The European leg of the 2014 season is well and truly over with the F1 fraternity now in Singapore for the first of the six flyaway races that conclude the season. Mercedes powered cars were in a luxurious position at the last two races in Belgium and Italy, with the the races enhancing their power advantage. However, Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit is in direct contrast to these two venues. In fact, it’s one of the highest downforce circuits on the calendar.
In such a situation, it was expected that the works Mercedes could come under challenge from some of its rivals, particularly Red Bull. And long run simulations from second practice session supports such predictions, with the German manufacturer now just a few tenths ahead of its Renault powered rival.
Lewis Hamilton completed nine laps as part of his race simulation on soft tyre with his average time being 1:52.83. Nico Rosberg, managed to eke out four more laps from the same set of compound, but with an average time that was nearly half a second slower than his teammate.
However, the German faces a bigger problem as he prepares for the final practice and qualifying. Rosberg had to back off from his second flying lap after the session was red flagged when Pastor Maldonado hit the walls severely at turn 10. As a result, the championship leader failed to set a decent lap time and finished down in 13th place in the classified standings.
"It was a bit of a pity, yes, and I didn't learn quite as much as I would have liked to today because I was only able to push for the first half of the lap," Rosberg said. "I know what the car was doing so I know what to do for tomorrow, but I wasn't happy with the car so it's definitely a work in progress. It's a pity I wasn't able to finish the lap, but because there was not much time left and we wanted to do many laps to see how it would go for the race, we just decided to go for that."
Hamilton, despite topping the session, was clearly not happy with how the car behaved on the tight and twisty streets of Singapore
"I wasn't[comfortable with the car], but it was a work in progress. We had some changes between FP1 and FP2 and, I don't know if it was something with the track, but for example the balance was a lot harder to find.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel were third and fifth fastest respectively on a single lap while in the long runs, the former was a tenth slower than Rosberg, having completed the same number of laps. However, the Australian speculates that Mercedes have a lot more pace beneath their 2014 challenger.
“I’ve got a feeling Mercedes probably have a bit more in the bag,’’ said Ricciardo who is the only Mercedes driver to stand on the top step of the podium this season, “ 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.”
Vettel, however, was hit by a engine failure that kept him in the garage for all but 10 minutes of FP2. That left him with just five laps in the entire practice session while his teammate could log 28 laps around the same circuit.
Ferrari tend to use less fuel than their rivals on Friday and it was no surprise to Fernando Alonso topping the first practice session in Singapore and finishing the other session of the day in second place. Kimi Raikkonen, also looked strong, clocking the fourth fastest time in FP2.
Sergio Perez in the Force India looked strong on long run, however, his pace might be disguised, since the Mexican only completed eight laps on his super soft run.
McLaren have a major upgrade package at Singapore to redress the lack of downforce on their 2014 challenger, the MP4-29. While a competitve car in qualifying is likely to place them well on the grid, long run pace continues to be a problem for the Woking based squad.
Felipe Massa was concerned with Williams lack of pace, but with the Grove based squad known for their turnarounds on Friday nights, the team is set for a much better weekend than the practice time suggest.
"We saw some improvement between FP1 and FP2, but we need to find more gains in FP3 if we are to have a qualifying that would satisfy us. We knew that this track wouldn't suit our car as much as recent power circuits, but we have done lots of tests that will help us tomorrow."