Vettel wary of Mercedes threat in Singapore

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Sebastian Vettel may have dominated the second practice session today in Singapore, but he is wary of closest-rivals Mercedes as the Silver Arrows look to bounce back from two disappointing weekends at Spa and Monza.

The German driver finished fastest in FP2, a full six-tenths ahed than his teammate Mark Webber and over one second clear of Mercedes’ pairing of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton. His pace on the super-soft tire was highly impressive, yet he is refusing to get carried away and pre-empt a third straight win in Singapore.

“It was quite busy; it’s pretty hot out there, good fun and a nice place, but for all of us it’s quite hard work,” Vettel said after practice on Friday. “The time we set was a surprise today, I got a good lap in, but I don’t think it’s completely representative.

“We seem to be quick, but I think Mercedes will be very strong in qualifying tomorrow.”

The defending world champion also praised the changes made to turn ten for this year’s race. The old three-part chicane was removed due to concerns from the drivers, believing that it was unsuitable for an F1 car.

“I think turn ten is the best solution we have with the space that’s available,” Vettel said.

The move was also supported by Lewis Hamilton, who said yesterday: “It can’t be any worse than it was.”

Vettel has the opportunity to extend his lead in the drivers’ championship to over sixty points here in Singapore, which would dash all hopes his rivals may have had of preventing him from clinching a fourth straight title.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”