Friday Practice: Red Bull Confirm pace as Mercedes fail to have a Smooth Session

Whilst Rosberg did top FP2, Mercedes were unable to convert a smooth practice session today. The German driver crashed all by himself in FP1 and Lewis Hamilton suffered a hydraulic failure in FP2. 

Red Bull had a good run in both practice sessions with Verstappen fastest in FP1 and both drivers were able to complete their schedules without issue. Both drivers have accumulated more data than the Mercedes drivers so far. Ferrari were also in the mix with Raikkonen 2nd in FP2 but both cars looked to have a looser rear than either driver would have wanted.

Rosberg’s 1:44:152 was the fastest in FP2 and was set on a fresh set of the Purple-walled Ultrasoft compound. On tyres, Red Bull and Ferrari were matching Mercedes on the long runs, so again, Mercedes’ one-lap pace will be handy in Qualifying but the race on Sunday will be much tighter.

Elsewhere, Toro Rosso have suggested that they are on for points after a great FP2 saw Sainz finish 8th and Kvyat 10th. The chassis of the STR11 is very strong and the 1500 lights along the Marina Bay circuit illuminated this. The power-deficit has been negated and both drivers will be eyeing points.

McLaren had a Friday of attrition. Jenson Button rolled to an early halt in FP1 with a loss of power and Alonso’s gearbox failed as the checkered flag emerged in FP2. Hopefully that’s McLaren’s attrition for the weekend out of the way because the last circuit they want to retire on is this one. Button has claimed that the team have the 4th best chassis, so as long as the cars endure, the gap to the threats of Toro Rosso and Haas behind should increase. Alonso registered 9th with Button 12th.

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Grosjean didn’t even get out in FP1 and opted to play poker instead as his car was harvested by humid, tired mechanics. For FP2, Grosjean’s Haas pirouetted at the final corner and smashed into the barriers. The rear wing of his car was completely scrapped. If we were his mechanics, we’d have curled up into a ball of self-desolation at this point.

Williams were always going to struggle here, but the advantage of their Constructor rivals Force India will only add salt to the wound. Massa and Bottas finished FP2 14th and 15th whilst Nico Hulkenberg hooked up a strong lap for 6th. Perez was 11th, focusing on longer tyre stints no doubt…

Friday practice has seen no clear leader heading into tomorrow with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari all looking like potential race winners. The big surprise is the competitiveness of Toro Rosso and it will be interesting to see if they can reduce their 3-point deficit to McLaren in the Constructors.