Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat shocked Mercedes and left them groping for answers as he topped the timesheets in Singapore Grand Prix practice on Friday, with record-seeking Lewis Hamilton languishing in fourth.
The 21-year-old Russian shrugged off an engine-supply crisis engulfing his team to lead the way with a quickest time of 1 min 46.142 sec at the smog-shrouded Marina Bay circuit.
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest behind Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen in an outstanding second practice session for Red Bull which put championship-leading Mercedes firmly on the back foot.
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Britain’s Hamilton is zeroing in on his third world title but he has his work cut out if he wants to equal the late Ayrton Senna’s record of eight straight pole positions on Saturday.
Kvyat’s performance came as Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko said the team will quit F1 if it cannot find a competitive engine after its looming divorce from Renault.
The French engine-maker has vowed to walk away from a partnership which dominated the sport from 2010 to 2013 after relations plummeted during a difficult year.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 18, 2015
Kvyat took control early in the second session and held firm despite losing his cool and swearing at Romain Grosjean when he found himself blocked by the Lotus man.
Hamilton calmly drove hands-free as he adjusted his gloves in the first session, but his evening did not go smoothly with errors taking him off-course in both run-outs.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, lying third in the championship, timed fifth fastest behind Hamilton, with Force India’s Sergio Perez sixth and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg seventh.
America’s Alexander Rossi, brought in by Manor at the last minute, had a tough F1 debut when he smashed into the barriers late in the first session, leaving his right-side wheels askew.
But Rossi, who has chosen 53 as his race number in honour of movie car “Herbie”, recovered in the second run and finished above his bottom-placed team-mate Will Stevens, who also crashed in the later session.
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 18, 2015
Hamilton leads the standings by 53 points from team-mate Rosberg, putting him well on course to match his boyhood idol Senna’s haul of three world titles.
The Briton can also uncannily match Senna’s career tally of 41 wins from 161 races if he wins on Sunday, in what would be his third victory in a row and eighth this year.
Haze caused by Southeast Asian forest fires was measured at unhealthy levels during Friday’s practice sessions, held under floodlights at the downtown layout.
The smog could cause concern for the weekend, after McLaren’s Jenson Button warned earlier of the health risks of strenuous racing in polluted air.
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