Formula 1

Singapore FP1+2 Throws Up Battle

Formula 1 once again returns to the original night race in Singapore, to kick off the second half of the flyaway races. And on one of the toughest and hottest races of the years things heated up on track for the Free Practice sessions.

Free Practice 1 saw the Red Bull of Max Verstappen set the pace with a 1:45.823, to lead a 1-2 for the Austrian team, with Daniel Ricciardo a fraction of a second behind him. The team could also be happy that they were almost half a second ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, who was only third quickest.

Singapore has been more of a nightmare circuit of the Mercedes teams the last few years, and that curse showed to chance of disappearing during FP1. Lewis Hamilton was only 4th quickest, six tenths down on Verstappen, with Nico Rosberg 5th. To add insult to injury, Rosberg also managed to damage his front wing. He locked up going into turn 18 under the grandstand and ended up in the wall. The result was a broken front wing, and the team admitting the fault was down to driver error.

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was in 6th place, while it was a more positive session for the Toro Rosso team, who are celebrating their 200th GP this weekend. The team proved that engine power is not the most important thing around the street circuit in Singapore, with Carlos Sainz 7th and Daniil Kvyat 8th in a Toro Rosso car still using a year-old Ferrari power unit.

The Williams of Felipe Massa and the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez rounded out the top ten. With Massa 9th and Gutierrez 10th respectively. The Haas team didn’t have it all their own way though, as Romain Grosjean failed to set a lap time due to a mechanical failure on his car.

Free Practice 2 was a case of back to business as the Mercedes of Rosberg was fastest once again on a 1:44.152. Just over two tenths of a second in front of the Ferrari of Raikkonen and Red Bull of Verstappen. Interestingly, all of the three teams looked closely matched on their long-run simulations, with Rosberg’s narrow advantage over a single lap suggesting this could be a hotly contested race.

“It’s really close between ourselves, Red Bull and Ferrari – much closer than at some other tracks – so it looks a big battle ahead,” Rosberg admitted after the sessions in his interviews.

Having gone quickest in the first two sectors on his flying lap, Daniel Ricciardo ended up just 4th quickest in his Red Bull after losing a large chunk of lap time through the final corners.

“I’m not discouraged,” Ricciardo said in his interview after. “There is still a lot more we can get out of the car.”

But it was Hamilton’s problems which were the focus of attention during FP2. Although Hamilton had been fastest at the start of the session, he ran off track at the first corner of his flying lap on the fast-degrading ultrasofts and was relegated to 7th in the charts. As if that was not enough drama to contend with, Hamilton’s car then developed a hydraulic leak which prevented him from going back out, with 45 minutes of the session left. The result is the current championship leader never completed a long run simulation. Something that is likely to hinder him this weekend, especially as the team seem to be struggling here.

“It doesn’t look like anything serious,” Hamilton replied when asked about the issue. “The guys are working on it and it should be fine for tomorrow, which is the main thing.”

Once again it was a good session for the Toro Rosso’s of Sainz and Kvyat, who finished the session 8th and 10th respectively. With only the McLaren of Fernando Alonso in between them in 9th, despite the fact Alonso’s car broke down in the closing moments of the session. He wasn’t the only driver struggling as it continued to be a trying weekend for the Haas of Grosjean, as the Frenchman damaged his rear wing in spectacular fashion. Resulting in a curtailed session for him, something he didn’t need after missing FP1.

Qualifying looks like it will be an interesting battle between the top three teams, as Mercedes do not to look to have their usual edge over the field. The team have tried to remain positive throughout today despite their issues. But you get the feeling that this may not be their weekend. Beyond the Mercedes drama the battle between the Ferrari and Red Bull team mates should also be very intense. And since the man on pole has won this race six out of the eight times, qualifying is key here. This could potentially be the qualifying session of the season.

Free Practice One Results
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:45.823
2. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.049
3. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 0.464
4. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, + 0.603
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, + 0.690
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 1.067
7. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.113
8. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.860
9. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 2.221
10. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, + 2.286
11. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 2.379
12. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 2.391
13. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 2.536
14. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 2.630
15. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 3.772
16. Jenson Button, McLaren, + 3.792
17. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 3.971
18. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, + 4.440
19. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, + 5.289
20. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 5.656
21. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 6.656
22. Romain Grosjean, Haas, No Time

Free Practice Two Results

1. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:44.152
2. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, + 0.275
3. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, + 0.380
4. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, + 0.405
5. Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, + 1.009
6. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, + 1.030
7. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, + 1.123
8. Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso, + 1.355
9. Fernando Alonso, McLaren, + 1.627
10. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, + 1.877
11. Sergio Perez, Force India, + 1.911
12. Jenson Button, McLaren, + 2.422
13. Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, + 2.575
14. Felipe Massa, Williams, + 2.704
15. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, + 2.808
16. Kevin Magnussen, Renault, + 3.009
17. Jolyon Palmer, Renault, + 3.014
18. Felipe Nasr, Sauber, + 3.379
19. Romain Grosjean, Haas, + 4.239
20. Marcus Ericsson, Sauber, + 4.335
21. Pascal Wehrlein, Manor, + 4.353
22. Esteban Ocon, Manor, + 4.671

Feature Image Credit: Scuderia Ferrari Press release.

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