Ricciardo tops both Singapore GP practices in record times

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain arrives at the Marina Bay City Circuit ahead of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix in Singapore on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Yong Teck Lim)

SINGAPORE (AP) Red Bull showed it might have the form to contend for victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, with Daniel Ricciardo beating his lap record again in the second practice on Friday.

Ricciardo had already crushed his lap record from last year by nearly five seconds in the afternoon’s first practice, and then went two seconds quicker in the second practice.

The Australian clocked 1 minute, 40.852 seconds under the floodlights, and that was enough to convince him that he can clinch a second win of the season and sixth of his career on Sunday.

”I’m not surprised with our performance,” Ricciardo said. ”I have a lot of faith we can stay there all weekend.”

Teammate Max Verstappen was second, more than half a second behind, championship leader Lewis Hamilton was .70 back in third, and his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas fourth.

”We looked very strong,” Verstappen said. ”We all know that Daniel is always very quick here.”

It was a disappointing evening session for Ferrari, which was expected to dominate on the sinewy five-kilometer (three-mile) street circuit. Sebastian Vettel, who is second in the title race, could manage only the 11th best time and teammate Kimi Raikkonen was ninth.

”It was a difficult day and not a lot of things made sense,” Raikkonen said. ”There is a lot to work on.”

Even though Vettel set his time using a slower tire compound in P2, he looked shaky and brushed the wall coming out of a routine turn.

”I was very lucky I could continue,” the four-time F1 champion said. ”It was a tricky session for us. The balance wasn’t quite there.”

In P1, he was second to Ricciardo, Verstappen was third and Hamilton fourth.

Singapore is like Monaco and Hungary in that it is a hard-braking track which is tough to overtake on, and more suited to Ferrari and Red Bull than Mercedes.

No driver has more podium finishes in Singapore than Vettel, whose impressive streak at the night race includes three straight wins from 2011-13 during his run of four straight F1 titles with former team Red Bull.

But Ricciardo arrives in Singapore in very consistent form, with six podiums in the last nine races.

He has further reason to be confident, finishing second here in the last two years, with the fastest lap both times.

”I knew we’d come here with a good car,” Ricciardo said. ”A dominant weekend is what I’m after.”

His Red Bull team principal Christian Horner joked, perhaps it was Ricciardo’s ”aerodynamic” new haircut that helped him shave off chunks of time.

Regardless, Horner was somewhat cautious ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

”It was a very good day for both of our drivers. Daniel had a very strong session,” he said. ”But we didn’t see Ferrari’s true hand and Mercedes always hold a little bit up their sleeves.”