The Freak Show of Formula 1

Singapore GP: Your Pre-Race Briefing

It’s the final stretch of the season, and for Red Bull and Ferrari the Grand Prix at Singapore could be the last proper chance to steal a win from Mercedes. Will the Silver Arrows recover from their disastrous 2015 performance? Find out right here.

FP1

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Before a single lap was completed, Mercedes announced that they have fixed the issue that plagued them in Singapore 2015. Back then, a mysterious setup problem didn’t get the Pirelli tires into the right temperature window, leading to Red Bull and Ferrari being quicker and taking the podium spots. It was the first race that Mercedes lost on outright pace, and they want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

At first glance, it didn’t look like it though: Verstappen and Ricciardo were quickest in FP1, followed by Vettel who already was half a second off pace. Mercedes had Hamilton and Rosberg in fifth, but they never touched the Ultrasoft tire which makes the gap hard to judge. It for sure is closer than in Monza. Rosberg managed to destroy one of his front when a lock up lead him into a wall. Other drivers, such as Verstappen, Vettel and Hamilton brushed the walls a bit gentler while practicing for Qualifying.

Toro Rosso brought out a few new upgrades to get to the bottom of their recent slump of performance. Singapore, a twisty and slow track, would be a good place to find out if it’s the chassis’ or engine’s fault. They will have to battle with McLaren and Force India for the honor of being the fourth best team.

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FP2

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Mercedes went back to the top for FP2, at least with one car. Rosberg ended up quickest while Hamilton had to sit out large portions of the session due to a hydraulics issue that couldn’t be fixed in time. Now he’ll have to rely on the data provided by his teammate to prepare his tire usage strategy.

And the data didn’t look too spectacular. In fact, Red Bull and Ferrari looked quicker. There is no certainty as we don’t know how much the drivers were attacking or how much fuel was in the car, but the race is going to be a close one, with slight advantages for the Red Bulls. Toro Rosso was also up there on long runs.

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At the back of the field, Haas F1 was still suffering from balance issues. They’ll need some race luck to leave Singapore with championship points. Sauber meanwhile has not moved past Renault yet despite new parts on the car, and Manor is having one of their toughest weekends of the year with a car that doesn’t fit this type of track layout.

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Qualifying

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The pole position shootout started with a blow to all Ferrari Fans: Sebastian Vettel went out for his first quick run and immediately noticed that something was not right with the car. Part of the rear suspension broke and left him running around the track with three wheels on the ground in corners. His team tried to make it through Q2 at least with the Ferrari in a state of disrepair, but Vettel aborted the lap and settled for last place.

Manor had no chance to attack Sauber and Renault and saw their drivers have a nice internal battle of the potential future Mercedes drivers. In the battle for the last Q2 spot, Ericsson reigned victorious and thanked his team for a much improved car.

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His journey ended in Q2 though. The same can be said about Williams, Haas and Jenson Button. Williams’ underwhelming performance on street circuits is nothing new, but Button’s clear loss against Alonso is. At least he didn’t crash into the barriers like Grosjean did towards the end of the session. And of course the issue was brake balance related.

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That left the last 10 drivers with a shot for pole position. Realistically, it’d be a battle between Mercedes and Red Bull. Rosberg showcased that the Mercedes chassis is as magnificent as Red Bull’s and set a lap time record in his first run. Ricciardo lost over a second, which is a lot for a team that claims to have the best chassis in the business. Lewis Hamilton complained about issues with tire warmup and ended up being 7 tenths slower.

A quick visit to the pits later, the battle was on again with a set of brand new Ultra Soft tires for each driver. For some reason, both Mercedes drivers were not able to improve on their previous laptime, and Lewis Hamilton had to watch Ricciardo take P2 from him, a bitter defeat for the reigning champion. Could have been worse though, as Verstappen came close to also moving past Lewis and taking P3. In the end, it’s two rows Mercedes/Red Bull at the front, and therefore a guarantee for a spectacular, gloves-off race.

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Kimi Räikkönen lost almost a second to Rosberg and showed that Ferrari doesn’t have the performance in the car to maintain the second position in the constructor’s championship.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for what could be an epic four-way battle for the win, with the possibility of rain and almost certainty of a Safety Car.

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