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Hamilton on top in Singapore as Rosberg and Vettel are thwarted

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Hamilton on top in Singapore as Rosberg and Vettel are thwarted
Sep 19, 2014, 4:59 PM

Lewis Hamilton logged the fastest time of day in Singapore, his lap of 1:47.

Lewis Hamilton logged the fastest time of day in Singapore, his lap of 1:47.490 being good enough to see off a challenge from the fastest driver of FP1, Fernando Alonso, by just over a tenth of a second. Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest in FP2 with a lap of 1:47.790.

But the time sheets from FP2 don't tell the full story and Mercedes faces a stiff challenge this weekend from Red Bull.

World champion Sebastian Vettel lost most of the second session due to a problem with the Renault power unit, as his string of reliability issues continued.

Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, ended the second session down in 13th place after failing to complete a performance run on the supersoft tyre.

Rosberg was half way around his qualifying simulation run when Pastor Maldonado lost control of his Lotus at the exit of Turn 10 and hit the wall hard, destroying the right front corner. The smash brought out the red flags and when the action resumed Rosberg opted to go straight into a long run, rather than attempt another hot lap.

Thus his best time of the session was set on the prime soft tyres, with the result that he finished one and a half seconds off his team-mate’s option tyre pace.

When the red flags appeared, only Hamilton and Alonso, who had pipped the Englishman for P1 in the morning by a tenth of a second, had yet to make a performance run, with Ricciardo sitting atop the timesheet.

Hamilton was the first to try his luck and he quickly pushed the Red Bull driver to second spot by three tenths of a second. Alonso cut that gap by more than half to displace Ricciardo further and the Spaniard ended the session 0.133s down on Hamilton’s time.

But caution is needed when analysing the times as Hamilton lost some time behind a Caterham on his fastest lap and overall felt that his car wasn't at its best in the second session,

Lewis Hamilton

"We made some changes between P1 and P2 and, whether it was those changes or the track itself, the balance didn't feel right," said Hamilton. "It felt like we lost a bit of performance but we'll look into the details and see what it was tonight.

"The long run was okay - I had a bit of traffic which wasn't ideal, as when you back off to rebuild the gap the tyres come back to you a bit which may not give an accurate picture of exactly how long they will last."

The long runs appeared to show that the Mercedes and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo were well matched, while Alonso's pace wash' far off and he managed to get the supersoft tyres to hold on well.

Kimi Raikkonen put a good gloss on Ferrari’s day by finishing in fourth place, four tenths of a second down on his team-mate. It was a less difficult session for the Finn’s than the morning’s, when on his way to seventh place he stopped in the pit lane with his front brakes on fire.

In the morning it was Sebastian Vettel who had occupied that fourth spot but at the end of a productive first session for the German he was forced to stop in the pit lane with a suspected power unit failure.

Sebastian Vettel

Replacing that meant that Vettel missed almost all of the second session. The winner of the past three Singapore GPs only emerged for the final seven minutes of the session, but still he managed to guide his supersoft-shod RB10 to fifth spot, ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, who was followed by team-mate Jenson Button.

The final top 10 places went, respectively, to the Force Indias of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, with Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat tenth.

Williams will have its work cut out to maintain its run of podiums; the Martini liveried cars didn't look particularly fast today. The team has a habit of lurking in the lower orders on Friday while working on different programmes, but today the Grove team seemed to more out of sorts than usual on a circuit that is not expected to play to the strengths of their car. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas ended up right down in 17th and 18th.

Strategy wise this should be a very interesting race; the delta between the soft and supersoft tyre is over 2 seconds, based on today's performance, but that will come down as the track grip level improves. The degradation is clearly there on the supersoft, but it's manageable; Ricciardo managed to get 14 laps out of them with a degradation of 2.4 seconds across the run.

"To be quick on the tyre is one thing, but to make it last five more laps is another - and that can save you doing an extra pitstop in the race," said the Australian.

"It is going to be a real tyre fight in a way this weekend, perhaps the race will throw a few curveballs."

With pit stops taking up to 28 seconds here, the less stops drivers make the better on Sunday, so it looks like there could be a real advantage for a team that can make it in two stops rather than three, but the timing of the first stop is crucial and with a 100% chance of a safety car, it could make for a very interesting race, as Pirelli's Paul Hembery observed,

"With the high incidence of safety cars and the speed advantage of the supersoft, strategy will be an important consideration right from the very start of qualifying.

"Strategies will obviously have to be flexible, and we would expect to see three stops."

Singapore Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 Times

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.490 25

2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:47.623 0.133 28

3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:47.790 0.300 28

4 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:48.031 0.541 29

5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:48.041 0.551 5

6 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.358 0.868 33

7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:48.435 0.945 30

8 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:48.653 1.163 30

9 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:48.751 1.261 31

10 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:48.770 1.280 31

11 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:48.800 1.a310 33

12 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:49.062 1.572 33

13 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:49.075 1.585 30

14 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:49.139 1.649 13

15 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.170 1.680 34

16 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:49.290 1.800 37

17 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:49.361 1.871 29

18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:49.971 2.481 28

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:50.612 3.122 24

20 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:51.558 4.068 21

21 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:52.075 4.585 33

22 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:52.936 5.446
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