Singapore – It’s been a long day in Singapore, which soon turned to night, as the F138s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa completed just over 517 kilometres of the Marina Bay circuit. It’s tough on the cars, as they bounce over the kerbs and use all their braking power and it’s equally tough on the drivers. It might get cooler when the sun goes down, but one look at their faces is enough to illustrate the difficulties of driving in such hot and humid conditions.
Sebastian Vettel, the winner of the last two races here at Marina Bay, was quickest this afternoon, ahead of Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber. Third was Nico Rosberg, followed by his Mercedes team-mate, Lewis Hamilton, who won here in 2009. Romain Grosjean was fifth in the Lotus, just ahead of Fernando in sixth, the only past winner of this race not mentioned so far, the Spaniard having been first past the flag in 2008 and 2010. As for Felipe, he was fifteenth fastest in the second session.
Reading too much into Friday’s times is a dangerous pastime, but both Ferrari men expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of their F138s. It was not entirely unexpected as the slower tracks which require the most downforce have not been particularly well suited to this year’s Prancing Horse car.
However, while all race tracks evolve over the course of the weekend, as the surface rubbers in, that is even more the case at a street circuit that is more used to having trucks and taxis running up and down the roads, so the engineers will now be taking that into account as they evaluate all the data, covering all aspects of car performance from the tyres to the new updates, mainly aerodynamic, brought for this race. We usually talk about a long night ahead, but in this case, the work will finish as the sun begins to rise for the second day of track action at the Marina Drive night shift.
Fernando Alonso: “We can’t say this was a good start, because we weren’t competitive, but if we consider that last year, at the end of a difficult weekend we managed to get on the podium, we definitely aren’t throwing in the towel yet. We have yet to analyse the data, but we certainly have to be realistic, because when you have one car in sixth place and the other in fifteenth, it’s clearly not the result we were hoping for, without taking into consideration the updates we have brought for this race.
Now, we have a lot of work to do to find the right set-up and the best strategy. Then we will need to put in a very good qualifying lap and attack from start to finish in the race. However, we know that won’t be easy because on tracks which require high downforce, we suffer more and, just as in Hungary, apart from the fact that Mercedes seem to be on a par with Red Bull here, there are others who also look strong, like Lotus and McLaren”.
Felipe Massa: “This was a difficult day, because I struggled to find the right way to move forward in both sessions. In the first session, we concentrated on evaluating various aerodynamic components, while in the second one, we managed to complete the programme, doing a long run, starting on the Supersofts and ending on the Mediums. Along with the team we decided to go in another direction to try and find a set-up with which I was more comfortable on this track.
Unfortunately this did not produce the results we were expecting. I think that for tomorrow’s qualifying we need to retrace our steps, trying to improve the balance of the car. I am sure it will be better and that I will manage to once again find the car I’m used to driving”.
Pat Fry: “As usually happens on a street circuit, the evolution of track conditions is a key factor, especially when you are working on finding the most suitable set-up and aerodynamic configuration. Therefore, we mustn’t get caught out by the track improvement, but rather concentrate on what the drivers are feeling. Today we tried to get a good understanding of the car’s handling and turned most of our attention to the behaviour of the Medium and Supersoft tyres, which come under a lot of strain because of the temperatures here.
As has been the case for the past few Grands Prix, in both sessions, Fernando and Felipe worked on different programmes, so as to acquire as much information as possible, to get the most out of the package we have this weekend. It will be important to have good front end grip, while optimising traction from the rear to tackle the sequence of corners that make up this high downforce circuit. On Friday, it’s never easy to understand where one is compared to the others, but certainly our main rivals seem to have something extra”.