Vettel and Red Bull set the pace for Singapore Grand Prix
By Berthold Bouman
Sebastian Vettel was fastest for Red Bull Racing during the first free Friday practice session for the Singapore Grand Prix, and also the fastest driver during the second session this afternoon on the Marina Bay circuit. The first session was a close fight with Lewis Hamilton, who was just 0.049 seconds slower in his McLaren. In the morning there was heavy rain just ahead of the session and drivers first went out on the Pirelli intermediate wet tyres, to switch to the slicks when the track had dried out.
During the second session Jenson Button was the fastest McLaren man and took second place after Vettel, but this time the difference was 0.311 seconds. Mark Webber in the second Red Bull was sixth during the first practice, and fourth during the second practice session.
Championship leader Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso was one second off the pace in the morning but nevertheless took fourth place, but in the afternoon on a dry track the difference was just half-a-second, and thus the Spaniard moved up one step and took third place. Again a disappointing performance from Felipe Massa, the Brazilian driver was 16th in the morning and ninth in the afternoon.
Pastor Maldonado was fifth for Williams in the morning, but during the second session in the afternoon he fell back to 13th place, while his team mate Bruno Senna was 17th. The Force India pair Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg were quick and consistent again, they were seventh and eighth in the morning on a wet track, and in the afternoon they were even a bit faster and took sixth and seventh place respectively.
Lotus driver Romain Grosjean was back after he had been banned from the Italian Grand Prix, but neither the young Frenchman, nor his experienced Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen could impress, in the afternoon Grosjean was tenth, while Raikkonen was 12th.
Next on the list is Mercedes, mixed fortunes for both drivers, in the morning Michael Schumacher was the fastest man, in the afternoon the roles were reversed and Nico Rosberg was eighth and the fastest Mercedes driver.
Sergio Perez was the fastest Sauber driver in both sessions, but his time in the afternoon was somewhat disappointing as he was 2.782 seconds slower than leader Vettel, while Kamui Kobayashi was 16th on a dry track.
‘Rain is the great equalizer’ they say in motorsports, Maldonado had already proved that this morning, and Daniel Riccardo proved it as well by taking ninth place in the rain, and 14th place on a dry track. However, the same did not apply to his team colleague Jean-Eric Vergne, who was 17th and 18th in the second Toro Rosso.
Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov was at least consistent as he took 22nd place on both occasions, but Charles Pic in the Marussia was faster than the Russian, he took 21st place during both sessions, while Timo Glock in the other Marussia was faster than Heikki Kovalainen in the Caterham, they were 19th and 20th respectively during both sessions.
Chinese HRT reserve and test driver Ma Qing Hua was the only ‘guest driver’ today, as he took over from Narain Karthikeyan in the morning, and he now knows how difficult it is to drive a Formula One car on the limit on a wet track, he was almost 1.5 seconds slower than the very experienced Pedro de la Rosa in the other HRT, and almost 7.5 seconds slower than pace-setter Vettel.
Tomorrow is the third and final practice session, and of course the all-important qualifying for round 14 of the FIA Formula One Championship: the Singapore Grand Prix.