Friday, 19 September 2014

Hamilton leads the way in FP2 for Singapore but Ferrari look strong

(Mercedes AMG F1 Team)

Mercedes AMG F1 Team's Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the second free practice session ahead of Sunday's Singapore night race. The winner of the last race in Italy, Hamilton set the benchmark of 1m 47.490s to finish the session just ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso as the team look to have made steady progress. The Spaniard was just 0.133s behind Hamilton. Speaking following today's running Lewis Hamilton commented:

'Today was a work in progress. We made some changes between P1 and P2 and, whether it was those changes or the track itself, the balance didn’t feel right. 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. 

Pole here has always been very important. The right side of the grid, for example, always seems to get the better starts. Being up at the front will be crucial and that’s obviously my target for qualifying tomorrow. Nico looks very quick, as do the Ferraris and the Red Bulls, but I’m feeling good this weekend and I’m focused on the job.'

Nico Rosberg also commented on his day saying:

'I had a good feeling in the car. The only pity was that I had to abandon my quick lap due to the red flags. Although I didn’t get the second part of that lap, though, in the first part the car felt great. 

We then decided to do more laps on high fuel to learn more for the race and overall it was okay. It will be difficult with tyre degradation on the softer tyre so we still need to work on that. But it’s generally a great challenge driving here. This is one of the most difficult tracks out there but to fight through all the curves and bumps – especially with this amazing Silver Arrow – is a great feeling.'

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff commented on today's running saying:

'The track conditions looked pretty difficult for both sessions and it took a while to dial the car set-up into that. In the second session Lewis wasn’t happy with the car on the prime tyre, while Nico lost his chance to set a time on the super soft tyre as he had to abort his quick lap when the red flags came out. So not a perfectly smooth afternoon but we managed good long runs today on the prime and the option tyres and there is plenty for us to work on tonight. 

Our rivals are looking strong and we know we need to be on top of our game to stay ahead of them tomorrow and on Sunday.'

Mercedes executive technical director Paddy Lowe commented by saying:

'Generally we enjoyed pretty good and reliable sessions with both cars – although Nico was happier with the car in the second session than in the first and vice-versa for Lewis. 

We saw a bigger performance gap between the prime and option tyres over one lap than we had expected, which will certainly require some consideration in terms of race strategy – as will tyre management, which will undoubtedly be a big factor on Sunday. We still have a lot more homework to do in order to fully understand the tyres, the race strategy and also to maximise the potential of the car. But a good start to the weekend and great to be back in Singapore.'

Infiniti Red Bull Racing's Daniel Ricciardo finished the session in third place 0.300s just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari with their long run pace looking e19th forxtremely strong. Following a frustrating session, reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel could only manage 5 laps following his power unit change. Despite this however the German finished the session 5th place.

Speaking following the session, Sebastian Vettel commented:

'Was today unlucky? I don’t believe in good luck and bad luck. I think we did a lot in the last few years that was right and we weren’t just lucky then; this year it’s a bit different and we have had some problems, but that’s part of life. We have overcome the troubles that we have had and it’s progressively getting better. In terms of pace it’s looking good this weekend. 

It was important to get a good feel on the supersoft tyre. The mechanics were pushing hard and changed the engine in less than three hours after FP1, which is a massive job, so thanks to them that I was able to get out in the second session.'

Daniel Ricciardo commented on his day saying:

'I’ve got a feeling Mercedes probably have a bit more in the bag. I saw Hamilton is about three tenths up the road and Rosberg was improving and then he caught the red flag or the yellow flag so I don’t know, I think they’ve got a bit more in the tank. 

I think we do too, but probably not enough to get on par with them yet, but hopefully a good night of homework will pay off tomorrow. 

I wasn’t expecting such a big difference between the tyres, it just doesn’t seem the prime is working as well, the supersoft seems normal but the prime is tricky to turn on so that’s making it a bit hard. The tyres are going to make a big difference in the race - to be quick on the tyre is one thing, but to make it last more laps is another and that could save you doing an extra pit stop in the race.'

McLaren's Kevin Magnussen was 6th fastest just ahead of team mate Jenson Button who finished the session in 7th place 0.645s behind the time set by Lewis Hamilton. The Sahara Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Hulkenberg were 8th and 9th as they look to overtake McLaren in the Constructors championship this weekend. Speaking following the session Sergio Perez:

'We had a good day in which we managed to complete our programme. The first indications show that it will likely be a very close battle in qualifying; we need to keep working to find another couple of tenths because a good starting position will play a big part in the race. 

On Sunday it will be a matter of getting the strategy right and looking after the tyres. We ran on both compounds today and were able to assess their performance, but we know the heat will play a big role so being gentle on tyres will be a priority.'

Nico Hulkenberg commented:

'Completing all these laps with no major issues and ticking all the boxes in our schedule was a good starting point. It was a regular Friday, from that point of view, even if I am not totally comfortable with the car just yet. 

We have a bit of work ahead of us, trying to understand the car a bit better and fine tuning its balance ahead of qualifying. Tomorrow will be about getting some more performance out of the car.'

Sahara Force India team principal and managing director Dr Vijay Mallya commented on today's running saying:

'We had a lot of work to get through today, which included evaluating some aero parts that we hope to race with on Sunday. 

The programmes went smoothly and we will review all the data and decide how we want to proceed for the rest of the weekend. 

We also worked to assess our cooling requirements for the race: the heat always plays a big role here and I am satisfied with the work we have done. Both Nico and Checo are happy with the way the day progressed and we are looking forward to the qualifying battle tomorrow.'

The Toro Rosso duo of Daniil Kvyat and Jean Eric Vergne were 10th and 11th respectively while the Lotus F1 Team's Romain Grosjean finished the session in 12th place 1.527s behind Hamilton.

Championship leader Nico Rosberg had a frustrating session as he failed to run on the Pirelli Super soft tyre in as he was held up by the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado who crashed heavily in the early stages of the session which brought out the red flag. The Venezuelan finished the session in 14th place.

The Sauber F1 Team duo of Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez were next up finishing the session in 15th and 16th place respectively for the Swiss based outfit as they aim to score their first points of the season this weekend. 

It was a disappointing session for the Williams Martini Racing Team as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were down the order in 17th and 18th place respectively so the Grove based outfit will be hoping for a much better showing in qualifying tomorrow.

Jules Bianchi was 19th for the Marussia F1 Team just ahead of team mate Max Chilton who suffered a turbo fire.

The Caterham F1 Team duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson rounded out the time sheets for the Leafield based outfit.

© Ben Johnston 2014 

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