A productive day for the two Ferrari drivers.
Singapore – It’s the seventh year of the Singapore Grand Prix but the Marina Bay experience still remains as fresh as ever, when the sun sets with its usual tropical alacrity and the 1,600 floodlights are turned on.
The drivers got a few laps running in natural light at the start of FP1 and it will be the same scenario tomorrow for FP3, but the rest of the track action is all run under artificial light, the excitement of the show enhanced by the clarity of the sparks flying off the cars and the flashbulbs bursting in the grandstands.
None of this scene-setting matters to the drivers of course, as they just want to get on with the usual tasks of setting up their cars on what is one of the most demanding circuits of the season, thanks to the heat, the bumpy nature of the track surface, particularly in the first sector and the proximity of the barriers.
We were reasonably competitive in both sessions and we got through the programme without any problems.
In general, it was a productive day for the two Ferrari drivers, who between them completed 92 laps, the Spaniard doing 44 and the Finn four more, with Fernando Alonso ending the day second fastest, while Kimi Raikkonen was fourth.
Apart from the brakes overheating on Kimi’s car in FP1, both 90 minute sessions, the second starting just two hours after the end of the first rather than the normal two and a half, ran mainly trouble-free for the two F14Ts and produced reasonable results.
As usual, the teams delayed trying the Supersoft Pirelli Option tyre until the second half of FP2 but its results were dramatic, for all teams in fact, producing a lap time improvement of around 2 seconds over the Soft. However, on a street track the engineers know that everything changes as the track rubbers in, so no final strategy decisions can be made on the basis of today’s sessions.
As usual this year, a Mercedes topped the time sheet, this time it was Lewis Hamilton. Third behind Fernando was Daniel Ricciardo for Red Bull, with his team-mate Sebastian Vettel fifth behind Kimi, the German missing most of the second session as his engine had to be changed. Kevin Magnussen completed the top six for McLaren.
Fernando Alonso: “As always, Friday in Singapore is a bit different to what it is at other tracks, as its characteristics mean it is one of a kind and driving here at night is always exciting. The feeling is more or less the same as usual on a first day of practice, as we were reasonably competitive in both sessions and we got through the programme without any problems.
The two compounds we have for this race behaved as expected and of the two, the Supersoft produced more grip. The restrictions on radio communication did not affect our work much and it was a regular day from that point of view and everything went off as normal.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “Overall this was a positive day, even if, as usual, there is room for improvement. In the first session we concentrated on looking at different set-up solutions and on my first set of Soft tyres I managed to do a good lap, then unfortunately some technical niggles prevented me from getting the most out of the second set.
At the end of the session I had a problem with the brakes overheating, but the team managed to sort it out quickly and prepare the car for the second session. The changes we made to the set-up improved the handling of the car and with the Supersoft tyres there was plenty of grip.”
Pat Fry: “The Marina Bay circuit is always very demanding, both for the drivers and the personnel, who, among other things, have to deal with extreme atmospheric weather conditions. This Friday’s track action that just ended was not perfect, as we had to deal with some reliability problems, especially on Kimi’s car, although the performance more or less matched our expectations.
Cooling the various components of the car is a hard task and, in performance terms, so too is getting good traction out of the corners. As usual on street circuits, over the course of the weekend, the grip level improves significantly and so it’s important to get a clear understanding of tyre behaviour.
The time difference between the Soft and Supersoft compounds is possibly greater than expected and I’m sure this aspect will make qualifying and the race very interesting.
Although Friday’s times count for little and it’s difficult to string together a run of clean laps because of traffic, our drivers’ pace is encouraging. It’s very difficult to overtake in Singapore and it will be very important to do as well as possible in qualifying so as to be well placed for the race.”