As he looks to win the Singapore Grand Prix for the third time this weekend, Sebastian Vettel has sent out a signal of intent to his rivals by finishing fastest in second practice at Marina Bay on Friday night.
Vettel was joined by teammate Mark Webber at the top of the timesheets as nearest rivals Mercedes could only finish one second behind the German driver’s best time, suggesting that Red Bull may be in line for a third consecutive victory as their stranglehold on both championships tightens.
Following on from FP1, the majority of the drivers came out early to post a time on the medium compound tire. Having failed to challenge the top two during the first session, Sebastian Vettel quickly set about establishing his dominance by posting a blistering time of 1:46.853 early on to lead from Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber were quick to join the party, with the Australian driver going fastest of all; a full three-tenths up on his teammate’s time. The two teammates traded fastest times, but Webber remained ahead after the teams had completed their first runs.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first driver to switch to the super-soft tire, immediately jumping up to P2 behind future teammate Vettel. The rest of the field soon followed suit, with the difference in performance between the two available compounds this weekend being significant (1.5 seconds according to Webber’s engineer). Vettel soon proved this by going almost two seconds quicker than his teammate, with Webber improving to cut that gap to just six-tenths. The rest of the field seemed unable to respond: Nico Rosberg was Red Bull’s closest challenger, a full one second slower than Vettel.
Following these runs, the majority of the teams opted to focus on their long runs in preparation for the race on Sunday, thus failing to improve on their quickest times. Ferrari’s struggles from FP1 persisted as both Alonso and Felipe Massa wrestled with the back-end of the F138 through the final sector. Williams’ good form from the first session failed to continue as they dropped down the order and Pastor Maldonado spun on two separate occasions. Caterham resumed normal service to move back ahead of Marussia, albeit only by a couple of tenths.
Despite laying down an ominous pace, Vettel will know from experience that poor luck can scupper all hopes of winning a race. At Silverstone earlier this year, he led the majority of the grand prix before suffering from a gearbox failure and being forced to retire from the race. However, he and Red Bull will be encouraged by their showing on Friday.
Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.
Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.
After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.
“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.
“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.
“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”
Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.
“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.
“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.
Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.
Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.
Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.
Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.
However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.
Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.
You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.