The leading contenders for this season’s Formula One world title all expressed different emotions after two tough practice sessions for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Searing heat, high humidity and a bumpy Marina Bay Street Circuit under 1500 halogen lights always make for a difficult combination, and so it proved.
Come the conclusion, reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was fastest at the end of both 90-minute runs, especially on the significantly quicker supersoft tyre being used for the first time since Canada.
Vettel, who has fallen 39 points behind championship leader Fernando Alonso, was satisfied enough with his lap of one minute 48.340 seconds, over two seconds faster than his time in FP1 on the soft rubber.
“This is a tough circuit for drivers and cars, but overall we can be happy,” said Vettel.
“It’s still Friday and today’s results are not so conclusive as some drivers got stuck in traffic, but most important is the car seemed to work on either tyre, so we go from there.”
Ferrari tried out a raft of new components on their car as they seek to help Alonso win his third world title, with the upshot being he was third quickest, just over half a second down.
Alonso said: “Some of the components seem to be positive, others less so.
“But maybe in the case of the latter we need to spend a bit more time for them to be developed as well as possible.
“Overall, I would say today was positive even if the first impression is we are not as competitive as we were in Monza two weeks ago.
“But we still lack some performance on tracks like this one where you need maximum aerodynamic downforce.”
Scot Paul di Resta and his Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh fastest in practice at the Marina Bay circuit to continue a run of good speed shown recently.
“We have had a productive day,” said Di Resta. “We have gone through what we had to both on the lower fuel and the higher fuel end.”
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, second to Vettel early on, had to settle for fifth in FP2, although with one particular hot lap baulked by a slower car, so finishing three quarters of a second back.
With team-mate Jenson Button second quickest, 0.311sec adrift, but complaining of balance issues, Hamilton said: “I was comfortable with the car, the guys have done a great job.
“It feels a lot different to the last race where there is a lot less downforce, so it’s great to be able to throw the car around a little more without it sliding.”
After winning two of the last three races to move within 37 points of Alonso, Hamilton added: “Although the race pace felt pretty poor for me, I heard it was worse for others, which is comforting.
“We’re obviously in the top five, but it’s very close. We just need to keep working on the route we’re on.”
As for Kimi Raikkonen, sandwiching Hamilton and Vettel in the standings as he trails Alonso by 38 points, the Finn was far from content with his Lotus.
Finishing 12th and two seconds back, Raikkonen said: “It wasn’t the easiest day for us. We don’t have enough grip for some reason, and we seem to be lacking downforce.
“I think we can improve, but we have to find two seconds to the front.”