S ingapur is a Mercedes track. The best time in the first practice session went to Max Verstappen, but then the Mercedes took over the command. Lewis Hamilton beat Max Verstappen by 0.184 seconds with his night best time of 1.38.773 minutes, but missed his pole position from last year by 2.7 seconds. The Ferrari were 0.8 seconds back, but this was also due to the fact that neither Sebastian Vettel nor Charles Leclerc had an optimal first lap with the soft tires. Vettel drove his best time with soft rubbers that were already 7 laps old.
The superiority of the Mercedes becomes clearer on the long runs. Lewis Hamilton took Verstappen on soft tires over ten laps on average 0.8 seconds per lap. Valtteri Bottas' endurance run was as fast as that of his team-mate, but the two long runs are not comparable. Hamilton drove his soft racing simulation with a full tank right from the start. Bottas ended up with Pirelli's softest type of tire. There was already less fuel in the tank. Hamilton drove in a different league. Bottas was noted that he lacked confidence after an accident in the afternoon.
Ferrari was slightly better on tracks with slow corners. They are therefore not yet candidates for victory. The red missiles are still making up for their time on the straights. Leclerc's medium long run was strong, but the two-time GP winner, like Hamilton, only drove it at the very end of the training session. Leclerc only got five laps, Hamilton four laps. The advantage was three tenths for Mercedes.
Toro Rosso cut the best figure in midfield. Renault and McLaren were roughly tied, but five to eight tenths behind Red Bull's B-Team in the long runs. They could only keep Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat in check for one round.
Six things you need to know
1) Can Red Bull beat the Silver Arrows?
Only one round at the moment. Max Verstappen was 0.184 seconds off Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes engineers warn, however: “Max got into traffic in the last sector. He would have been just a little faster than Lewis if he had cleared the way. ”In the long runs, the Red Bulls have no chance at the moment. On the soft tires, Hamilton took an average of eight tenths from his challenger. There is no comparison with the medium rubbers. Red Bull preferred to send Verstappen to the endurance run with the hard tires. And the Dutchman was on average a tenth of a second slower than Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso.
Sports director Helmut Marko admits that we still have to work on the balance of the cars. “Today the long runs were sobering. Lewis was very fast and he also had better tire wear. But we know what we have to work on. ”Mercedes drives the older Spec 2 engine in Singapore. Honda unpacks the last specification of its V6 turbo for Red Bull. The ulterior motive: Singapore is a race that can be won. You can't give up any horsepower, even if engine power doesn't play a major role on the Marina Bay Circuit. Hamilton was satisfied with the start of training: “Today I felt better than I had in a long time in the car.” That sounds like a challenge.
2) Does the Ferrari aero package work?
It is not a match winner, but brought a slight improvement. The total downforce has increased. In the rear, the car can be lowered thanks to the realignment of the Y-250 vertebrae. 'It works, but it could be more,' summed up Sebastian Vettel, who was ahead of Charles Leclerc in both trainings. Leclerc lost a lot of time in the first training session because of a transmission problem. Ferrari continues to win its time with Mercedes and Red Bull on the straights. The advantage is only about half a second. Exactly how big it is cannot be determined precisely because of the imprecise GPS positioning in the city. “In the curves we stand compared to the Mercedes,” Vettel wondered.
His deficit of 0.818 seconds on Hamilton's best time is bigger than it should be. Vettel did not set his personal best with the soft rubbers until the 7th lap. Before that he was always in traffic. “If I get a free first lap, I'll be half a second faster. Unfortunately, it is still not enough for Mercedes, ”regretted Vettel. In the long runs, the gap to the Silver Arrows increases. On the soft tires 1.2 seconds per lap, with the medium soles three tenths.
3) How did Vettel fightLeclerc?
Sebastian Vettel finally had a smooth day again. He covered 52 laps in both practice sessions. Charles Leclerc managed a total of only 43 laps due to the misery of the gearbox. In the first training session, a reasonable comparison was not possible due to the defect in the Leclerc Ferrari. In the second, Vettel was four tenths faster. However, Leclerc did not have a free lap in the early stages of the tires either. He set his personal best on lap 4 with the soft tires. The Monegasse admitted: “I haven't felt comfortable in the car yet.” At the moment it looks like Ferrari's aero package is playing Vettel's cards. The contact pressure in the rear has become more stable.
4) Who is number four in the field?
Not Renault. Not even McLaren. Toro Rosso drove the opponents up and away in the fight for fourth place in the long runs. Daniil Kvyat completed the fourth fastest long run on the soft tires behind Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen. With 1.46.132 minutes over 10 laps he was four tenths faster than Sergio Perez, six tenths better than the Renault and nine tenths less than Carlos Sainz's time. On the hard tires, Pierre Gasly led the ranking. The Frenchman was an average of 0.6 seconds faster than his teammate Kvyat. Gasly ticked off the first day of training as a success. “We just have to get one lap faster.”
The Toro Rosso drivers landed 10th and 11th in the best time list. “One driver is happy with his car on one lap, the other on the long runs. We still have to bring that together, ”demands team boss Cyril Abiteboul. Nico Hülkenberg found his soft long run to be good, the one on the hard tires disappointing. “We are too slow at a distance. The Toro Rosso are driving us to the ground. With a lot and little fuel on board ', Hülkenberg took stock.
McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl remains calm:' The long runs are difficult to read today. Some immediately picked up the pace. They obviously wanted to see when they didCollapse soft tires. We approached our endurance runs more comfortably to see how long the soft rubbers last. ”In fact, Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris showed the greatest endurance. Sainz drove 17 laps in a row, Norris 15th.
McLaren chose the long run tactic carefully. The team remembered last year when Fernando Alonso went from 11th on the grid to 7th. Why? Because he started on medium tires while the direct competition in the top ten with soft tires could not create a sufficiently large lead, so he fell into the field after the pit stop and ended up behind Alonso. “That's why we tested how big the delta between soft and medium turns out to be over a longer distance. The soft tire may be a disadvantage at the start. ”The only unknown: Pirelli's softest tire is made of a different rubber compound than last year's hypersoft tire.
5) Have Alfa-Sauber and Racing Point got better?
Both teams competed in Singapore with extensive upgrades. Alfa Romeo-Sauber modified hood wings, mirrors, baffles under the nose and in front of the radiators and the rear wing end plates. Racing Point came up with a new front wing, underbody and brake ventilation. Both teams ended up on one lap in the back regions of the field. In the long run it looked different. Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll caused a positive surprise for the technicians. Both stayed with the soft tires throughout the second training session.
The racing simulation on the hard tires had already been checked off in the first training session. The Racing Point drivers split the soft long runs into two portions. Perez was faster than the Renault and McLaren, but remained behind Gasly in the Toro Rosso. At Alfa Romeo, too, the endurance runs were better than the time on one lap. In the first training session, a power failure brought the garage to a standstill. The telemetry didn't work. There is no wheel turning in Formula 1 today.
6) Why are the lap times still so far away from 2018?
Lewis Hamilton missed his pole position from thePrevious year by 2.758 seconds. That's a lot of wood. It can't be down to the downforce. That is above that of the previous year's car. So the tires are to blame. With the C5 compound, Pirelli has its softest rubber compound on offer. But it doesn't offer as much grip as the Hypersoft super glue from last year. Even assuming the track will get significantly faster on Saturday, it's hard to believe Hamilton's record will fall. From the first to the second training session, the route was only 1.5 seconds faster.