Big lizards are a familiar sight in equatorial Singapore but they startled Red Bull’s double world champion Max Verstappen and other drivers after straying onto the Formula One racetrack during practice on Friday.
Yellow flags were waved to warn of the danger of hitting one of the creatures, which can grow as long as three metres (10 ft), as they languidly crossed the tarmac at dusk during the hour-long session.
The monitor lizard resulted in three yellow flag periods before it appeared to be hit by Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin at Turn 9.
Local fauna are not uncommon company, with drivers used to groundhogs and foxes on Canada’s Gilles Villeneuve circuit in Montreal. Malaysia, now no longer on the calendar, had an occasional problem with snakes.
Friday’s lizard incursion recalled the 2016 Singapore race when Verstappen was surprised on track by a big one that his engineer dubbed “Godzilla”.
“Ah. There’s a lizard again on the track. A smaller one this time,” he said over the team radio in Friday’s session.
“Maybe Godzilla had a kid,” came engineer Gianpiero Lambiase’s reply.
Singapore’s National Parks’ Board advises on its website that monitor lizards are typically shy, unless cornered, and to observe them from afar.
They are also diurnal, meaning they sleep at night, and will hopefully pose no further difficulty for drivers preparing for Sunday’s night race.
“It’s going to be a brave marshal to go out and pick one of those up,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told Sky Sports television. “Hopefully they’ll be going to bed soon.
“I think the one that Max met the last time was more of a Komodo dragon than a lizard, but the main thing is hopefully they can grab them up and put them somewhere safe and they don’t get involved in the next session.”