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Vettel sets the pace in Singapore, close battle for qualifying and race in store
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Red Bull
Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Sep 2012   |  6:56 pm GMT  |  40 comments

World champion Sebastian Vettel topped the time sheets in both Friday practice sessions for the Singapore Grand Prix, easing out the McLaren of Jenson Button. But it looks like the battle for the pole and the win will be a closely fought, competitive affair.

Vettel hasn’t had a pole position for five races and still has only one win on the board this year, the Red Bull struggled with qualifying in Spa and Monza, but here they look stronger.

Vettel managed a time which was three tenths faster than Button, but Lewis Hamilton’s fifth place result does not tell the full story, the McLaren driver making a mistake in the final two corners of his hot lap on supersoft tyres. McLaren has won the last three races from pole and they remain the team to beat.

Apart from the controversial “Crashgate” race of 2008, the Singapore GP has been won from pole position every time and all the drivers know that qualifying is going to be absolutely vital here. The performance gap between the soft and supersoft looks greater than expected, possibly as much as 1.5 seconds on some cars. It behaved reasonably well on long runs this afternoon, but if teams are to manage to do the race on only two stops, they are going to need to get at least 15 laps out of the supersoft tyre.

“The time difference between the soft and supersoft is around 1.5 seconds per lap, while the degradation per lap is around 0.3 seconds for the supersoft and 0.1 seconds for the soft. This opens up lots of different possibilities in terms of strategy,” said Pirelli’s Paul Hembery.

When the drivers came to do their high fuel long runs later in the second session, the pace of both Red Bull and McLaren looked very close. This will form the basis of decisions about how to approach the race from a strategic point of view.

Fernando Alonso’s prediction yesterday that the updates on the Ferrari would provide him with a chance to challenge for the pole and the win in this and the following races, looked a little optimistic. Ferrari ran the new rear wing in the second session, but Alonso was almost 6/10ths down on Vettel and said afterwards that there was still work to be done.

Lotus, as usual on Fridays, did not set and eye catching time, but Raikkonen’s long run pace looked competitive and consistent. Track position is vital here and they will have to pull it all together in qualifying if the Finn is to challenge for a seventh podium of the season.

Force India’s drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg have both got a lot to drive for at the moment; they are on the front line to move up if vacancies open up at McLaren or Ferrari and the car looked well balanced with good rear end traction today. Di Resta got a good result here last season, so they will be worth keeping an eye on.

Bruno Senna was the only real casualty of the day, the Williams driver clouting the wall and breaking the rear suspension on a hot lap on the supersoft tyre.

Also noteworthy was the performance of the Marussia, which has a raft of aerodynamics upgrades here. Timo Glock was ahead of the Caterhams today, a result the team has targeted for this weekend.

“We did quite an important test which we still have to analyse and have a think about where we go with it, because we seem to have made good progress with the car,” said Glock, something of a Singapore specialist, who has had a 2nd and a 4th place finish here with Toyota in the past.

SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX, Free Practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m48.340 27 Laps
2. Jenson Button McLaren 1m48.651s + 0.311 24
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m48.896s + 0.556 26
4. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m48.964s + 0.624 26
5. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m49.086s + 0.746 28
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m49.300s + 0.960 30
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m49.339s + 0.999 31
8. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m49.790s + 1.450 32
9. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m50.039s + 1.699 28
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m50.161s + 1.821 23
11. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m50.263s + 1.923 23
12. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m50.345s + 2.005 24
13. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m50.636s + 2.296 32
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m50.791s + 2.451 26
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m51.122s + 2.782 28
16. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m51.450s + 3.110 21
17. Bruno Senna Williams 1m51.452s + 3.112 11
18. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m52.00$s + 3.669 31
19. Timo Glock Marussia 1m52.218s + 3.878 29
20. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m52.576s + 4.236 27
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1m52.863s + 4.523 27
22. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m52.936s + 4.596 25
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m54.448s + 6.108 25
24. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m54.514s + 6.174 30

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40 Comments
  1. Sri says:

    RB, McL have good quali pace – so does PM of Williams. In race, FA of Ferrari can be added to that list. KR of Lotus can forget Championship if his car is going to be like this for the next couple of races.

  2. rookie says:

    U’ve said that C31 is a fab car and drivers are nothing more than biotrash. But may be this car is a significantly higher ordeal than it appears at first sight.

  3. junior says:

    The pace of the Marussia’s is looking good considering they dont have KERS they could have a good chance of beating the Caterham’s.

    Hopefully with a bit of luck they may be able to take 10th spot off Caterham this weekend :)

    James whats your view on Marussia, do you think they have proved themselves at all this year? How do you think they will fair next year?

    P.S Love the site it is always very informative

  4. xman says:

    VET for pole, then HAM, Button, ALO, WEB

    Race
    Vet retired
    HAM to win
    ALO 2nd
    BUT 3rd

  5. Irish con says:

    Were going to have the 3 best drivers in f1 on the podium this weekend I reckon. Fernando, Lewis and Seb. Just not sure of the order yet.

    Ps the new f1 game is a massive disappointment. It’s rubbish.

    1. James Allen says:

      Why, what’s wrong with it?

      1. Rich in Norway says:

        The game isn’t an improvement unfortunately. They have basically stayed still with the game since 2010 – not made any huge adjustments. You can’t really justify spending £50 for updated cars/livery. BTW I have bought all 3 and I’m sure all other die hard F1 fans who are gamers will to. This they are aware of and are cashing in at the moment. The graphics/frame rate on the PS3 is really really poor. Gutted.

      2. Irish con says:

        The handling is terrible. It’s far too sensitive. You can crash in a straight line. At high speed it’s too sensitive and at low speed you just under steer constantly no matter how much front wing u put on. It’s worse than 2011. Graphics are better tho. Not impressed overall at all tho.

      3. AlexD says:

        On top, I cannot play it:-(

        The game just doesn’t work on my laptop (all other games do).

        Official statement from Codemasters:
        “Unfortunately, F1 2012 has not been developed for, nor tested on, laptop computers.”

    2. Richard Foster says:

      I have been very impressed with the new game so far, requires a very different style of driving though. I qualified on Pole by over a second but ended up finishing second due to inconsistent lap times and a couple of mistakes.

      Love it so far!!!

    3. Kay says:

      Ever since F1 2010, I’ve disliked Codemaster’s F1 games. They make very very obvious mistakes and to me that’s seriously gormless.

    4. Tank says:

      I’d like to know too, what’s wrong with the game? Planning to buy it.

      What platform are you running it on?

      1. Irish con says:

        I have it on ps3. I think some will like it and some will dislike it. For me the handling is alot worse than the last one. Steering is far too twitchy at high speeds and not enough at lower speed. Going through eau rouge or maggots and becketts the car is always so close to spinning. That’s just my opinion and the 2006 championship edition is still the best f1 game in my opinion.

      2. luizpaulobmx says:

        As you said you have all 3 games and if you don’t see the difference between them something is wrong with you. The latest game is way different than last years, drives way better and has a more realist speed also. For example in Australia, last years game you could do 320 kph down the straight and manage to do turn one. F1 2012 is very good game.

    5. Chris_NZ says:

      Yes, adding to James Allens comment. What is wrong with it?

    6. Hal says:

      My ideal game would GT5 engine (& steering wheel) applied to F1 license (of course with tyre wear & damage upgraded). Just bought F2010 for a lot of credits and drove around Monza. Brilliant.

  6. Sebee says:

    In the first, it was the Russki.

    In the second, ze German.

    In the third, The Brit, ze German and the Finn are turning the hunter into the hunted.

    Enought of the Fernando trilogy movie trailer. Let’s be honest, Kimi will be out of it shortly. So it’s Alonso, Lewis, Vettel for the grand prize. Will we have a triple champion or three double champions?

    1. KRB says:

      Who was the Russki?

      1. Sebee says:

        You don’t remember Petrov the Russian wall foiling Alonso?

  7. Mayank says:

    Vettel and Hamilton to fight for pole. Ferrari looks third fastest car with Force India and Lotus closely matched. As for Mercedes, it looks like they are going to have a weekend similar to Hungary. Their pace wasnt that good on long runs- will get caught by saubers and williams in the race.

  8. Nigel says:

    “degradation per lap is around 0.3 seconds for the supersoft”

    Interesting.
    For those who can make Q3 but with no chance of pole, not running in Q3 will be sensible. An extra two or three laps in the first stint together with over half a second of extra pace must be tempting.

    “difference between the soft and supersoft is around 1.5 seconds per lap”

    Will the leaders be fast enough to run primes in Q1 ?

  9. Gerard says:

    It is beginning to look like a Redbull resurgence, I would not be putting all my monopoly money on Seb though as Mark Webber is certainly a street circuit specialist and is commonly slow at starting the weekend (and the races) though lets hope not this weekend.
    I would say pole will be very close between Vettel, webber, Alonso, Jenson and Lewis

    1. KRB says:

      Not liking it that Webber is wearing a Vettel-style helmet, no yellow helmet for Lewis, and then lights (!) on Vettel’s helmet? Thought for sure I was watching Vettel one time until I saw the number 2 on the car. Now I have to go by the t-bar colour.

      1. James Allen says:

        “It’s not about the b-bling, b-bling, ” you mean?

  10. Geee says:

    James if these upgrades at Mercedes bring no performance gain, do you think they should start focusing on 2013?

    Also any thoughts on Webbers performance recently, since resigning for 2013 he seems to have let things slide a bit! (shame, he’d make a great champion)

    1. Nigel says:

      Aren’t the regs for 2013 pretty similar ?
      Continuing to develop this season ought to improve next year’s car as well.

      In any event, it’s likely to take at least one race for them to get on top of the new exhaust layout, so it’s a little early to be writing it off.

  11. Onko says:

    Safetly car and tyre management will be
    the “Joker “of the race.
    However they say ( head is for thinking and
    feet are for dancing )past record suggest
    Alonso is ahead of the pack.

  12. Lisa Thomas says:

    I will thoroughly hate it if Kimi’s title challenge peters out because Lotus can’t keep up development.
    Since Hungary, Mc, Ferrari, and RB have forged ahead: only Lotus actually took a holiday in august it seems. But what a lot of talking up of their chances they did for Spa and Monza.
    And then there was the DEVICE that was going to propel the E20 like a rocket and leave the rest in its wake….it’s destined for Suzuka we hear.
    Why isn’t the second car testing it here?

    On the other hand I am elated to see Vettel and RB back on track and determined to keep his title firmly in his grasp.

    1. sCarlatti says:

      don’t write them off yet. They may do better than expected here. Wonder if they can attempt a one-stopper… just possible?

  13. The OZ Cynic says:

    @Irish con

    Was playing the game yesterday and loved it.
    Albeit had some fine tuning on settings and setup to get anywhere with it. But well worth the effort.

  14. Michael S says:

    Looks like Lotus has lost whatever they had early on…. Hard for them to keep up with top 3 teams in development

  15. Edouard Valentino says:

    Would some teams try to plan to go one pitstop less by guessing the race will be cut to 2hrs in place of 61 laps. How many laps reduction would be needed to justify this?

    Perhaps this will be the most tactical race of the season in terms of tyre saving in Q1 (top teams not wanting to waste a set of options if can be avoided) and Q3 (mid grid teams not running at all). So often this season a driver from outside the top 10 on the grid has finished on the podium and I can see that happening again on Sunday especially if the race distance is shortened for whichever reason.

    P.S. I cannot wait to hit the BBC redbutton audio options and join JA and JA2.

  16. Kay says:

    “Lotus, as usual on Fridays, did not set and eye catching time, but Raikkonen’s long run pace looked competitive and consistent.”

    Okay this is annoying… when I read “Lotus” mentioned somewhere, I still think of Lotus as the current Caterham, and the current Lotus team as Renault!! LOL… damn can’t get that out of my head! I was wondering “why the heck is Raikkonen driving for the green team?”

    The Lotus/Renault case is still confusing as hell! :D

    1. James Clayton says:

      I think the rest of us have just gotten over it and moved on! I think the fact that the Lotus car is plastered the word, uh “Lotus”, kind of helps with the association thing.

  17. Sensei. GT says:

    I just want to know how Red Bull found some pace. Are they getting creative with the rules again? If so, will they be allowed to keep their points?

    1. James Clayton says:

      It’s a high downforce circuit. Was always likely to work well for the Red Bull. What’s interesting is that McLaren are still very competitive in this configuration. That must be very worrying for their rivals.

  18. G.M says:

    Set to be a really good race.

    Gonna be a real interesting battle for pole. I reckon Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso are favourites but you can never write off Jenson Button.

    The Lotus and Silver Arrows look dissapointing. However I think Sergio Perez will have strong race pace.

    For the race i think it will be anyone out of: Alo, Ham, But and Vet. However all 4 will finish about 10 secs from each other. Mark my words, come sunday night and we’ll be talking about race of the year.

    Btw, james im hust interested, when does the Russian GP enter. I even heard Greece could be even making a bid?

    1. James Allen says:

      2014/15

      Mexico and Cape Town are trying to get something together

  19. W Johnson says:

    James,

    I am not a fan of the Singapore venue because it is street circuit. Bad enough with Valencia and Monaco.

    As you pointed out in your commentary for BBC during the practice session, such circuits are all about pole position [with the race being a predictable procession]. Dull!

    1. W Johnson says:

      James,

      And as you also pointed out in your commentary, with the exception of the 2008 race due to the Piquet scandal, every driver on pole has won at Singapore.

      Is it me or do all the corners of this Singapore circuit look identical….I find it very difficult to get a feel for this circuit which also adds to the dullness!

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