Kimi Räikkönen appears determined to end his Ferrari career in top form. The oldest driver in the field showed his younger counterparts the way in Friday night’s second practice session of the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix, narrowly edging Lewis Hamilton to top spot on the timesheets.
After Daniel Ricciardo led a Red Bull Racing 1-2 in the afternoon’s earlier practice session, it was time for the field to get down to business under the floodlit conditions that are more representative of the conditions they will face in qualifying and the race itself.
Maximising on-track mileage around the Marina Bay Street Circuit would be key for the drivers to fine-tune their set-ups on a layout where the pole-sitter has won seven times in the event’s ten-year history.
A number of drivers did not adhere to that script, however, with the most glaring being Räikkönen’s teammate Sebastian Vettel. The German – who lies a hefty 30 points behind Hamilton in the Drivers’ Championship standings – made another costly error, brushing the wall exiting Turn 21 on a flying lap and damaging his Ferrari.
Although it initially looked like fairly harmless contact, Vettel immediately knew there was a problem and dived for the pits. The wheels on the right-hand side of his car showed the scars of slapping the cement, but more worryingly was the fact that his car suffered a major fluid leak with an unidentified pink fluid pouring from the underbody of his SF71H.
The four-time World Champion was sidelined for the remainder of the session with just 12 laps’ running to his name and finished an unrepresentative ninth-fastest overall.
Another driver to have his session cut short was Williams’ Lance Stroll. He and teammate Sergey Sirotkin were always destined to prop up the timesheets as the FW41’s downforce shortcomings were laid bare, but the Canadian’s session was brought to an early end when his right-rear brakes caught fire. The culprit was a visor tear-off getting lodged in the brake duct.
For those able to post meaningful mileage, the focus of the session was split between qualifying-style runs on the ultra-grippy but high-wearing Hypersoft tyres and clocking longer heavier-fuel runs to simulate race conditions on Sunday.
Räikkönen would lead the way on sheer one-lap pace, clocking a 1:38.699 to move to the top of the timesheets. He was chased hard by Lewis Hamilton, who had his first hit-out of the weekend on Hypersoft rubber to go second-fastest. The Englishman’s best time was an encouraging 0.011 seconds slower than the Ferrari veteran, suggesting that Mercedes could perhaps pose a threat on a circuit where its longer-wheelbase F1W09 chassis is less-suited than its rivals.
The two Red Bulls finished third- and fourth-fastest, with Max Verstappen ahead of FP1 pace-setter Ricciardo this time. Neither driver could get within half a second of Räikkönen or Hamilton, however. Valtteri Bottas was fifth-fastest in the second Mercedes, lapping less than seven-hundredths of a second slower than Ricciardo but still some distance off teammate Hamilton’s pace.
The next ten drivers on the timesheets were covered by less than one second on the stopwatch, highlighting just how tight the midfield battle could be this weekend.
Renault once again led the ‘best of the rest’ charge, with Carlos Sainz Jr. narrowly edging Haas’ Romain Grosjean and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. All three drivers conducted qualifying-style runs on the Hypersoft tyres and put in longer runs on the Soft-compound Pirelli tyres – the hardest set available this weekend – to suggest that they will target an alternate race strategy on Sunday night and make fewer pit stops in the hope of gaining track position on a circuit where overtaking is very difficult.
Behind the hobbled Vettel, Sainz’s teammate Nico Hülkenberg completed the top-ten, narrowly ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson – who had a wild spin at Turn 5 – and Force India’s Sergio Pérez. Their respective teammates, Charles Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, were hot on their heels, with the second Haas of Kevin Magnussen in fifteenth-fastest.
Stoffel Vandoorne was sixteenth-fastest – finally ending his run of being the slowest driver in every session which has stretched back to the Belgian Grand Prix – with the off-the-pace Toro Rosso and Williams runners bringing up the rear.
|FORMULA 1 2018 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE SESSION 2 TIMES|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:38.699||35|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:38.710||+ 0.011||20|
|3.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||1:39.221||+ 0.522||28|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||1:39.309||+ 0.610||33|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||1:39.368||+ 0.669||33|
|6.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:40.274||+ 1.575||36|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:40.384||+ 1.685||33|
|8.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:40.459||+ 1.760||31|
|9.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||1:40.633||+ 1.934||12|
|10.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||1:40.668||+ 1.969||35|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:40.774||+ 2.075||30|
|12.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:40.812||+ 2.113||37|
|13.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||1:40.870||+ 2.171||33|
|14.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||1:41.062||+ 2.363||37|
|15.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||1:41.154||+ 2.455||32|
|16.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||1:41.164||+ 2.465||32|
|17.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:41.542||+ 2.843||38|
|18.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||1:41.615||+ 2.916||36|
|19.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:42.141||+ 3.442||17|
|20.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||1:42.181||+ 3.482||36|
Image via Scuderia Ferrari