at the time of his crash. Fernando Alonso qualified seventh in the other Aston Martin.

Lance Stroll has been given the all-clear to race in Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix, despite his staggering 110mph qualifying crash.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the final left-hander at the Marina Bay Circuit before he slammed into the barrier.

The force of the high-speed impact sent Stroll’s head rocking from side-to-side. He catapulted back across the track, with British driver Lando Norris forced to take evasive action, dodging a flying wheel and Stroll’s out-of-control machine.

“Is the driver all right?” asked a concerned Norris on the radio. “That must have been quite a big one.”

Stroll pirouetted to a standstill in the middle of the track before his race engineer Ben Michell came on the radio.

“Lance, car is safe,” said Michell. “Are you OK?” Stroll, 24, replied: “Yeah, I am OK.”

The Aston Martin driver emerged from his wrecked vehicle unaided before being taken off in a medical car.

But there is some doubt if Stroll, the son of the team’s fashion billionaire father Lawrence Stroll, will be able to take part in the race given the significant damage sustained by his machine.

A statement from Aston Martin read: “Lance was taken to the medical centre for a precautionary assessment. He was cleared by the on-site medical team and returned to the team at track.

“Aston Martin pay tribute to the ongoing work of the FIA and the safety measures of current Formula One cars.”

Stroll’s accident brought a premature end to Q1. A 34-minute delay followed as the mangled tyre barrier was repaired.

Stroll was 20th and last at the time of his crash. Fernando Alonso qualified seventh in the other Aston Martin.

“I’m frustrated as we have a big job – in the garage and on the race track – ahead of us,” said Stroll.

“I was struggling for grip throughout the qualifying session. When I saw my lap wasn’t improving, I pushed really hard in the last corner to try and make up that extra time and that’s when it went wrong. Let’s see what we can salvage tomorrow in the race.”

Max Verstappen said he can forget about extending his record winning streak after qualifying only 11th for Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

On a wild night under the 1600 bulbs that light up the Marina Bay Circuit, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll also walked away from a staggering 110mph shunt, while Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz pipped the Mercedes of George Russell to land his second pole position in as many races. Charles Leclerc will start third ahead of Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton.

But it was the demise of Red Bull – the unbeaten tour de force of this most one-sided of seasons – that left those here in shock and awe. Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez also failed to reach Q3. He will line up in 13th for Sunday’s 62-lap race.

Verstappen warned earlier this week that the Red Bull machinery which has carried him to a record 10 consecutive victories would not be suited to this unique 3.07-mile high-downforce circuit.

Yet, nobody could have foreseen him being sent for an early bath along with Perez in the other car. Verstappen was straight on the radio to express his dismay.

“I don’t know if you saw that, but that was just f***** shocking,” he said. “Absolutely shocking experience.”

Verstappen’s Red Bull team, without a defeat in the 14 rounds so far, now face an improbable task of making history by becoming Formula One’s first ‘Invincibles’.

“You can forget about that (a victory),” said Verstappen. “I don’t want it to sound too dramatic but it has been a tough weekend, and it is a long, long time since it has been like this in qualifying.”

Verstappen last started this far back in Saudi Arabia when a driveshaft failure consigned him to 15th at the second round in March. He finished runner-up to Perez.

But the streets of Singapore, unlike those in Jeddah, are strenuous to overtake on. Indeed, eight of the last 13 races here have been won from pole.

“You cannot pass here,” added Verstappen. “You need to be one and a half, to two or three seconds faster than the car in front which we are not. It will be a very tough and long afternoon.

“On other tracks you can start last and win, but not in Singapore. I want to win, but when it is not possible you have to accept that.

“I knew there would be a day that I wouldn’t win. I had a really good run up until now.

“And I would always take a season where we are winning as much as we have, and have one really bad weekend, over the other way round when you are not fighting for the championship. I am confident the car will be fast again in Suzuka next weekend.”

Red Bull’s sudden malaise cleared the way for Sainz to capture another pole, a fortnight after he secured top spot in qualifying in Monza.

However, Russell ran the Spaniard close, finishing just 0.072 seconds back, and the Englishman believes he has a strong chance of landing Mercedes’ first win of the campaign and the second of his career.

The Silver Arrows have also followed a unqiue strategy this weekend that leaves Russell with an extra set of medium tyres which could provide him with the tactical edge over Sainz.

“George has a really good shot at winning and I really hope he does,” said team-mate Hamilton, who qualified half-a-second back on disappointing evening for the seven-time world champion.

“I hope he gets a good start and gets ahead of the Ferraris. That would be amazing for him and for the team.

“For me, I will see what I can do. If I get further up then great. I changed the car last night and I don’t know what is going on with it. It is the hardest car I have ever driven to get right.”

Max Verstappen will start Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix from a shock 11th place after Lance Stroll crashed out at 110mph and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took pole position.

On a wild night at the Marina Bay Circuit, both Red Bull drivers were eliminated in Q2 leaving the world champions facing an enormous task to retain their unbeaten record this season.

George Russell qualified second, missing out on pole by just 0.072 seconds with Charles Leclerc third for Ferrari, one place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris. Lewis Hamilton finished fifth, half-a-second back.

Verstappen was eliminated in Q2 after he bemoaned the handling of the Red Bull machine which has carried him to a record 10 consecutive wins, but has struggled under the bulbs that light up this unique 3.07-mile high-downforce track.

Verstappen missed out on Q3 by 0.007 sec, and then took aim at his team over the radio.

“I don’t know if you saw that, but it was an absolutely shocking experience,” he said amid of flurry of expletives.

Verstappen is also facing three stewards’ investigations for separate incidents of impeding during qualifying.

His team-mate Sergio Perez, who spun, also failed to progress to Q3. He will start 13th following a miserable night for the team from Milton Keynes in the city-state.

Red Bull’s demise allowed Sainz to capture his second consecutive pole with Russell narrowly missing out.

Earlier, Stroll survived a staggering crash. The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the final left-hander before he slammed into the barrier.

The force of the high-speed impact sent Stroll’s head rocking from side-to-side. He catapulted back across the track with Norris forced to take evasive action – dodging a flying wheel and Stroll’s out-of-control machine.

“Is the driver alright?” asked Norris on the radio. “That must have been quite a big one.”

Stroll pirouetted to a standstill in the middle of the track before his race engineer Ben Michell came on the radio.

“Lance, car is safe,” said Michell. “Are you OK?” Stroll, 24, replied: “Yeah, I am OK.”

The Aston Martin driver emerged from his wrecked car unaided before being taken off to the medical centre.

Aston Martin confirmed Stroll had been given the all-clear by the on-site medical team and was allowed to return to the paddock.

Stroll’s accident brought a premature end to a frenetic conclusion to Q1 and left the marshals with a significant barrier repair job at the final corner, with fluid from his car also on the track.

The session was delayed for 34 minutes before Q2 started at 9.53pm local time.

Lance Stroll survived a staggering 110mph crash in qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Canadian driver lost control of his Aston Martin through the final left-hander at the Marina Bay Circuit before he slammed into the barrier.

The force of the high-speed impact sent Stroll’s head rocking from side-to-side. He catapulted back across the track with British driver Lando Norris forced to take evasive action – dodging a flying wheel and Stroll’s out-of-control machine.

“Is the driver alright?” asked Norris on the radio. “That must have been quite a big one.”

Stroll pirouetted to a standstill in the middle of the track before his race engineer Ben Michell came on the radio.

“Lance, car is safe,” said Michell. “Are you okay?” Stroll, 24, replied: “Yeah, I am OK.”

The Aston Martin driver emerged from his wrecked car unaided before being taken off to the medical centre.

Stroll’s accident brought a premature end to a frenetic conclusion to Q1 with drivers improving as the city-state track evolved.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda led the way, with Lewis Hamilton 14th of the 20 runners with the bottom five set to be eliminated.

Stroll’s impact left the marshals with a significant barrier repair job at the final corner, with fluid from his car also on the track.

The session was delayed for 34 minutes before Q2 started at 9:53pm local time.

Max Verstappen faces a fight to take pole position at the Singapore Grand Prix after calling his Red Bull “unacceptable” in final practice.

As Carlos Sainz raced to the top of the time charts at the Marina Bay Circuit, Verstappen finished fourth.

The Dutchman is on an unprecedented 10-race winning streak with his Red Bull team unbeaten at the 14 rounds of the season so far.

But Verstappen bemoaned the handling of his car in the city-state, describing the upshifts in his Red Bull machinery as “unacceptable”.

He added: “These upshifts, what the f***. I am just struggling for rear grip. If I competed in drifting, I might win the race.”

Verstappen returned to the track in the closing moments of the one-hour running, ringing the neck of his Red Bull to move from sixth to fourth, 0.313 sec slower than Sainz.

But his struggles will give the chasing pack hope of finally stopping Verstappen and Red Bull with Ferrari holding the upper hand heading into qualifying later on Saturday.

Sainz and team-mate Charles Leclerc traded top spot in the two practice sessions here on Friday, with the former again fastest in the concluding running before the fight for pole.

Leclerc looked set to eclipse Sainz only to make a mistake in the second sector before backing out of his speediest lap, finishing fifth.

George Russell took an encouraging second for Mercedes, just 0.069 sec slower than Sainz, with Lando Norris third in his McLaren. Lewis Hamilton was sixth for Mercedes, within half-a-second of Sainz.

Verstappen’s team-mate Sergio Perez, who won here last year, finished eighth, 0.719 sec back.

Qualifying for the 15th round of 22 takes place at 2100 local time (1400 BST).

Barbadian teenage sensation Zane Maloney welcomed an almost three-month break to reflect ahead of the final Formula 2 race for the year on November 25 in Abu Dhabi.

Formula 2 is the second tier to Formula 1 racing organised by the FIA, motor sport’s world governing body, and held on select circuits on the F1 schedule.

It is the ultimate training ground for prospective F1 drivers, providing them with the opportunity to showcase their talents in front of F1 teams on some of the most challenging and renowned racing circuits in the world.

Maloney, 19, has been enjoying fairly good form this season with second-place finishes at the British Grand Prix in July at Silverstone, and the Dutch Grand Prix in August at Zandvoort, complemented by third-places at the Bahrain Grand Prix at the start of the season in March at Sakhir, and the Monaco Grand Prix in May at Monte Carlo.

He heads into the break occupying 10th position in the 22-driver standings on 96 points, after 13 of the 14 races on the schedule for this year, with the final race of the season at the Yas Marina circuit.

 “I’d love to have a race next weekend to be honest, but I’ll just be focusing on life in general, have some time at home, train hard, and be back for Abu Dhabi,” the Rodin Carlin driver told F2.com website.

“We’re nowhere near where we want to be in the Championship, but we are there on pace. Hopefully, we’ll have a very good race, and I’ll put myself in a good position for what’s to come next year.

“It’s a nice circuit (Yas Marina). In terms of targets, it’s always to get on the podium and win races. We’ll see. I’m going to go home first, relax with family. The team are doing a great job, so we’ll be back in Abu Dhabi strong,” he added during the recent interview.

On that note, Maloney reflected on his recent setback when he crashed out of contention at the Italian Grand Prix in Monza.

“It was a really good race actually. I was P14 after the first lap. When the crash happened, I was probably net P10, and we would have already made up 10 places, which is a good day at the office. Pace was good, I was just driving down the straight and then one second later I’m heading to the wall,” Maloney shared.

“To be honest, I didn’t really take much away from the race. We knew that we had good pace all weekend, but I qualified bad, which put us in a difficult situation. Everything became difficult after that. We had good pace, but that wasn’t a surprise,” he noted.

Jamaican Formula Woman Driver Sara Misir will be in action on September 16 and 17 in the United Kingdom.

Misir and teammate Alana Carter will take to the grid on Saturday and Sunday at the Donnington Race Track in round eight of the GT Cup Championships.

Misir and Carter will race in the Lotus Emira GT4, making their 2023 debut on the European circuit.

"I'm back in the GT4 seat, and the Lotus is new to the GT Cup circuit, but it has been amazing so far in testing, so I can't wait to get on the track this weekend. There's a bit of rust as it's my first race in the UK for 2023, but I'm looking forward to a good showing, in my Jamaica colours," said Misir.

The GT Cup series then heads to Snetterton for October 6 and 7.

Action from the GT Cup is live on YouTube.

 

Jamaican rallycross sensation Fraser McConnell is gearing up for an exhilarating weekend of racing in Europe. On September 17 and 18, McConnell will take on rounds seven and eight of the Extreme E Championships, set to unfold in the picturesque landscape of Sardinia, Italy.

Competing under the banner of the X44 Vida Carbon Racing Team, formed by the legendary seven-time Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton, McConnell and his teammate Cristina Gutiérrez are currently holding their own in the series, securing a fifth-place position in the standings after six rounds of intense competition.

One of the standout moments for McConnell and Gutiérrez came during the third round in May, when they displayed remarkable consistency and skill, maintaining their top qualifying form to seize victory at the Hydro X Prix in Scotland. This significant triumph not only marked McConnell's first win in Extreme E but also served as a pivotal milestone in their 2023 campaign.

The Extreme E 2023 season has been nothing short of electrifying, witnessing four different winners across six rounds of fierce competition. With a grid featuring 10 teams and 20 talented drivers, the stage is set for another thrilling showdown in Sardinia this weekend.

Speaking in anticipation of the upcoming races, the 25-year-old McConnell expressed his excitement, stating, "I'm really looking forward to this weekend. The team's spirits are high, and I'm eager to represent Jamaica proudly in a new country, as always."

As the competition intensifies, fans can follow the action live on C Sport, SportsMax, and YouTube. The excitement will continue to build as the Extreme E series heads towards its climactic conclusion in Antofagasta, Chile, scheduled for December 2 and 3.

Max Verstappen’s unprecedented winning streak in Formula One could be under threat after the Red Bull driver finished only eighth in practice for the Singapore Grand Prix.

Verstappen romped to victory in Italy a fortnight ago to become the first driver in the sport’s 73-year history to win 10 consecutive races as he closes in on a hat-trick of world championships.

But under the thousands of bulbs that light up the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Verstappen ended the day more than seven tenths behind Ferrari pace-setter Carlos Sainz, the Spaniard who took pole position in Monza.

Charles Leclerc finished second for Ferrari as the Italian team completed a practice one-two, with George Russell third for Mercedes, 0.235 sec adrift.

Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was fourth, with Lewis Hamilton fifth in his Mercedes, one place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.

Red Bull are unbeaten this season, but they did not have a car inside the top six on Friday, with Sergio Perez, who triumphed here last year, seventh.

Verstappen, who has won 12 of the 14 rounds so far, has not lost a race since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30.

But the Dutch driver has never triumphed in Singapore and he suggested ahead of Friday’s running that the high-downforce, low-speed nature of the city-state track could play into the hands of Red Bull’s rivals.

Although times in practice must be treated with caution as teams trial varying fuel loads and tyre strategies, it is Ferrari who hold the upper hand heading into qualifying on Saturday at a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Indeed, eight of the 13 races here have been won from pole. Although the removal of turns 16 to 19 in favour of one long straight could improve the action for Sunday’s 62-lap race.

While the second running passed off without major drama, the opening session was disrupted on three occasions when a lizard invaded the three-mile circuit.

Verstappen was the first to report the reptile at turn nine midway through the running.

“There is a lizard on track again,” said the Red Bull driver, who had a similar encounter here back in 2016. “It is a smaller one this time.”

Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase replied: “Maybe Godzilla has had a kid.” There was a second interruption, and then a third, as yellow flags were deployed.

“Another lizard, but a different one this time,” said Russell.

Charles Leclerc led a Ferrari one-two in an opening practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix disrupted by three lizards.

Leclerc ended the one-hour running at the Marina Bay circuit just 0.078 seconds clear of team-mate Carlos Sainz, with championship leader Max Verstappen third.

Lando Norris finished fourth for McLaren, 0.172 sec back, while Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took fifth and sixth respectively for Mercedes.

But the session was disturbed on several occasions when a lizard walked across the three-mile street venue.

Verstappen was the first to report the reptile at Turn 9 midway through the running.

“There is a lizard on track again,” said the Red Bull driver, who had a similar encounter here back in 2016. “It is a smaller one this time.”

Verstappen’s race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase replied: “Maybe Godzilla has had a kid.”

There was a second interruption, and then a third, as yellow flags were deployed.

“Another lizard, but a different one this time,” said Russell.

Verstappen, who is chasing an 11th straight victory on his waltz to a third world championship, warned on Thursday that Red Bull could be vulnerable at this unique street venue.

And the chasing pack, led by Ferrari, will be encouraged that Red Bull did not have it all their own way in the opening running of the weekend.

Sergio Perez, who won here last year, finished seventh, ahead of Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso.

The second running gets under way at 2100 local time (1400 BST).

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