The race organisers are putting in an all-night stint with a massive programme of works to remedy problems with the kerbs following the first day of practice in Singapore.
The plastic kerbs, in only their fourth year of use, were lifting up with retaining bolts raising out of the ground, due to the forces the cars are putting on them.
Tonight most of the kerbs are either being removed or bonded to the ground. The kerbs at turns 3, 5, 10 and 17, for example, are being removed and markings are being painted on the ground. The kerbs are of a similar kind to those used at Indianapolis on the road course, which lasted for seven years. It is not clear what has happened to the Singapore units to cause the problems we saw today.
Meanwhile last year’s main protagonists Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso set the pace at the front.
It was an interesting day’s running, with first practice cut short by half an hour as two kerbs highlighted as a problem by Pirelli were removed and then later in the session another kerb lifted after Felipe Massa ran over it. Mark Webber hit Timo Glock, thinking that the Virgin driver was letting him through, but the German wasn’t aware he was there. Webber’s front wing was damaged.
In the second session we saw the usual hot laps on the faster supersoft tyre and then long runs on the same tyre to assess its race performance. It looks pretty good.
It appears that for the front runners, the race will be mainly run on the supersoft tyres, with a final stint on softs and Pirelli predict that the leaders will do a sprint strategy of three stops, possibly two, depending on safety cars. The supersoft looked like it was about a second a lap faster than the soft and Vettel managed 16 laps on it with little in the way of degradation. On the first hot lap he was two tenths faster than Alonso and his long run pace was similar to the Ferrari’s.
The pair look closely matched, both having a good record around this circuit. Hamilton too should be there or thereabouts in qualifying and the race. Alonso said that he felt the weekend held more promise than Spa or Monza, based on today’s evidence, but added, “We have to be realistic and not expect any great surprises. The Red Bulls are favourites here and McLaren are very strong.”
Some of the midfield runners will be looking to make only one stop on Sunday, which will work out well if there is a safety car to extend tyre life by a few laps. Toro Rosso lost valuable track time in the second session when Buemi hit the wall after just 14 laps and Alguersuari was called in after a similar number of laps having hit the kerbs very aggressively.
Renault tried a new bodywork package on Petrov’s car but it caused overheating and was dropped. The car’s weakness in low speed corners looks like holding the team back this weekend, giving a chance to Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso to get among the points with some imaginative strategy work.
There were no problems with the kerbs in the afternoon, but Pirelli’s Paul Hembery said, “The bolt coming out of the kerb was a worry because if a tyre hit that it would cause an instant deflation.”
“There are some areas out on the track where the bolts are coming out of the kerbs,” said Lewis Hamilton. “They must be taking some serious force from the cars. On a couple of the corners – Turns Three, 13 and 14 – the exit and apex kerbing has been removed, so some drivers were using the extra track.
“We don’t yet know whether or not the kerbs will be reinstated tonight, so I continued driving as though the kerbs were there. If they’re not replaced, then we should gain an extra couple of tenths by being able to run as wide as some of the others did.”
Hamilton’s team mate Jenson Button had a difficult day, not managing to get a lap on the faster tyre after locking up and being unable to reverse out of where the car came to rest.
The gaps in the field between front and back and even front and midfield are very big, with a nine second spread separating the fastest and slowest cars, one of the largest gaps of the season.
SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m46.374s 33
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m46.575s + 0.201 28
3. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m47.115s + 0.741 22
4. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m47.120s + 0.746 23
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m47.265s + 0.891 28
6. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m48.418s + 2.044 27
7. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m48.866s + 2.492 32
8. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m49.578s + 3.204 27
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m49.730s + 3.356 29
10. Jenson Button McLaren 1m49.751s + 3.377 10
11. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso 1m49.792s + 3.418 14
12. Bruno Senna Renault 1m50.241s + 3.867 31
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m50.345s + 3.971 8
14. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m50.399s + 4.025 29
15. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m50.790s + 4.416 28
16. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1m50.897s + 4.523 24
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m50.937s + 4.563 30
18. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m51.950s + 5.576 26
19. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1m52.257s + 5.883 15
20. Jarno Trulli Lotus 1m52.489s + 6.115 25
21. Timo Glock Virgin 1m53.579s + 7.205 25
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin 1m54.649s + 8.275 25
23. Daniel Ricciardo HRT 1m54.754s + 8.380 29
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT 1m55.198s + 8.824 26