And so we meet again, Singapore. What surprises have you hidden where the floodlights do not shine? The racing has been kind of lackluster the past few occasions, and we could do with a bit of sparkle and spectacle. There are no more fuel hoses for the cars to run away with; no more Michael Schumacher to rear-end unsuspecting drivers; no more Singapore Sling for the world's best racers to hop, skip and trip on this year. But having known you for the last five years, we're sure you'll find a way to make things interesting. We're old friends, so you can even do that at the expense of some of these predictions.
1. Saturday predictions: Vettel on P1, Alonso on P6. Online managing editor Tracy Carpena jokingly called us out yesterday on our recent tactic of fielding guesses so vague, you'd think we're trying to start a career in horoscope writing. So there--instead of predicting which team will take pole, we've put a name to the face (while we're at it, Sebastian, all the world's kindergarteners are missing their supply of glitter that has ended up on your latest helmet). And instead of saying Fernando "will split the two Lotuses," we've looked long and hard at this morning's coffee dregs and imagined a "6" somewhere there.
Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber could very well spoil the pole shootout regardless of the big gaps in the FP2 times. Neither had a clean lap during their qualifying simulations on the supersoft tires.
2. We will see a dry race with at least one safety-car period. Speaking of online managing editors, Barbara Lorenzo-Caluag is trackside in Singapore this weekend (wave for the TV cameras, Barbs). Talks of a wet race were pretty rampant last week, but our former web mistress reports that the skies are looking clear for the weekend despite mixed forecasts from three different weather apps.
As for the safety car, it has never failed to put in some mileage on the Lion City's streets, mostly as a result of crashes both deliberate and entirely unintentional. Last year, all the laps under the safety car meant that the race had to be stopped at the two-hour mark (the time limit for all grands prix) with two laps to go.
3. More of the Singapore specials: collisions and gearbox failures. While it usually takes two to tangle, a lot of the crashes in these parts have been self-inflicted, too, even if you don't count Nelson Piquet Jr.'s stunt back in 2008. What can you expect? With 23 corners to navigate and unforgiving barriers looming large and close throughout its 5.065km length, the Marina Bay Street Circuit claims the car of any driver who puts so much as a toenail over the limit.
This venue is notoriously hard on gearboxes, too, requiring over 70 cog swaps in a single lap. Keep a close eye on the Red Bulls cars, which had gearbox issues in Monza two weeks ago. Both gearboxes are four races old and must do one more race according to the sport's regulations. Any unscheduled change before the race nets a five-place grid penalty.
4. Force India will continue to have a pointless campaign. As in without points, of course (sorry, we couldn't resist). Since Germany, the squad has scored only two points courtesy of Adrian Sutil's ninth-place finish in Belgium. Given both drivers' seemingly rotten luck and their cars' string of reliability issues this year, we just don't see how they can stand a chance in probably the most demanding venue on the F1 calendar.
5. Mercedes and Webber will move up one spot in the standings. The German team currently lies third in the constructors' battle with 245 points, a mere three marks behind Ferrari. Webber, meanwhile, has 130 points and is fifth in the drivers' standings, with Kimi Raikkonen just four steps out of reach. Seems like a pretty safe bet, but some of our supposedly foolproof predictions have made us look foolish in the past. Nothing's a sure thing until the checkered flag falls on Sunday.
Qualifying tonight (September 21) starts at 9pm, Philippine time; the race tomorrow (September 22) begins an hour earlier at 8pm, Philippine time.
Photos from Scuderia Ferrari
|SIN||Free Practice One||Free Practice Two|
|Pos||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)||Driver (Team)||Time, +Gap (Tire)|
|1||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:47.055 (M)||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:44.249 (SS)|
|2||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:47.420, +0.365 (M)||M. Webber (Red Bull)||1:44.853, +0.604 (SS)|
|3||S. Vettel (Red Bull)||1:47.885, +0.830 (M)||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:45.258, +1.009 (SS)|
|4||N. Rosberg (Mercedes)||1:48.239, +1.184 (M)||L. Hamilton (Mercedes)||1:45.368, +1.119 (SS)|
|5||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:48.354, +1.299 (M)||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:45.411, +1.162 (SS)|
|6||R. Grosjean (Lotus)||1:48.355, +1.300 (M)||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:45.691, +1.442 (SS)|
|7||F. Alonso (Ferrari)||1:48.362, +1.307 (M)||J. Button (McLaren)||1:45.754, +1.505 (SS)|
|8||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:49.267, +2.212 (M)||K. Raikkonen (Lotus)||1:45.778, +1.529 (SS)|
|9||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:49.348, +2.293 (M)||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:46.002, +1.753 (SS)|
|10||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:49.355, +2.300 (M)||S. Perez (McLaren)||1:46.025, +1.776 (SS)|
|11||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:49.481, +2.426 (M)||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:46.406, +2.157 (SS)|
|12||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:49.493, +2.438 (M)||J. Vergne (Toro Rosso)||1:46.429, +2.180 (SS)|
|13||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:49.510, +2.455 (M)||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:46.606, +2.357 (SS)|
|14||J. Button (McLaren)||1:49.608, +2.553 (M)||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:46.808, +2.559 (SS)|
|15||P. di Resta (Force India)||1:49.887, +2.832 (M)||F. Massa (Ferrari)||1:46.870, +2.621 (SS)|
|16||A. Sutil (Force India)||1:50.092, +3.037 (M)||E. Gutierrez (Sauber)||1:47.287, +3.038 (SS)|
|17||N. Hulkenberg (Sauber)||1:50.222, +3.167 (M)||V. Bottas (Williams)||1:47.434, +3.185 (SS)|
|18||D. Ricciardo (Toro Rosso)||1:50.757, +3.702 (M)||P. Maldonado (Williams)||1:47.761, +3.512 (SS)|
|19||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:52.359, +5.304 (M)||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:49.434, +5.185 (SS)|
|20||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:52.673, +5.618 (M)||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:49.526, +5.277 (SS)|
|21||G. van der Garde (Caterham)||1:52.920, +5.865 (M)||M. Chilton (Marussia)||1:49.619, +5.370 (SS)|
|22||C. Pic (Caterham)||1:53.647, +6.592 (M)||J. Bianchi (Marussia)||1:49.731, +5.482 (SS)|
Legend: M—medium compound; SS—supersoft compound