Pierre Gasly managed to avoid injury when his Alpha Tauri caught fire in a Ferrari-dominated second practice session in Singapore.
Birthday boy Max Verstappen failed to top either of Friday’s sessions on the day he turned 25, with his chances of securing a second world championship this weekend looking unlikely .
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton instead led the Dutchman’s opening session, while Ferrari went first and second later in the day.
The biggest moment of either practice, however, involved Gasly, whose #10 car bizarrely caught fire around the air intake near the driver’s head.
The Frenchman had returned to the pit lane in the second session, and a mechanic returning his car to the garage was stunned to see it catch fire.
The team later reported that “a small fire started on his car after I hooked up the fuel breather” and amusingly shed light on the issue as Gasly jumped unharmed as a mechanic Quick-thinking Aston Martin blew out the flames with a fire extinguisher.
The Singapore Grand Prix is Verstappen’s first opportunity to clinch his second world title, with the feat now mathematically possible if he wins and teammate Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc drop the order.
That seems unlikely after Friday, however, with a generally dominant Red Bull outpacing their opponents.
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“I think it started pretty well in FP1; I think the car was running pretty well,” Verstappen said.
“For FP2, we wanted to try a few things, but they just took a little longer to change. Then we wanted to try something else and again, it took a long time to change again.
“We couldn’t really run much [so] that’s why I think it’s not really representative, what we showed in FP2. Sure, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, but it’s not the worst day.
The Red Bull driver had a scare in the first session as he ran wide at Turn 16, but he wasn’t the only one struggling against the tarmac that hasn’t run in three years.
Sainz pulled off a master save, while Lance Stroll wasn’t so lucky in FP1, and later Hamilton drifted into the first corner.
However, the Briton indicated there was still more room for improvement as he hopes to secure his first win of the season, continuing his streak of at least one win a year since making his debut in 2007.
“It started well. It wasn’t as good the second session, but [it was] pretty much like every other weekend,” he said.
“The car is as it is, we were bouncing back, but we don’t feel like we’re massively out this weekend. We’re still probably a second away I would say – something like that.
“There is definitely, on my side, more time [to find] – I just didn’t make a clear turn. With the configuration that I have, I have a lot of [tyre] lockdown, but we’ll fix it tonight and come back and give it a better try tomorrow.
“Hopefully we can be P5, P4 – something like that. If we could go higher, that would be amazing.
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