Photo Credit: Getty Images

drives his Mercedes during GP practice. (Photo: Getty Images)

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in Friday’s opening practice for the .

Hamilton, thriving in the high downforce settings of the twisty Marina Bay circuit, was a third of a second clear of his rivals, ahead of Red Bull pair and . Mercedes driver was fourth fastest.

Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were fifth and sixth, respectively, ahead of Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso.

Sergio Perez of McLaren, Jean-Eric Vergne of Toro Rosso and Esteban Gutierrez of Sauber filled out the top 10 under the lights of Formula One’s only night race.

Hamilton had a run of four straight pole positions ended in the previous race in Italy, but Mercedes was expected to be back on the pace in Singapore due to the car’s cornering speed.

Hamilton led the race last year before having to retire with a gearbox failure.

Vettel is aiming for a third-straight Singapore GP victory and a fourth-straight championship, and has a 53-point lead with seven races remaining.

The opening session was free of major incidents or technical failures, though Grosjean needed repairs to his steering system, costing him several laps.

A second practice session will be held later Friday, with qualifying on Saturday and the race on Sunday.