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Tag Archive | Red Bull

Vettel retires from Formula 1

Sebastian Vettel has decided he's won enough in F1 and it's time to retire (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel has decided he’s won enough in F1 and it’s time to retire (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel shocked the racing world this morning by announcing his retirement from Formula 1 with immediate effect. Vettel is looking forward to spending more time with his model train collection, a pleasure that his hectic Formula 1 schedule had made all but impossible for the past few years.

Speaking from his Thurgovia, Switzerland home today, Vettel expressed relief that he had finally come to this difficult decision, saying, “It’s such a weight off my shoulders. This whole domination thing… it’s not really me. I prefer to just have fun in my sport. Winning’s really not my main priority.

“It’s been hard for me in Formula 1. Although I come across as a ruthless perfectionist who will do anything to win a race, I’m really a softy at heart. I felt bad for all the other guys every time I beat them in the last four years. They wanted those championships so badly, but I was really just here for the free energy drinks.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was not surprised by Vettel’s decision. He praised the young German’s courage in taking such a selfless step, saying, “Seb’s just such a nice guy. He feels it’s time for Fernando [Alonso] to get that third title he’s wanted for so long, and he knows the only way that’s going to happen is if he [Vettel] isn’t there anymore.

“As for all of us at Red Bull, we fully support Seb’s retirement. Our projections for the 2014 season had us just beating Mercedes and Ferrari at the last race, but with Seb gone, it looks like we’re out of the fight now. It’s only fair, really. We’ve had enough success.”

Horner also suggested that Vettel may have patched up his relationship with Mark Webber, Vettel’s former team-mate at Red Bull. Webber confirmed the good news, describing the plans he and Vettel have for the future:

“Seb’s such a great guy. We had our problems in the past, but it was all because I didn’t understand Seb’s motivation. He didn’t want to beat me so comprehensively. All he really wanted was to make sure he earned as many free Red Bull drinks as possible. I didn’t know he got a crate for every lap he led for Red Bull. If I’d had that in my contract, I’d have driven a whole lot faster.

“Now that he’s decided to hang up his helmet, we’re going to spend some time together with our model trains. Between us, we’ve got a big enough collection to cover the Monte Carlo street circuit. We’re hoping to put it on show for this year’s Monaco Grand Prix, assuming Bernie [Ecclestone] will allow it.”

Ecclestone was not available for comment. He was too busy listening to the sound of V8 engines with a vacant grin on his face to answer questions about Formula 1.

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Booing of Vettel has to stop

Sebastian Vettel stands on the Singapore podium, just before the jeers starts (Image: Ferrari)

Sebastian Vettel was jeered on the Singapore podium by the crowd (Image: Ferrari)

After winning the Singapore Grand Prix with a magnificent display of his brilliance, Sebastian Vettel took to the podium to accept his winner’s trophy. And then the crowd booed him. Again.

Booing Vettel has become something of a trend in 2013. It started in Malaysia, where Vettel ignored team orders and passed Mark Webber to win the race against the instructions of his team. The crowd did not appreciate what they saw as a lack of fair play by Vettel, and booed him on the podium. While booing is never a positive thing, at least in Malaysia there was a catalyst.

But it didn’t stop in Malaysia. When he won in Canada, Vettel was booed on the podium. Boos also greeted the victorious Vettel in Belgium, although those could have been related to a Greenpeace demonstration that was timed to coincide with the podium ceremony.

When Vettel won the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, he was jeered so loudly that it became difficult for the podium interviews to continue. It’s understandable that the Italian fans would be disappointed to see their hero, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, beaten by Vettel in a Red Bull, but it was also unlike the tifosi to boo the winner on the Monza podium. They love motor racing, and normally applaud the winner, even if it’s not a Ferrari driver.

Most recently, at yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix, Vettel was booed again on the podium. And for the first time, the podium interviewer reacted to the jeering. Martin Brundle was clearly unimpressed at the reception Vettel was receiving and said to the crowd, “Please don’t do that. That’s not correct.”

Exactly why Vettel is being booed is not entirely clear. It could still be partly due to the manner of his Malaysian Grand Prix victory, which was perceived as underhanded. But that was a while ago. It could be, as Vettel himself as suggested, that there is a travelling band of Ferrari fans who continue to instigate the jeering. Perhaps the crowds are tired of Vettel’s dominance. After all, he is looking set to take his fourth consecutive World Championship and is so far ahead that Formula One has become predictable and (dare I say it?) a little bit boring. It could be that it’s just caught on and the crowds now boo Vettel for their own entertainment.

Whatever the reason, the crowd in Singapore missed a trick yesterday. They failed to appreciate that they had just witnessed arguably one of the greatest victories in the history of the sport. Vettel completed the rather unusual Grand Slam – he took pole position, won the race, set the fastest lap and led every lap (some might argue that the Grand Slam does not apply as Vettel lost the lead to Nico Rosberg for a few metres on the opening lap, but that’s just getting too technical).

When Vettel needed to push, he pushed. And when he did, it was mesmerizing. At a few different points in the race, he was over two seconds per lap faster than anyone else. His fastest lap of the race was over a second quicker than anyone else managed. When the safety car came out, it really did not suit Vettel’s tyre strategy. So what did he do? He put his foot down and pulled out a large enough gap to allow him to pit and rejoin the track still in the lead. He pulled out a 30 second lead in just 14 laps to make that happen.

And then, when his final stop was done, Vettel felt the need to push again. So he finished the race 32.6 seconds clear of Fernando Alonso, a gap that he created in just 17 laps.

Vettel is almost certainly going to win his fourth consecutive World Championship this season. And he deserves it. He’s shown over and over again this year that he’s the best driver in the field and certainly one of the greatest in the history of the sport. He’s in unbelievable form, and is extracting maximum performance from the admittedly superb car his team has produced.

What Vettel deserved after yesterday’s Singapore Grand Prix was a resounding standing ovation. What he got instead was a chorus of jeers. And that’s just not right.

Untouchable Vettel wins in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory for Red Bull in Singapore (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory for Red Bull in Singapore (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel has taken his third win in a row in 2013, and his third consecutive win in Singapore, with a display of dominance hardly seen since the era of Michael Schumacher at Ferrari. Such was Vettel’s pace, he was over two seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field at points in the race where he needed to build up a gap. He led every lap of the race from pole position, and set the fastest lap on the way to victory. Fernando Alonso finished second for Ferrari, with Kimi Raikkonen third for Lotus.

Not even Fernando Alonso could challenge Vettel for victory today. Alonso was simply the best of the rest, taking second place as a result of a stunning start and bold tyre strategy. After qualifying seventh yesterday, Alonso rocketed off the line when the lights went out in Sunday’s race and emerged from the first three corners in third place. But he didn’t have the pace to challenge Vettel and Rosberg ahead, and was only able to finish in front of Rosberg due to the safety car.

On lap 25, Daniel Ricciardo made a mistake on the entry to turn 18 and ploughed into the barrier on the outside of the corner. As Ricciardo’s car was stuck on the track around a blind corner, there was no choice for race control but to deploy the safety car. As soon as that happened, a number of drivers streamed into the pits to change tyres, among them Alonso and Raikkonen. Both Red Bulls stayed out on track, as did both Mercedes drivers.

It soon became clear what the plan was for those drivers who pitted under the safety car: They intended to run to the end of the race without pitting again. Considering that the safety car period ended at the end of lap 30, that meant those drivers would have to do 31 racing laps on a single set of tyres to make it to the end of the 61 lap race. Pirelli confirmed to the BBC commentary team that it was possible, but the tyres would be right on the edge of grip by the end of the race.

And so it proved to be for many of the drivers who attempted the bold strategy. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez found themselves going backwards in the last few laps, from third and fifth with ten laps to go, to seventh and eighth by the chequered flag. Nonetheless, it was another good haul of points for McLaren, who are looking good for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship this season.

Kimi Raikkonen finished 3rd from 13th on the grid, despite suffering from back pain (Image: Alastair Staley/Lotus F1 Team)

Kimi Raikkonen finished 3rd from 13th on the grid, despite suffering from back pain (Image: Alastair Staley/Lotus F1 Team)

Alonso and Raikkonen made the strategy work. Whether through superior driving or simply having cars that were gentler on their tyres, Alonso and Raikkonen managed to drive the entire second half of the race on a single set of medium tyres each. For Alonso, that meant being patient after the safety car until the two Mercedes drivers and Mark Webber made their second pit stops. For Raikkonen it meant he had to push hard and make some aggressive passing moves. Most notably, Raikkonen passed Jenson Button around the outside of turn 14 on his way to securing a podium place.

Raikkonen’s drive was more than a little impressive. He qualified 13th yesterday after back pain compromised his setup work in third practice. But in the race he used his bold tyre strategy and some skilled, aggressive driving to fight through the field, all the while preserving his tyres so that he could avoid a pitstop in the last 31 laps of the race. He said on the podium that his back had not been too bad during the race, but was starting to hurt once he got out of the car. Sore back or not, it was a storming drive by the popular Finn.

The driver who lost out most in the safety car period was Nico Rosberg. After a stunning start, Rosberg led for a few metres before running wide at turn 1 and losing position to pole-sitter and eventual winner Sebastian Vettel. Rosberg was then in a secure second place until the safety car came out. At that point, Mercedes had a decision to make: pit under the safety car and try to run to the end of the race, or stick with the plan and stop for a second time later on. They chose the latter option, based on their expectation that the Mercedes W04 would not be able to make its tyres last to the end of the race.

Rosberg pitted from second place on lap 41, and from then on found himself chasing after cars who were not intending to stop again. Somewhat bizarrely, Rosberg and his race engineer had a small argument on the team radio, when Rosberg was told to push to make sure he could capitalise on a possible last minute stop for Alonso. Rosberg was adamant that he needed to preserve his tyres, and disagreed with his engineer for a few corners to the general entertainment of television audiences who got to hear the conversation.

In the final laps of the race, Rosberg and Hamilton, who had pitted two laps after his team-mate, found themselves coming across cars who were running out of grip. The two Mercedes drivers were quite effective at fighting through the traffic and ended up fourth and fifth by the end of the race.

Mark Webber was the unfortunate victim of unreliability in his Red Bull. Like the Mercedes drivers, Webber spent his last stint on fresh tyres fighting through the field. It looked like he had the pace to reach the podium, but a few laps from the end he was told by his team to short-shift (i.e. change gear early, instead of waiting for the engine revs to reach their limit before up-shifting). The instruction was repeated with increasing urgency, suggesting that Webber had a gearbox problem. On the penultimate lap, it was clear that something was very wrong, and Webber confirmed over the team radio that he had lost power. Nonetheless, he attempted to complete the final lap, although by that stage he was so slow that drivers who had been quite far behind were passing him easily.

While he was cruising around on the final lap, Webber’s Red Bull caught fire, presumably as a result of a fuel or oil leak related to his lack of power. He pulled off and jumped out of the car while flames licked at the bodywork of the Red Bull. The retirement cost Webber fourth place and 12 championship points.

To add insult to injury, Webber was handed a reprimand for rejoining the track without the permission of the marshals after the race. Webber accepted a lift back to the pits on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, but apparently breached the regulations in the process. Alonso also received a reprimand, for stopping on the track against the instructions of the marshals, and causing two cars to take evasive action as a result. Webber’s reprimand is his third of the season, which means he will receive a 10-place grid penalty for the next race in Korea.

Felipe Massa had a strong if sligthly frustrated drive to sixth place from sixth on the grid. Massa made a flying start, but found his way blocked in turns one to three and could not capitalise on his surge off the line. He spent almost the entire race trying to pass one car or another, but on the tight Marina Bay street circuit, passing was always going to be difficult. When the safety car came out, Massa pitted, just as Alonso did. But Ferrari chose to split their strategies, sending Alonso out on the medium tyres in the hope of making it to the end of the race without another stop, while Massa put on a set of supersoft tyres, intending to make another stop for supersoft tyres later in the race.

As it happened, Massa ended up stuck behind Paul Di Resta, who was also on supersoft tyres, in the period after the safety car. When it was time for Massa’s final pit stop, Di Resta also pitted, which meant Massa faced the prospect of staring at Di Resta’s gearbox until the end of the race. But Di Resta crashed out in turn 7 in the final few laps of the race, releasing Massa to chase after the cars ahead that were on older tyres. He made up a few places and finished sixth, where he had started.

Nico Hulkenberg picked up 2 points for 9th place (Image: Sauber)

Nico Hulkenberg picked up 2 points for 9th place (Image: Sauber)

Nico Hulkenberg had a frustrating race for Sauber. He made a very strong start and found himself battling with the two McLarens early on. At one point, Sergio Perez tried to pass him in turn 7, but Hulkenberg did not yield and held position around the outside. On the exit of the corner, Hulkenberg bottomed out on the kerb and ran off the track. He rejoined without losing position. The stewards ruled that he had gained an advantage by running off the track, which seemed very harsh considering that Perez had at no point been ahead of Hulkenberg and there seemed to be some minor contact between them as Hulkenberg ran wide.

But there was nothing Hulkenberg could do about the decision, and he had no choice but to yield to Perez. He spent the rest of the race behind the McLarens, eventually finishing in ninth place to collect another two points in a season that has been tough for the young German in an underperforming Sauber.

The final points position went to Force India’s Adrian Sutil. He had a fairly uneventful race but found himself at the back of the train of cars that included the McLarens at the end of the race. At that point, however, his tyres were starting to go off and he had no way of getting past Hulkenberg and had to settle for tenth place.

Full results from the Singapore Grand Prix:

Pos No Driver Team Laps Time/Retired Grid Pts
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 61 1:59:13.132 1 25
2 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 61 +32.6 secs 7 18
3 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 61 +43.9 secs 13 15
4 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 61 +51.1 secs 2 12
5 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 61 +53.1 secs 5 10
6 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 61 +63.8 secs 6 8
7 5 Jenson Button McLaren 61 +83.3 secs 8 6
8 6 Sergio Perez McLaren 61 +83.8 secs 14 4
9 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 61 +84.2 secs 11 2
10 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 61 +84.6 secs 15 1
11 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 61 +88.4 secs 18
12 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 61 +97.8 secs 10
13 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 61 +105.161 secs 16
14 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 61 +113.512 secs 12
15 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 60 Engine 4
16 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 60 +1 Lap 20
17 23 Max Chilton Marussia 60 +1 Lap 22
18 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 60 +1 Lap 21
19 20 Charles Pic Caterham 60 +1 Lap 19
20 14 Paul di Resta Force India 54 Accident 17
Ret 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 37 Pneumatics 3
Ret 19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 23 Accident 9

Confident Vettel takes pole in Singapore

Sebastian Vettel on his way to taking pole position in Singapore (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel on his way to taking pole position in Singapore (Image: Pirelli)

Sebastian Vettel was so confident after his first run in the final part of today’s qualfiying session, he decided not to go back out on fresh tyres and instead watched from the garage as the other drivers attempted unsuccessfully to beat his early lap time.

It almost went horribly wrong for Vettel. In the dying moments of the Q3 session Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Romain Grosjean all delivered strong lap times that secured each of them a top four grid slot, but they didn’t quite have the pace to knock Vettel off the top spot. As a result, Vettel will start this weekend’s race from pole position, his fifth pole of the season and the 41st of his career.

The top five drivers are not much of a surprise, although behind Vettel the order would have been quite difficult to predict. Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton have been in the top few places in each practice session this weekend. Grosjean struggled on Friday but showed his pace when he was second fastest in final practice. The big surprise of qualifying came from Kimi Raikkonen, who failed to make Q3 and will start Sunday’s race from 13th on the grid.

Raikkonen’s woes started on Friday, when he hurt his back on the bumpy street circuit. In Saturday’s FP3 session, his running was limited by his back pain, which hurt his qualifying preparation. After having an injection for the pain, he was in the car for qualifying, but struggled to maximise the car’s potential. For Sunday’s race, he will be in the car, but it remains to be seen how well he will do at a very physical track while in a state of discomfort.

Fernando Alonso was outqualified by Felipe Massa for the fifth time this season and the second race in succession. Massa will start sixth, just behind Lewis Hamilton, with Alonso following in seventh place. The battle of the Ferrari drivers could prove entertaining tomorrow, as Massa has stated publicly that he no longer intends to help Alonso now that he is out of a drive at Ferrari at the end of this season. Only once this year has Massa finished ahead of Alonso in a race, and that was in Malaysia where Alonso crashed out.

This qualifying session marked the first time Esteban Gutierrez has featured in Q3 in his F1 career. He opted not to run in Q3 in order to save tyres and have a choice of tyres on which to start the race, but nonetheless qualified 10th, improving on his previous best of 14th. Gutierrez has yet to score points in Formula One, and will be keen to break that duck in tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Full results from qualifying:

Pos No Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:45.376 1:42.905 1:42.841
2 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:45.208 1:43.892 1:42.932
3 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:45.851 1:43.957 1:43.058
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:45.271 1:43.727 1:43.152
5 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.196 1:43.920 1:43.254
6 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:45.658 1:44.376 1:43.890
7 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.115 1:44.153 1:43.938
8 5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:45.009 1:44.497 1:44.282
9 19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:45.379 1:44.407 1:44.439
10 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:45.483 1:44.245
11 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:45.381 1:44.555
12 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:45.657 1:44.588
13 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:45.522 1:44.658
14 6 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:45.164 1:44.752
15 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:45.960 1:45.185
16 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:45.982 1:45.388
17 14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:46.121
18 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:46.619
19 20 Charles Pic Caterham 1:48.111
20 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:48.320
21 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:48.830
22 23 Max Chilton Marussia 1:48.930
Q1 107% Time 1:51.489

Grosjean challenges Vettel in Singapore FP3

Romain Grosjean finished FP3 in second place (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1 Team)

Romain Grosjean finished FP3 in second place (Andrew Ferraro/Lotus F1 Team)

Sebastian Vettel seems determined to clinch his fourth Drivers’ Championship at the earliest possible opportunity in the 2013 season. He’s won the last two races to take his victory tally to six this season, and he’s setting the pace in Singapore ahead of Saturday’s qualfiying session.

The only driver who’s managed to come anywhere close to Vettel on the supersoft tyres this weekend is Lotus’s Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman finished FP3 just 0.191 seconds slower than Vettel, an impressive performance in a Lotus that looked off the pace on Friday.

For Mercedes and Ferrari, things are not going quite so well. Nico Rosberg put his Silver Arrow third in the final practice session, but he was over half a second off the pace, which is a long way to catch up if he is to challenge for pole position.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who desperately needs a win this weekend to keep Vettel in his sights in the title race, was sixth fastest, a full second off the pace of Vettel. It’s possible that Ferrari were hiding their pace in order to lull Red Bull into complacency, but even so a second is a lot of pace to hide.

The only drama of the session was provided by Paul Di Resta, who spun under braking for turn 5. He managed to keep his Force India out of the barriers and carried on, but will have done his tyres no favours in the process. He finished the session all the way down in 16th place.

Full results from FP3:

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:44.173 15
2 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:44.364 0.191 16
3 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:44.741 0.568 18
4 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:44.906 0.733 14
5 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.921 0.748 14
6 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:45.257 1.084 13
7 6 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:45.500 1.327 12
8 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:45.876 1.703 19
9 5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:45.890 1.717 13
10 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:45.935 1.762 13
11 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:46.084 1.911 15
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:46.147 1.974 13
13 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:46.338 2.165 17
14 19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:46.358 2.185 16
15 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:46.660 2.487 17
16 14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:46.879 2.706 16
17 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:46.893 2.720 13
18 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:47.249 3.076 19
19 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:48.931 4.758 17
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham 1:49.037 4.864 18
21 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:49.182 5.009 21
22 23 Max Chilton Marussia 1:49.982 5.809 20

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

Hamilton well in front in Singapore FP1

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in FP1 in Singapore (Mercedes)

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in FP1 in Singapore (Mercedes)

Lewis Hamilton has set the fastest time in first practice for the Singapore Grand Prix by a convincing margin, over a third of a second ahead of the leading Red Bull of Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel set the third fastest time, almost half a second behind his team-mate Webber, with Nico Rosberg fourth for Mercedes.

There are some changes to the Marina Bay street circuit this year. The notorious “Singapore Sling”, the turn 10 triple-apex chicane has been replaced by a smooth, quicker left-hand corner, to the general approval of the drivers. In 2010, Lewis Hamilton described the corner as “the worst corner I’ve ever driven in Formula 1,” which suggests it will not be missed at all.

That’s the only change to the layout, but there appear to have been some changes to the track surface. It’s normal to have a patchy surface on a street circuit, as the track uses public roads that have to be maintained from time to time. But this year it looks like large sections of the road surface have been replaced, possibly with better tarmac. Some parts of the surface are significantly darker than others, and they appear to be rubbering in faster than the rest of the surface, as Lewis Hamilton commented on his team radio during the session.

The result of the changes to the track, together with the inevitable car development that takes place in Formula One, is significantly increased lap times around the circuit. Hamilton’s leading FP1 time was 3.5 seconds faster than last year’s fastest first practice time. Hamilton’s time is also just seven tenths of a second slower than his own pole position time from 2012, and that’s before any of the drivers have run the option tyres at all this weekend, nevermind on low fuel.

It’s always tough to predict Sunday results on the basis of Friday running, but the early indications are that Mercedes and Red Bull are quick around the streets of Singapore. Ferrari have probably not shown their pace yet, which is not unusual for the Italian team at this stage of the weekend. Ferrari have brought some new parts to Singapore, including a new diffuser, and likely used the FP1 session to test the new pieces rather than look for ultimate lap time.

Lotus are also looking reasonably strong, albeit over a second off the pace of Hamilton in FP1. But they could well have much more pace available in the Lotus E21 than we’ve seen in the first session. FP2 and FP3 will provide a much better idea of the running order.

Somehow, all 22 drivers avoided crashing out of the FP1 session. The streets of singapore are slippery early in the weekend and the walls are always close under braking and on the corner exits. A number of drivers brushed the walls (Giedo van der Garde managed it twice) but there seemed to be no resulting damage. Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez each had to execute a half spin to rejoin the track after getting their braking wrong and taking to a run-off area, illustrating just how accurate the drivers need to be to stay on line.

At the back of the grid, the order was reversed from the last few races. Marussia’s two drivers were quicker than their Caterham counterparts. Marussia started the season well, and as a result currently sit 10th in the Constructors’ Championship. Caterham have developed faster than Marussia through the season, however, to the point that they have seemed for most of the year to have a significant edge on their rivals. But in Singapore, for whatever reason, the order has returned to what it was when the season started.

Full results from FP1:

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.055 20
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:47.420 0.365 20
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:47.885 0.830 19
4 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:48.239 1.184 23
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 1:48.354 1.299 18
6 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:48.355 1.300 12
7 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:48.362 1.307 21
8 6 Sergio Perez McLaren 1:49.267 2.212 20
9 18 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:49.348 2.293 23
10 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:49.355 2.300 21
11 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:49.481 2.426 20
12 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:49.493 2.438 16
13 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:49.510 2.455 21
14 5 Jenson Button McLaren 1:49.608 2.553 20
15 14 Paul di Resta Force India 1:49.887 2.832 18
16 15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1:50.092 3.037 20
17 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:50.222 3.167 17
18 19 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:50.757 3.702 16
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:52.359 5.304 16
20 23 Max Chilton Marussia 1:52.673 5.618 15
21 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:52.920 5.865 24
22 20 Charles Pic Caterham 1:53.647 6.592 23
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