Singapore GP | McLaren-Honda divorce overshadows Ricciardo’s pace

Second practice at the Singapore Grand Prix topped by Daniel Ricciardo.

The lights come on in Singapore and the deals were signed at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as McLaren ditched Honda for Renault power, Toro Rosso took their Japanese supply and Carlos Sainz was loaned to the French manufacturer for 2018. Cramming a silly-season of deals into the between session-window, and overshadowing Daniel Ricciardo’s rapid table-topping FP2 runs.

From the very first Monday of pre-season testing 2017, McLaren realised that Honda would not be able to meet their targets. Leaving the upcoming season a worrying thought from the off, on the back of two years of pain already.

Those fears were then confirmed as the racing began. Seeing Vandoorne start to take fifth engine components from race four, despite four elements being the limit for the year.

Then came August, when Honda accepted it had only just reached the performance levels the company expected to have going into the season with its redesigned unit. Potentially the final straw in an already strained relationship McLaren was looking at exit routes from.

Mercedes and Ferrari both ruled out supplying McLaren, though. With Mercedes firmly against being a part of the divorce and getting into bed with a brand before the ties were cut. Leaving the Woking outfit with only two options.

Leaving the Woking outfit with only two options, stick with Honda or twist with Renault.

Difficulties, however, laid with twisting as Toro Rosso’s supply of Renault units were all that was on offer. Meaning work had to be done for Honda to move to the Italian team, with Carlos Sainz departing for Renault, too, on a loan-deal from Red Bull for 2018.

Now, those contracts have been signed and 2017 will be the end to the hybrid-era partnership between McLaren and Honda. A formidable pairing of the past rekindled in hopes of future glory but only to be left with endless heartache.

In the meantime, McLaren and Honda will see out the season together before departing for pastures new elsewhere. Ending the first session post-divorce P6 and P7, behind Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault by half a tenth. But more than a second up on the out-of-favour Jolyon Palmer, whose Renault seat will soon be sat in by Carlos Sainz.

The car McLaren will soon be a direct comparison to, Red Bull, meanwhile topped the timesheets once more. With Ricciardo and Verstappen both setting a string of flying laps to pull away from the Silver Arrows.

The Red Bull duo followed the Mercedes in posting early timed laps in the first-night stage of the weekend. Moving two-seconds up on Bottas’ initial 1:44.225, in which the Finn ran severely wide out of the final corner.

Hamilton, meanwhile, had an early off as he sailed down the escape road. Continuing on his way soon after to move into third, a second down on the supersoft running Red Bulls while lapping on the harder yellow-walled softs.

Ricciardo’s continued run saw the Australian show Red Bulls strength in slow-fast-slow-fast laps. Highlighting the Milton Keynes outfits threat come qualifying, on a track their car is well-suited to.

Something Daniel continued come to the half hour mark when ultrasofts were fitted amidst a joust with Hamilton.

Seeing Lewis improve to a 1:41.555, more than half a second stronger than his team-mate’s best offering.

Verstappen’s best time of his ultrasoft run saw Daniel remain in the box seat having been the only driver to dip into the 1minute 40s.

As for Ferrari, the Prancing Horse’s highest driver was Kimi Raikkonen in ninth place. Although Sebastian Vettel sat fourth fastest after 20 minutes while running the soft tyres.

During Vettel’s ultrasoft run, the German was unable to complete a flying lap to post a representable time after hitting the outside barrier at Turn 10 while running wide. Dislodging the advertisement board for a brief Virtual Safety Car period, but without suffering damage to his car.

Vettel was not alone in touching a barrier either, with Palmer, Stroll, and Hamilton all touching a wall at some point in the 90-minute session to leave rubber markings on the concrete surrounds.

Romain Grosjean was also an early victim to the street circuit as the Frenchman spun under acceleration out of Turn 7.

Pos Driver Team Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 33 1’40.852
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 28 1’41.408 0.556
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 36 1’41.555 0.703
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 35 1’42.104 1.252
5 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 33 1’42.448 1.596
6 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 34 1’42.501 1.649
7 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 32 1’42.788 1.936
8 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 35 1’42.826 1.974
9 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 30 1’42.835 1.983
10 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 34 1’43.054 2.202
11 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 33 1’43.104 2.252
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 38 1’43.236 2.384
13 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Renault 32 1’43.608 2.756
14 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 32 1’43.795 2.943
15 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 32 1’43.836 2.984
16 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 32 1’44.301 3.449
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 32 1’44.417 3.565
18 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 29 1’44.928 4.076
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 34 1’45.673 4.821
20 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 35 1’45.721 4.869

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