Mercedes and Red Bull teams to beat
Mercedes and Red Bull appear to be the teams to beat following practice for the Singapore Grand Prix. Based on the more relevant FP2 session there was a tenth between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, however, you could say there is more to come from both.
Hamilton and Verstappen both could have given a better lap, they both appeared to be compromised slightly in the final sector. But from the pace seen across both the sessions, you have to believe that despite Vettel’s FP1 pace Ferrari isn’t going to be in that fight when we get into qualifying propery.
Hamilton said following FP2, “I was really happy,” Hamilton said. “I felt much better in the car today than I have for a while. I hope that [feeling] stays over the weekend. But we’ve definitely got some areas where we can improve. nothing’s ever perfect, so I’ve got to go and kind of study areas we can improve on the car”
Valtteri Bottas says that his car wasn’t at a “hundred percent” following his FP1 crash. The Finn lost the rear of his car exiting Turn Nineteen and said that the rebuilt car didn’t feel entirely right in FP2, as he reported “friction in the steering system”.
He said “It was a tricky one. Had a bit of an off moment in FP1, which ended my running a bit early, but everything was feeling okay until then, just lost the back end in one of the corners, and obviously here with no run-offs, you pay the price.”
“FP2, not sure really what was going on. Was lacking pace, every single run, every tyre compound, so I’m not quite sure if everything was right in the car, need to have a look. Just felt like I couldn’t go any quicker, but I was one second off the pace.”
You cannot count the Red Bull’s out Verstappen was just two tenths behind Hamilton in FP2.
Ferrari slips back from the front
Ferrari came to Singapore off the back of two wins at power-sensitive circuits, however, it was not a surprise to see the team slip back slightly. In FP2, we saw Sebastian Vettel go third but he was eight tenths off while Charles Leclerc was only sixth.
We heard throughout the session Ferrari where unable to get the clean lap in because of traffic and it didn’t help Vettel losing FP1 with a gearbox problem. While Leclerc could only finish FP2 a second plus behind pace-setter Lewis Hamilton, with the Monegasque driver later saying that he felt a lack of confidence in the car all day.
Leclerc told Crash.net, “In FP1 obviously we had an issue, so I missed a few laps which are always important on a street track. In FP2 I just didn’t feel confident with the car, but also with the track, so I need to work for tomorrow, try to improve the driving.”
“No big deal, it happened quite many times that on the Friday I was not where I wanted to be, so I need to work and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.”
Vettel added, “I think Mercedes was very strong today, but I think you could see that not just on one lap and on the timings. I think overall, they were a bit faster. On our side, I think we can do better, I think we can improve the car, so let’s see.”
“Balance [was lacking]. Just to distribute the grip a bit differently, I’m suffering a bit with the front, then on long runs everything was getting a bit too hot and sliding a bit too much.
Albon’s confidence knocked
Alex Albon says he lost “a little bit” of confidence after his brush with the barriers in second practice. The Thai driver locked up and hit the tyre barrier at Sling during FP2 breaking his front wing, forcing him to return to the pits.
Albon finished the session fifth, but over a second off teammate Max Verstappen. He explained, “I had a lock up on the lap before and I had a little flat spot. On top of that I was pushing and just another lock up in the same kind spot of tyre as the previous lap.”
When asked if the crash had knocked his confidence, the British born Thai driver replied: “A little bit, yeah. To do the lap afterwards wasn’t too actually bad I was expecting worse but yeah.” But, as we always say with street circuits you need to build up throughout practice and that’s a tiny error.
Mercedes strongest on long runs
Looking at the long-run pace Lewis Hamilton appeared to be eight tenths faster than Max Verstappen. His average lap time over a ten-lap run on soft tyres was 1:45.027 compared to Verstappen’s eight-lap average of 1:45.869.
Long runs, as ever are not 100% accurate because of when each driver does the runs they can vary both depending on tyres, fuel loads and traffic. But with previous data, you have to say it could say it’s Mercedes who have the upper hand on long runs.
That could be key, as if Hamilton starts behind Verstappen it looks difficult for the Mercedes to pass him in the race. While Ferrari look to be off the pace, that could prove difficult as they struggled with the rear tyres. Ferrari was so far behind they could be under threat from the midfield.
Toro Rosso was the best of the midfield.
The surprise, however, was Haas, they could be in for their worst performance of the year with pace that was in Williams’ territory.
On the basis of Friday, it should be a straight fight between Hamilton and Verstappen for the win. As far as two-horse races go, they don’t get much better than that.
Perez and Magnussen clash
Sergio Perez has accused Kevin Magnussen caused their clash on track in FP2 accusing him of not sticking to a “gentleman’s agreement” between drivers over on-track etiquette. But, the Dane has rejected the claim, saying Perez knows he was at fault for their clash.
The incident at the final chicane saw Magnussen was squeezed into the wall exiting the final chicane before the double-left hander that ends the lap. Both drivers were on out-laps and preparing for their final qualifying simulations in the first half of the session.
Perez moved back to the middle as he did Magnussen accelerated and tried to overtake between the Racing Point and the wall on the outside of the corner.
Both drivers were summoned to the stewards over the incident, and Perez was reprimanded for it.
Perez said, “Basically, there’s not a set rule, but there’s a gentleman’s agreement. Everyone is opening up their laps. I had, I think, one of the Mercedes ahead, and I didn’t expect him [Magnussen] to try to go there.”
Asked if he would discuss it with Magnussen, Perez said: “Yeah, definitely because we have to figure out. Some drivers they stick to the gentleman’s agreement and others don’t.”
But Magnussen added “I went on the power and when I was on the side of him he closed the door and I hit the wall. I don’t know what was his perspective, I don’t know if he went off line by accident because he was focusing on something else or whatever.”
“But he did go off the line. I just stayed on the line and went on power to start the lap and got pushed into the wall.”
Max Verstappen, Red Bull, “I’m happy with today ?? We seem to be competitive in short and long runs. It was a good start of the weekend #KeepPushing #SingaporeGP ??”
Carlos Sainz, McLaren, “Promising start to the weekend, improving step by step and getting into the top 10. Important to keep focused though. Singapore can change a lot overnight!#carlo55ainz #SingaporeGP @McLarenF1 @EG00”
Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, “We had a smooth Friday, we managed to finish the programme we set out and we know there’s some work to do to improve our balance for tomorrow. I’m happy with today and I’m sure tomorrow we will learn more to try and optimise the car a bit better.”
Lance Stroll, Racing Point, “It’s always fun driving here. We haven’t found the right balance for the car just yet. Looking ahead, we have plenty of work to do and we need to put it all together for tomorrow.”
George Russell, Williams, “I really enjoyed the practice sessions today. I think we did a good job in FP2, the lap was really hooked up and the car was feeling relatively good.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, “It wasn’t the easiest of days. The track is a proper street circuit and it’s hard to find the grip in places, but it got better as the sessions went on. We are quite close to our rivals in the midfield so the rest of the weekend should be a close battle.”
Tomorrow’s qualifying could be one of the closest of the season, as we saw in practice that the top three teams are looking quite close. But as always it will be about which teams can turn it up in Q3, so I expect Mercedes to emerge ahead.
Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen, I believe are the drivers who will be most likely to challenge the two Mercedes. This is going to be a session which could be tight not just at the front but the midfield teams too, McLaren and Renault have been very close.
As every mistake can be costly, not only for the driver involved but everyone as it can cause yellow and red flags. I don’t think we will see the repeat of the end of Monza qualifying, because the tow isn’t effective around the city tweets.