Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 30° Track 33° Humidity 60% Wind 1.2 m/s
In the river of light that is the Singapore Grand Prix circuit, the reshaped turns and equatorial heat seem to be catching a large number of drivers out, a particular target of their ire being the Emirates hustings hanging off the exit of T11, though there’s been plenty of plenty of carbon fibre to go round.
The first whiff of F1’s new overlords also made themselves known by poking their opressively impressive mustache into the paddock in the form of Chase Carey, longtime associate of both Murdoch and Malone both, alongside a less than delighted looking Mr E. Not surprising then to see Bernie’s favourite reporter doing the rounds and banging the drum repeatedly about how this deal can never happen and Liberty don’t know what they are doing. With all due respect, the deal may or may not happen, but Malone has 2 engineering degrees (including PhD) and is both one of the fiercest negotiators and most successful of media moguls. Somehow I suspect he knows exactly what he’s up to and Bernie just doesn’t like it very much.
It’s looking good for Red Bull on race pace, but Mercedes seems to own 1 lap pace, though once again Hamilton has suffered some mechanical indignities, and his FP3 most unfortunately resembled his Q3 at Baku. So a bit of suspense perhaps for quali and a great deal more for the race. Tyre pressures Front/Rear went from 20/17.5 to 20/16.5 overnight which might be contributing to some of the fun. Many drivers are struggling with balance this go round so it could actually get interesting.
Oh yes, and this:
The pit light winked green for Q1 and first out to taste the tarmac was Wehrlein, who was patiently queued up and waiting. Wasting little time was the Mercedes duo who were right on his heels, sporting the very quick but fairly useless in the race Ultra Softs, likely to burn up their sets and save Super Softs for race and Q2. Rosberg also did a practice start at the end of the pitlane, a bit unusual but given Mercedes rolling clutch drama perhaps not a big surprise.
Wehrlein and Ocon were on Softs while the rest of the runners were on the Ultras, alongside the Mercedes as Rosberg launched his first effort. Early lockup into T8 stole some time as he soldiered on. Hamilton trailing stole the advantage in S1 and the lost momentum of Rosberg gave Lewis S2 as well by a tenth. S3 went to Rosberg but not by enough and it was Hamilton to the top with a 1:45.167, 0.149s up on his teammate and his first clean lap of the weekend.
It’s being early days, with 11 minutes left in the session, Massa, Hulkenberg and Perez rounded out the top 5. AS Ferrari and Red Bull were on their outlap, Carlos Sainz stole fastest S2 and went P3 in his Toro Rosso, where he lasted but for a moment before Fernando Alonso displaced him. Another stunning effort by Sainz, though, being locked up by Toro Rosso will keep his name out of the silly season talks.
Raikkonen, whose been have a blistering weekend, took P1 away from the Mercs and Verstappen came in behind him to take P2 with 7 minutes in the session. Vettel radioed in a broken roll bar and only having a time for his outlap was well outside the top 16 and the race was on in the garage to get him out for a time before the session ended.
With that drama unfolding, Ricciardo took advantage of the lull to crush the time of Raikkonen with a 1:44.255 and go P1. Ferrari told him to have a go on the way round and burned up 2 minutes and with 4 minutes left he rolled into the garage and announced it was “stupid and a waste of time” as slow mo showed his left front lifting several inches off through every right hander. Though to be fair, if it was a roll bar, no way was it getting fixed in time.
Aside from Vettel, those with skin in the game were Palmer, Magnussen, Nasr, Ericsson, Wehrlein, and Ocon with Kvyat and Button on the bubble. Out on the track they were as Vettel crawled out of his cockpit and Arrivabene looked very angry as the driver that was supposed to win the race for Ferrari was out with likely a broken rear roll bar.
Chequers and Ericcson pipped Palmer but just for P16. Magnussen went P17 and then Nasr split the Renault teammates as well. Wehrlein could only go P20 but still managed to better his teammate Ocon, by nearly 0.6s. Wehrlein radioed in no rear grip, not helping him apparently. So Magnussen, Nasr, Palmer, Wehrlein, Ocon and of course Vettel were off to the Singapore wheel whilst the rest turned it round for Q2.
While that was being sorted out the track opened for Q2 and immediately everyone sat in the garage and did nothing. Right when the clock hit the 14 minute to go mark Mercedes flashed out of the pits on Ultras yet again, with just Ericsson ahead.
Again it was Rosberg first to set times for Mercedes and it was S2 that was Hamilton’s undoing, losing 0.3s and handing P1 to Rosberg who rocked a 1:43.020 nearly 0.451s faster. Red Bull went contra strategy and was out on Supers early. Sainz on Ultras went P3 yet again till Raikkonen came through, but the Spaniard’s time was only 0.3s off the Ferrari.
Verstappen then Ricciardo went through and both went P3, with Danny Boy being faster than the Boy Wonder and the pair of them being faster on the Super than Raikkonen on the Ultra, though about 1s down on the Mercedes. AS the 5 minute mark approached it was last chance for those with work to do. Button, Perez, Gutierrez, Alonso, Grosjean and Ericsson were on the outside looking in and Kvyat was on the bubble in P10.
AS they trundled forth to do battle both Red Bull, Mercedes and Ferrari chose to stand with their times as the rest were out to have another go.
Alonso was first on it and as we came round the yellows were out as Grosjean stuck his HAAS into the barrier heavily, with only the McLaren’s through. Jenson pulled over as it looked as if he clipped something and that was that for the session. Alonso managed to jump to P8 with his time, however, and with no one able to answer, the session ended. Button reported broken steering from tapping the wall at T14 which explained the end of his session. Replay showed a rear puncture. Worth pointing out that Grosjean has become increasingly critical of the car as the season has progressed, calling this iteration the worst car he has ever driven. On replay the rear snapped suddenly coming into T10 and it appeared to be some kind of mechanical issue that precipitated the incident though unconfirmed at this time.
Bottas, Massa, Button, Gutierrez, Grosjean and Ericsson were off for street kebabs as the top 10 got ready for their final shot at glory. Shout out to Dani Kvyat who went P6 to outdo his teammate Sainz. Welcome back to the land of the living!!
AS Q3 was delayed for 10 minutes due to barrier repair, Perez went past Gutierrez under yellows, which was to be investigated, and Button rued what might have been in an interview as he reported it was a broken wheel and a puncture, as well as sector times good enough to make Q3. Also going to take a moment to point out that according to a very nice report on James Allen’s site, that the kind of impact Grosjean sustained is actually responsible for most driver injuries as the human brain in particular is quite susceptible to damage under lateral g’s. Perhaps the FIA will be having a look at that as well as the halo. #Data
Q3 kicked off with Hulkenberg and then Alonso taking to the circuit. Rosberg and Sainz wasted no time following and with 11 minutes to go all the runners were out save Raikkonen, who took his time to avoid the scrum on the outlap.
The Hulk lit it up out of S3 and was first off. Early days Ricciardo had S1 but eclipsed by Rosberg. S2 as well to the Mercedes as Hamilton embarked on his first sector. At the end not even close, 1.2s for Mercedes. Hamilton came through 0.7s off Rosberg who had turned a 1:42.584. Verstappen came in 0.1s slower than Ricciardo, and Raikkonen faster than the both of them. Lewis had complained of his right front brake not waking up and after his lap, Verstappen complained of a highly compromised outlap doing him in as they rolled into the pits and turned it around for their last shot at glory.
3 minutes to go and out they came, Ricciardo leading the way followed by Verstappen, Rosberg and Hamilton, Verstappen having passed Rosberg on the outlap as he was unhappy with the speed of the Mercedes. Kvyat, out for his only effort was just behind the top 4. Hulkenberg was the back of that train with only Perez and Raikkonen leaving a large gap before trailing out 30 seconds behind.
Outlap done and out of S3 flashed Ricciardio and it was on. Mistake into T1 for Lewis and 0.3s down immediately on Rosberg who was also slower than his previous effort. Ricciardo who looked nowhere through S1 snuck one in for P2 and Verstappen came P4 with Hamilton still out. A miserable S2 did him no favours and it was Rosberg, Ricciardo and Hamilton, followed by Verstappen and Raikkonen. Sainz managed to outpoint Kvyat for P6 and then Hulkenberg, Alonso and Perez, with the investigation of Perez still to follow.
Massively entertaining will be the strategic tyre battle between Red Bull and Mercedes tomorrow. If Rosberg fails to get a good start in particular it stands to be a most interesting day. Shades of Monaco perhaps. Vettel at the back of the grid will also be good for some fun on the radio no doubt. And then, when the top three came out for a wave, there it was….contact between the Mercedes teammates as they left and headed their separate ways. Holy foreshadowing batman, wouldn’t that be something. Those who are particularly paranoid will also begin to wonder why Mercedes made so many quali runs in practice on the Supers only to just not today. Perhaps to bait Red Bull into running them in Q2??
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