Raikkonen leads, Vettel pushes the limits in Singapore F1 GP Practice

Championship contender Sebastian Vettel’s preparations for one of the toughest races of the year were dealt a blow when the four-time champion tagged the wall during his hypersoft qualifying simulation.

Attempting to beat the times set by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and championship rival Lewis Hamilton, Vettel struck the wall on the fast exit of turn twenty-one and immediately dived into the pits.

The impact was enough to damage what was believed to be a cooling pipe, and the Ferrari was sidelined for the rest of the session, meaning he was unable to carry out race simulations. His best time from an earlier run on the ultrasoft tyre placed him in ninth.

Speaking after practice, Vettel was asked if he will be set back by the lack of running in FP2.

“No at all. I think by now we have good experience of reading into the others and what they did, reading into their runs with their tyres, which obviously will be key for Sunday. We can recover most of it tomorrow.”

A mere eleven thousandths of a second separated Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes Lewis Hamilton in a closely-contested practice session under the lights of the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Despite many anticipating that Ferrari have the edge in Singapore, Raikkonen only beat Hamilton in the first sector. However, the Briton’s gains throughout the rest of the lap weren’t enough to claim top spot.

The 90-minute session wasn’t a clean one for Hamilton, either. Following Vettel on an outlap, the Mercedes driver was almost caught out running too close to his rival and, after locking up, had to take to the escape road to avoid running into the back of the Ferrari.

Red Bull’s weaknesses over one lap became apparent in the qualifying simulations. After topping free practice one, the Milton Keynes team were several tenths of a second off the pace, with Max Vertstappen third and Daniel Ricciardo fourth, just ahead of the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.

Whilst the Red Bulls gave a strong showing in the race simulations, Verstappen’s session was interrupted by a couple of minor issues. Smoke coming from his car in the early stages of FP2 prompted a return to the pits, whilst a problem reported as “like a misfire” was dealt with quickly in the later stages of the session.

In a strong opening day for Renault, Carlos Sainz finished FP2 as the sixth-fastest driver, with team-mate Nico Hulkenberg in tenth place, with Haas’ Romain Grosjean and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in close company.

Just days after signing a contract to race for Ferrari in 2019, Charles Leclerc became the first man to fall victim to the Singaporean barriers in FP1.

On a flying lap, Leclerc tagged the inside of the barrier on the right-hand kink of turn twelve on the Anderson Bridge, damaging the front-right corner of the car. He pulled over at turn thirteen without interrupting the session.

Formula One unveils 2021 design concepts

Ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One bosses presented their vision for the anticipated 2021 regulation changes.

With the sport having issues with cars being able to follow closely – even bringing in fixes for 2019 – Formula One’s motorsport boss Ross Brawn unveiled proposals aimed at improving the racing and look of the sport.

The designs include simplified, sleeker bodywork, and attempts at improving the look of the halo safety device.

“When we started looking at the 2021 car, the primary objective was to enable the cars to race well together,” said Brawn. “What we established early on in our research is the cars we have now are very bad in following each other.”

Click on the images below to enlarge:

“Once the cars get within a few car lengths of each other, they lose 50% of their downforce. That’s a substantial amount of performance lost. So we set about understanding why that was and how we can improve it. I’m pleased to say we’re at about 80%.

“As time has gone on, another of the primary objectives was to make great looking cars. We want cars that look better than what you see in a video game, cars that kids want to have up on their walls.

“That is not to control the development, because it’s critical this development achieves its objectives, but why shouldn’t we have great looking cars as we’re evolving the cars? We want a car that is inspiring. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and the car should look sensational.”

1 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m38.699s – 35 Laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.710s 0.011s 20
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m39.221s 0.522s 28
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m39.309s 0.610s 33
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m39.368s 0.669s 33
6 Carlos Sainz Renault 1m40.274s 1.575s 36
7 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m40.384s 1.685s 33
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m40.459s 1.760s 31
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m40.633s 1.934s 12
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m40.668s 1.969s 35
11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m40.774s 2.075s 30
12 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m40.812s 2.113s 37
13 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m40.870s 2.171s 33
14 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m41.062s 2.363s 37
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m41.154s 2.455s 32
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m41.164s 2.465s 32
17 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m41.542s 2.843s 38
18 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m41.615s 2.916s 36
19 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m42.141s 3.442s 17
20 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m42.414s 3.482s 36

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

Who do you think is the favourite for the Singapore Grand Prix? What do you think of the concept designs for Formula One 2021? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.