By F1 correspondent Michael Butterworth
SINGAPORE, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) -- Charles Leclerc led Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in first practice for the Singapore Grand Prix - in a session that was enlivened by three separate instances of lizards appearing on track.
Leclerc's benchmark of 1:33.350 was 0.078 quicker than Sainz's best, with the top five covered by less than 0.2 seconds on a typically warm afternoon in Singapore.
Championship leader Max Verstappen was third for Red Bull, having complained of downshift and balance issues earlier in the session.
McLaren have brought a raft of updates to Singapore, and Lando Norris set the early pace before ending the session fourth, ahead of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes.
Fresh from the announcement that he would continue with Alfa Romeo for a third season in 2024, Zhou Guanyu ended the session only 18th, though he and teammate Valtteri Bottas were the only two drivers not to run Soft compound rubber, electing instead to save their fastest tires for later in the weekend.
With both qualifying and the race being run several hours later in the day than FP1, this session was not hugely representative of the rest of the weekend, when air and track temperatures will be cooler and visibility will be different under floodlights.
Nevertheless, it still represented the first opportunity for drivers to get to grips with the new-for-2023 track layout, which sees four corners towards the end of the lap bypassed by a straight in order to accommodate planned construction work in Singapore's Marina Bay district.
Additionally, the appearance of three lizards on track during the one-hour session gave drivers another challenge to overcome.
Reptiles have made an appearance during the Singapore Grand Prix in previous years, with Verstappen notably dubbing one as Godzilla during the 2016 weekend.
However, never before has a session in Singapore been interrupted by wildlife on three separate occasions, and with yellow flags being deployed as the drivers sought to evade the errant lizards, it remains to be seen whether similar reptilian occurrences may disrupt Saturday's qualifying session or Sunday's Grand Prix.