Qualifying at Singapore was exciting for everyone.
Singapore – Alonso fifth and Raikkonen seventh sounds like the norm this season, but it hides the fact this afternoon’s qualifying was exciting for everyone and one with several positives for Scuderia Ferrari.
There were moments during the 240 total minutes of free practice here in Singapore, when it looked as though the 2014 season’s established order of things might be upset this weekend, with Fernando Alonso putting his F14 T at the top of the time sheet in two of the three sessions, while his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was quickest come the end of the first 18 minutes of this evening’s qualifying around the Marina Bay street circuit.
This fifth place is a bit different to usual, because the gap to pole is really small.
However, there was always a suggestion that the usual front-runners were sandbagging, holding something back for when it mattered and so it proved.
When the final chequered flag was waved, at the end of what was the most exciting qualifying of the year, Fernando Alonso found himself fifth on the grid. As he said himself after the session, “we are always around fifth.” But he was pleased with what was in many ways the best qualifying session of the year for the Prancing Horse, as his time was only two tenths off the pole man’s.
That honour, for the sixth time this year went to Lewis Hamilton, who beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by just seven thousandths of a second. That makes it the most closely contested pole since Sebastian Vettel beat our own Fernando Alonso by just two thousandths to take pole in the 2010 German Grand Prix.
Separating the silver arrows from the Spaniard’s F14 T today and occupying the second row of the grid for tomorrow’s fourteenth round of the season are the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo in third and Sebastian Vettel in fourth.
The team that appeared to have underperformed slightly today was Williams, with Felipe Massa lining up sixth alongside Fernando tomorrow. He finished ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who had to abort his second run because of a technical problem: a great shame as the Finn has been in great shape all weekend, which we hope will see him fight his way up the order tomorrow.
The big difference in lap times between the Soft and Supersoft Pirellis means the general expectation has switched from a two to a three stop race for tomorrow, with the Option tyre expected to be used the most. It will make for a fascinating tactical battle, with teams prepared to adjust their strategies at a moment’s notice if the Safety Car continues its 100% appearance record at this race.
The closest yet
Fernando Alonso: “If you had told me yesterday that we would still be competitive in qualifying, probably I wouldn’t have believed it. And in fact this fifth place is a bit different to usual, because the gap to pole is really small. This weekend, I’ve felt comfortable right from the first session and probably much of that is down to the characteristics of the track. It’s impossible to compare it to other races, because this one and Monaco are a law unto themselves.
But definitely, we have made a step forward since the start of the season and I’m sure the car will continue to improve right the way to the end. Tomorrow’s race will be long and very demanding from a mechanical point of view. Reliability will play a key role as will tyre management, which could make a big difference.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “I’m very happy with the handling of my car. Yesterday, we made some changes to the set-up and in qualifying, I finally managed to drive the way I wanted. Unfortunately, in Q3, on my final run on new Supersoft tyres, a problem forced me to pit. It’s a real shame as I felt comfortable in the car and we had the potential to get a good result. Now I want to feel confident for the race and I hope the team manages to solve the problem without too much difficulty. Tomorrow, we will do our best to bring home as many points as possible, aware that we are going in the right direction.”
Pat Fry: “This was undoubtedly one of the closest qualifying sessions of the season, with the top six cars all within just over three tenths of one another. On this track, a good set-up and a high level of aerodynamic downforce makes the difference and at every corner you can gain or lose a lot of time. And, as is the case at all street circuits, the abilities of the drivers comes to the fore. I would like to be commenting on a better result, because both Kimi and Fernando didn’t make any mistakes.
Kimi was comfortable with the car all weekend and we are sorry that he had a software problem on his final Q3 run, because he could definitely have got a better result. This incident confirms just how important is reliability, especially at this point in the season. Fernando showed what he can do on this track and it’s always a pleasure to see him at work. Like Kimi, he improved in every session, getting the most out of the package he had. In free practice, we saw a significant performance difference between the two Pirelli compounds and I’m sure that will make the race particularly absorbing.
At this point of the season, reliability plays a key role and here in Singapore, an appearance from the Safety Car is almost guaranteed. Therefore we will have to keep an eye on all the variables in play and try and bring home as many points as possible for the team.”