After the last two races were dominated by Ferrari, it seems that in Singapore the balance of power has swung back to what was the norm a couple of months ago. After Charles Leclerc won at Spa and Monza on the quickest tracks on the calendar, making the most of the Ferrari power unit, here on the tight turns of the Marina Bay street circuit, we have a scenario last seen at the Hungaroring, with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen the front runners, just as they were in that last race prior to the summer break.
Those two names topped the timesheet at the end of the second free practice session for the FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX 2019. Hamilton was quickest in 1.38.773, followed closely by Verstappen who posted the quickest time of 1.40.259 in the first session. In the second one, the Dutchman managed a 1.38.957 to stake a claim as the closest challenger to Hamilton, a four time winner here. The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver looks like being a threat in tomorrow’s qualifying and Sunday’s race as well, given his good long run pace today.
As for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel was the fastest of the two in both sessions. A comparison between him and Leclerc was not really possible in the first one, as the Monegasque had to stop after just 12 laps, requiring a gearbox change. In the second, Vettel was third fastest in 1.39.591 on his qualifying simulation run, which involved dealing with traffic, to the extent that he set his time on his sixth lap. His team-mate was sixth in 1.40.018 and also struggled to get a clean lap. The Ferrari duo were fastest in the first sector, the quickest part of the twisty Singapore track. But overall, Ferrari seems a touch off the pace of its main rivals.
Splitting the two Ferraris are Valtteri Bottas fourth on 1.39.894 and Alexander Albon, fifth in 1.39.943, neither of whom had a trouble-free day. It was a fairly trivial incident for the Thai driver, who brushed the barriers at Turn 7 in FP2, requiring a change of front wing. The Finn had a more serious issue, first damaging a wheel against one of the walls and then prompted the session to be stopped for around ten minutes having lost control of the car at Turn 19, ending up in the barriers.
It’s all very close behind the top three teams, with 13 drivers all within the same 1.5 seconds. The times go from Carlos Sainz’s 1.40.145 in seventh, to Kevin Magnussen’s 1.41.564 in 19th place. In between them we have Hulkenberg, Norris, Gasly, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Perez, Giovinazzi, Stroll, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Russell. That left just Robert Kubica (1.42.177) who actually announced yesterday that he had decided to leave ROKiT Williams Racing at the end of the season. The pieces of the 2020 driver jigsaw are falling into place, and yesterday the Haas team also announced it would stick with the Magnussen – Grosjean line-up for next year.
Still on the news front, Singapore Airlines will continue as the Title Sponsor of the Singapore Grand Prix at least up until 2021.