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Welcome back to Prime Tire, where we’re wondering which poor race marshal is responsible for removing the giant lizards from the track in Singapore.
Yes, you read that right. It’s Singapore Grand Prix weekend, y’all. It’s hot, it’s humid, and there are lizards (and mysteries) afoot. I’m Patrick, and Luke Smith will be along shortly. Let’s get to it.
Please remember to hydrate
Looking for a quick way to lose weight? Boy, do we have an offer for you. For the low, low price of racing in the Singapore GP, you can get the body you want while feeling like a human puddle. (Disclaimer: The cost of racing in Formula One is decidedly not low.)
The humidity is brutal at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. As Madeline Coleman reports in her Singapore GP track breakdown, drivers lose up to three kilograms (6.6 pounds) in sweat. Why Logan Sargeant won’t drink water during the race is beyond me – and, apparently, even his competitors.
— Madeline Coleman (@mwc13_3) September 15, 2023
“You have to stay super alert because you have to drive full speed between the walls, need to be extremely precise where you put the car, and that’s usually where it gets tough, where you’ve got to be still at the limit of the car playing with centimeters having lost quite a few pounds or liters inside your body,” Pierre Gasly said last year. “So that’s definitely the biggest challenge of the year.”
And then, there’s the wildlife …
Takeaways from practice
There was practice this morning, but I think I blacked out when lizards appeared on track in FP1. Please hold while I re-watch the entire session.
Okay, I’m back. Here are some quick takeaways.
Red Bull might actually be in trouble. Max Verstappen warned us after the Italian GP that Singapore would give his team issues, but I’m sure Friday even caught him by surprise. The Red Bull drivers finished FP2 (run in the evening, during race conditions) in P7 and P8 – behind the Ferraris, Mercedes, Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris. The handling of the RB19s wasn’t up to par. Pérez and Verstappen struggled to keep their cars out of the barriers, much less improve on lap times. “It’s just not coming,” Pérez reported at one point. “Every braking zone, I feel like I’m going to crash.”
It was a strong day for Ferrari, which is mildly surprising. Both drivers showed well at the Italian GP, but we didn’t expect the Ferraris to contend at higher-downforce Singapore. Instead, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc pulled off a clean sweep, topping FP1 and FP2.
Good early returns for McLaren, which brought a whole host of upgrades to Lando Norris’ car this weekend. Luke Smith broke the upgrades down this morning.
There might be more left in the tank for Aston Martin. Team principal Mike Krack told The Athletic the team had high hopes for Singapore. Alonso ran P8 in FP1 and P4 in FP2. His teammate, Lance Stroll, had a decidedly more challenging day with the car.
— MoneyGram Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) September 15, 2023
Further down the grid, Haas showed improvements, while Alex Albon’s day ended early. Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg hovered around the edges of the top ten, while the Williams driver retired with a power unit issue.
But, yeah. Those aren’t the headlines. A lizard invaded the track, brought out yellow flags, and was potentially killed by a driver. *Hercule Poirot voice* If zere was a lizard murder, then zere was a lizard murderer. The murderer is with us – in ze paddock – now.
Inside the paddock with Luke Smith
I recently got into the series “Only Murders In The Building.” If you haven’t watched it, the basic premise is that three friends — Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez — try to solve murders and create a podcast around it. It’s really great fun.
This afternoon in Singapore, I put on my “Only Murders” hat as I tried to work out who might have been responsible for the demise of the poor water monitor lizard who invaded the track towards the end of the first practice at Marina Bay. Cheers had gone up in the media center at the third sighting of a lizard – but the fourth time one was spotted as Lando Norris passed through Turn 9 at the very end of the session, it did not appear to be moving.
So I used F1 TV’s onboard cameras to try and work out who might have hit our poor lizard friend. George Russell reported a lizard for two laps in a row, and it was very close to the right-hand side of his car (the camera was on the left of the front wing, putting it just out of sight). I checked in with Mercedes, who said it was very close, but Russell did not report hitting a lizard. The plot thickens…
Lizard alert! 🦎
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 15, 2023
Lizard appearances aside, it’s been a hot and humid couple of days so far in Singapore. I wrote on Thursday about the challenge to get into the right timezone, and so far, I’m coping OK. Breakfast at 2 p.m. still feels strange, but an extra shot in my coffee sorted things out.
So far, the big news of the weekend has been Zhou Guanyu’s confirmation at Alfa Romeo for 2024. A few observers have called the move underwhelming or disappointing, preferring the team take a risk on young talent such as F2 champion-elect Theo Pourchaire. But honestly, I think Zhou is deserving of a third year. The car hasn’t been very competitive this year, and he’s shown a decent step in performance between his rookie season and 2023, running teammate Valtteri Bottas very close.
2024 will be a good opportunity for Zhou to continue his development. Still, with such a fluid market for 2025 — and the Audi arrival in 2026 making the seat attractive to many drivers — he’ll likely face more competition to make it a fourth year.
Outside the Points
We’d love to hear from you this weekend – head over to our Singapore GP mailbag and send us your burning questions. We’ll answer some of them on our live blog!
Max Verstappen is the odds-on favorite to win in Singapore (of course), but don’t sleep on Sergio Pérez. F1’s “Street King” is on an upswing and celebrating his 250th grand prix this weekend. Speaking of Red Bull, the team can clinch the Constructors’ Championship this weekend.
Toto Wolff spoke to media on Friday and had a few noteworthy things to say. The Mercedes confirmed the team is carefully watching Felipe Massa’s “Crashgate” lawsuit. And he also walked back his “Wikipedia” comments about Verstappen’s history-making win in Italy – Wolff called it not the “most intelligent thing” he could’ve said about the achievement. This came after Verstappen clapped back at Mercedes on Thursday.
Did I just bury a spicy bit of news at the bottom of my newsletter? Maybe. But, lizards.
(Lead image: Clive Mason/Getty Images)