Sebastian Vettel once again showed the field a clean pair of Geox’s around Marina Bay, but he didn’t have it all his own way as Mark Webber pushed the Red Bull duo under the forty-five second barrier – the only men within that range.
Paul di Resta once again struggled with corner entry and subsequent understeer, but the issue wasn’t confined to the Force India driver as Pastor Maldonado found more than one of the Marina Bay kerbs too attractive to resist.
In contrast to their respective team-mates, Adrian Sutil and Valtteri Bottas found early pace before Vettel pulled out the fastest time of the day with a 1:46.853 – two seconds ahead of the immediate opposition in Rosberg. Touche!
Alonso meanwhile found the spare change that had fallen down the side of the cockpit during FP1; clocking in just two-tenths behind Rosberg in third.
Perez appeared to encounter a transient gearbox issue, complaining of finding neutral before being comforted by the McLaren pit that all was indeed well.
When Hamilton finally put in a flyer, he did so just three-tenths behind Vettel, but it was Webber’s inital lap that surprised everyone – again running four-tenths quicker than Vettel and all the while complaining of understeer.
It was all getting very interesting…
Webber’s time at the top was short-lived with Vettel jumping ahead by eight-hundredths of a second, only for Webber to better the German yet again by three tenths. Life in the old dog yet it seems! REd Bull ran hi visibility flow paint on both their drivers in FP1 on differing sides. One wonders what percentage of right-to-left were on Marks…
Then… Suddenly, all eyes were on the man who would be replacing Mark in a few races time. Ricciardo vaulted his Toro Rosso from 14th to 2nd in the blink of an eye; similtaneously leaving current team-mate Vergne in the road dust and giving future team-mate Vettel some serious food for thought. If there were any doubters of Ricciardo’s ability to nail a lap, it was surely put to rest. The Australian later fell down the order to where the Toro Rosso perhaps deserved to be, but was evidence of his ability to find early grip where others couldn’t – just like another Aussie’s early career.
But in F1 there are constants and the the biggest constant in the currnt era is one Sebastian Vettel, who jumped below the 45-second barrier. Mark joined him, albiet 6-tenths down and swiping a right-rear wheel against the barrier in an effort to close the gap.
After coming under pressure from team-mate Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez was impressing with a strong seventh around the tricky street-circuit, while Hulkenberg trailed the Mexican in ninth after snatching a right-front heading into turn one.
Thirty minutes into the session and Grosjean finally emerged, only to bounce off the curbs on entry into turn one. The maon hoping to claim number one status at Lotus next year lay in 12th – six spots down on team-mate Raikkonen. A few laps later the Swiss-Frenchman finally found his feet by jumping to fifth in the order and placing some substance behind his ambition in the process.
Alonso meanwhile circulated in sixth, once again playing the long game on a circuit where he always springs a surprise.
Down the rear-end of the field, Max Chilton appeared to have the measure of Bianchi. An incredible development given it was the Briton’s first appearance on the street circuit.
Button too was adding some credence to the whispers that McLaren were slowly creeping into the serious end of the top ten on merit. With Button seventh, Perez was gaining feedback from his team-mates efforts to close the gap on the big boys and hopefully pull a gap on Force India.
Pastor Maldonado meanwhile appeared to be pulling something of the other kind; clouting the wall at turn thirteen and damaging a right front wheel.
By this stage, the heroics had all but ceased as drivers concentrated on long fuel runs – by virtue of lapping some four seconds off the pace, with only the Toro Rosso’s improving on their one-lap pace towards the end of a long stint.
The lone Force India of Adrian Sutil managed to sneak into the top ten in ninth, hinting the Silverstone squad may be back to their troublesome best Melbourne form…
Images courtesy of Richland F1.