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Vettel takes charge in Singapore FP2

Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) at Nissan Global H...

Sebastian Vettel is going to be a tough man to beat in Singapore this weekend after he dominated Friday practice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull emerged from second practice in Singapore well on top, as the triple World Champion topped the FP2 times, six tenths ahead of his team-mate, Mark Webber, and a full second faster than the rest of the field. It’s hard to see a way back from here for Vettel’s title rivals this weekend, which will be a situation that well pleases Vettel and Red Bull.

Early in the FP2 session, it looked like Webber might have an edge on Vettel around the streets of Singapore, but Vettel soon put paid to that idea when he bolted on a set of the supersoft option tyres and blasted around the Marina Bay circuit six tenths of a second faster than Webber could manage. In Webber’s defence, he did brush the wall on the exit of turn 21 quite hard on his hot lap, which would have cost him some time, if only as a result of the inevitable small hesitation during the incident.

Ahead of the weekend, Mercedes were optimistic about their chances of challenging for victory, particularly as the high-downforce setup required for Singapore is similar to that used in Hungary, where Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying and the race. Hamilton started this weekend by setting the fastest time in FP1, but could not maintain his advantage in FP2 and fell to fourth in the times, over a second slower than Sebastian Vettel. Nico Rosberg was a fraction quicker than Hamilton and set the third fastest time for Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso, who is Vettel’s major title rival this season, struggled for pace and could only manage sixth fastest in FP2, 1.442 seconds off Vettel’s time. While the pace of the Ferrari might not be quite as poor as that comparison suggests, it looks like Ferrari may at least be struggling for pace over a single lap, which will hurt their qualifying performance on Saturday evening. And qualifying is so crucial in Singapore, where passing is difficult due to the tight and twisty nature of the street circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen, who by now is probably out of the title chase, could only manage the eighth fastest time, just over a third of his team-mate, Romain Grosjean, who was fifth fastest, and a 1.529 seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel. The lack of pace of the Lotus is a surprise, as they were expected to be quick in high-downforce configuration, but it’s still early in the weekend and there could still be more pace available from the Lotus E21.

At the back of the field, the order normalised in FP2, with Caterham drivers Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic setting times marginally quicker than the Marussia pair of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. In FP1, the Marussia drivers had both been quicker than the Caterhams, which is unusual given the recent form of the two teams. Max Chilton will be pleased with his performance in FP2, as he was quicker than Bianchi, something that hasn’t happened very often this season.

Williams appear to be continuing their difficult season, and look to be well off the pace of the top ten, suggesting that they will struggle to score points on Sunday. Valtteri Bottas was 17th fastest, 3.185 seconds off the pace, with Pastor Maldonado a further third of a second back in 18th place. Maldonado damaged his front wing against the wall after misjudging his braking during the session. That was the most eventful incident of the day, highlighting just how accurate Formula One drivers are around a tight street circuit.

Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg has so far not managed to repeat the miracles he performed two weeks ago at Monza, where he qualified third and finished fifth in the Italian Grand Prix. He could do no better than 14th fastest in FP2, well over 2 seconds off the pace. In the other Sauber, Esteban Gutierrez was 16th, a further half second behind his team-mate.

Full results from FP2:

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:44.249 34
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:44.853 0.604 30
3 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.258 1.009 34
4 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:45.368 1.119 33
5 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:45.411 1.162 18
6 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.691 1.442 32
7 5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:45.754 1.505 30
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:45.778 1.529 32
9 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:46.002 1.753 27
10 6 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:46.025 1.776 31
11 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:46.406 2.157 34
12 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:46.429 2.180 33
13 14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:46.606 2.357 33
14 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:46.808 2.559 36
15 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:46.870 2.621 33
16 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:47.287 3.038 29
17 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:47.434 3.185 33
18 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:47.761 3.512 25
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:49.434 5.185 34
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham 1:49.526 5.277 34
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia 1:49.619 5.370 33
22 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:49.731 5.482 30
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About Chris Cameron-Dow

I'm fanatical about racing. Driving, watching, following, analysing, everything.

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