The 2016 F1 season has seen plenty of mechanical problems for defending World Champion Lewis Hamilton. They struck again on Friday as his team-mate Nico Rosberg recovered from a crash in first practice to finish fastest second time around.
The morning proved to be an eventful one with a Red Bull one-two rather than the usual same result for Mercedes. It was Max Verstappen who finished fastest just ahead of his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, just 0.049 seconds splitting the pair. Third place went to Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari but he was 0.464 seconds behind the front two.
It wasn’t a great session for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton back in fourth and Nico Rosberg in fifth. The German crashed late in the practice session as he misjudged the entry going into Turn 18. That ended up with his front wing being wiped off.
A good result for Red Bull but it has to be mentioned that they were using quicker tyres than Mercedes who were on the slowest ‘soft’ tyre. Red Bull recorded their times on ‘ultra-soft’ tyres so there’s still a lot to be learnt about who will be the fastest this weekend. The gap between the two tyres indicates it’s still Mercedes who have the upper hand here but it could be much closer between the two teams than in recent races.
Not a great session for McLaren either with Alonso only managing 11th fastest with Jenson Button way down in 16th 1.4 seconds behind his team-mate. He was complaining that his McLaren had poor grip, understeer and slow gear shifts, apart from that it was ok. Again tryres played a part though with Alonso on the super-soft and Button on the soft. They’ll be expecting to do better at the weekend though.
Nico Rosberg finished fastest in second practice as Lewis failed to manage a clean lap on his qualifying simulation and will be hoping that’s the last thing that happens tomorrow when the real qualifying takes place
Rosberg, who is only two points behind Hamilton now was 0.275 seconds faster than Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The Red Bulls were third and fourth with Verstappen again ahead of Ricciardo.
Hamilton was down in seventh after his Mercedes suffered a recurring hydraulic problem. He also complained of the balance on his car and feeling heat on the right-hand side of his cockpit. Mercedes seem confident it’ll all be sorted out for the weekend so let’s hope that’s what happens or he could leave Singapore in second place in the championship. The good news is that before the problems occureed he was the fastest so he could yet win this weekend.
Last year Mercedes were uncharacteristically off the pace in Singapore, that doesn’t look to be the case this time around. It should be an interesting battle between the Mercedes and Red Bull, especially Max Verstappen. His Red Bull has been given a Renault engine upgrade and it’s believed that could be worth 0.1 seconds per lap.
Not such good news for Ferrari with Vettel fifth and his qualifying simulation run didn’t inspire much confidence for Saturday’s qualifying. He was 0.7 seconds behind Rosberg with Raikkonen further behind. McLaren continued to struggle with Alonso and Button not having good runs in second practice. Alonso had a gearbox problem and Button was 0.795 seconds behind him.
Saturday’s qualifying should be fascinating. Will Hamilton’s car regain its reliability or will it be plain sailing for Rosberg? Can Red Bull close the gap on the top two and just how will McLaren get on? I ‘ll be back with all the answers tomorrow, till then enjoy your racing.