F1 drivers sweat in Singapore for the first time in three years when Friday testing began at Marina Bay Street Circuit. Ferrari set the tone as rivals and championship leaders Red Bull struggled to light up the timesheets…
1. Ferrari keeps a narrow lead
Ferrari had hoped the nature of the street circuit in Singapore, with its range of low-speed corners, would suit the F1-75 – and early signs are that it does, as Carlos Sainz led Charles Leclerc in a one -two for the Scuderia.
They are around a tenth of a second ahead of Red Bull in terms of short-term pace and feel comfortable with the data gathered when they refueled for Sunday’s race, although the figures suggest they are a fraction behind their Championship rivals.
READ MORE: Sainz leads Leclerc as Ferrari posts 1-2 in second practice at Marina Bay
Sainz managed to find the limit fairly quickly, which bodes well for the rest of his weekend, but it wasn’t quite as smooth for Leclerc, with the Monegasque spending a lot of time in the garage to miss out on valuable track time.
Qualifying is very important in Singapore as overtaking is difficult and that puts the Italian team – who are around a quarter of a second quicker than Red Bull in the slow corners – in a decent position for the coming weekend.
2. Tough day for Red Bull, but the pace is there
It wasn’t the smoothest day for Red Bull, as while Max Verstappen enjoyed a reasonably successful FP1, he lost a lot of time in FP2 as setup changes took longer than expected.
That said, even with a lack of mileage – the championship leader only completed seven laps in FP2 – he still managed to pump in the fourth fastest time in the closing minutes.
READ MORE: Verstappen explains why Red Bull’s pace was ‘not representative’ in Friday training in Singapore
His teammate Sergio Perez had engine problems and then struggled to find a rhythm as he played catch-up. The Mexican admits they have a lot more to find overnight.
But if both drivers can make a big move, our data suggests they could usurp Ferrari as favorites this weekend, especially when it comes to race day when the points are handed out.
3. Mercedes makes a promising start
Singapore hasn’t been the kindest to Mercedes in recent editions of the event, while the country’s three-year break hasn’t helped them figure out how to make tires work on the street circuit.
But it was one of their smoothest Fridays of the year and, while their course designer Andrew Shovlin said they had taken a little more lockdown, neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell managed a clean lap , the data suggests they’re not that far off. as Hamilton reckons (the Brit thinks they are a second behind).
READ MORE: Hamilton says there’s ‘certainly more time’ for Mercedes to find after compromised FP2 session
In qualifying, the reigning world champions are just under a tenth behind Red Bull according to our data and 0.24 seconds off the ultimate pace. It’s the same margin up front at race pace, with the Silver Arrows well clear (over 0.6s) of the chasing pack.
“It’s been a good start to the weekend and it looks like the car has the potential for a good result here,” added Shovlin.
4. Alpine is fourth
Alpine have long looked like the fourth-best team in terms of outright performance this season and their speed in Singapore has given no hint that they’ve lost that distinction.
Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon have both been given the upgraded floor – the latest in a series of improvements the team has consistently made this season – and early signs indicate it has worked as expected.
READ MORE: Ocon, Alonso pleased with ‘good performance progress’ from Alpine’s Singapore upgrades
The pair were fast in Singapore – and although Alonso didn’t complete his program following a suspected gearbox oil leak, the Spaniard was happy with the car’s ultimate performance.
They are quite far from the leaders in qualifying and the race, but they have a considerable advantage over their nearest rivals, Alfa Romeo, which has shown an improvement in its form here, of around 0.2 seconds.
5. McLaren are preparing for one of their “toughest” weekends
McLaren had the most impressive list of upgrades for Singapore when the FIA released its list of new parts from each team – with the British team bringing a new floor as well as tweaks to cooling vents, diffuser, entrance to the pontoons and at the front corner of Lando Norris’ car.
But their pace on Friday wasn’t quite as striking, with Norris admitting the team are far behind their Alpine rivals, while team-mate Daniel Ricciardo (who is expected to get the upgrade in Japan next time) said his day was “definitely a bit difficult” as a host of changes they have made have not yielded the expected results.
READ MORE: Norris says McLaren ‘very far’ from Alpine after Singapore training opens
They are sixth in both the low fuel consumption and race pace stakes, the low speed performance of the Papayas really hurting them, with only three teams slower in those types of corners.
In terms of race pace, they were on par with Alfa Romeo, so the potential for a point or two remains on Sunday – of course that won’t meet their high standards.
FP2 Highlights: Singapore Grand Prix