Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest in practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, with the Brawns and McLarens also looking dangerous and Fernando Alonso giving the beleaguered Renault team some good news with the second-fastest time.
But any hopes that the appearance of cars on the dusty street circuit would finally help F1 move on from last year’s fake crash scandal ended when Romain Grosjean, replacement for the disgraced Nelson Piquet, stirred up the memories by hitting the wall at the same corner.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh echoed the views of many when he suggested the race could see a return to a battle between the early-season leaders: “It certainly looks like the cars setting the benchmark here are the Brawns and the Red Bulls.”
In the first session a Brawn/Red Bull/McLaren 1-6 was gatecrashed by Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who set the fourth-fastest time behind Barrichello, Button and Webber and ahead of Vettel, Kovalainen and Hamilton.
Kovalainen and Webber briefly led, but Button set most of the running and was only topped by his team-mate at the very end of the session, which was red-flagged for a while after Grosjean’s turn 17 crash.
Session two was significantly faster, with the top 15 cars all beating Barrichello’s 1:50.179 mark from the first run. Vettel’s 1:48.650 was top, with his team-mate Webber retaining sixth despite a heavy crash that ended his day and brought out a red flag.
Alonso, Kovalainen and Heidfeld were next, with fifth-place Button and ninth-place Hamilton hitting traffic while on fast runs. Barrichello was 11th.
Ross Brawn said he was pleased with the two sessions: “Both Jenson and Rubens are feeling comfortable with the car and the reliable running throughout both sessions has provided us with a wealth of data to study into the early hours of the morning. This is a circuit which should suit our car provided we get the balance and set-up right for qualifying tomorrow.”
Button said he was pleased to be back in Singapore: “Everyone is really enjoying the challenge of the night race and adjusting to our different working hours. We had a pretty full-on evening with a busy programme of set-up evaluations and tyre testing.
“This venue is a tough one with the heat and humidity to contend with and the nature of the circuit and the closeness of the barriers demanding your total concentration. The key is achieving consistently quick laps and that’s what we’ve been working on today. The car feels reasonable and with some more work later tonight, we should be ready for a good weekend.”
Hamilton said: “I’m still lacking some speed in certain areas, so I need to work on that. The sessions were a little up and down for me today – I didn’t have any major problems, but I wasn’t as fast as I’d hoped to be.
“Today’s not the important day though, and when the track gets a bit cleaner tomorrow, we’ll have a better understanding of the tyres. The main thing for us is to analyse the data, try and improve the car and find some more time for tomorrow.”
Whitmarsh added: “Like most street circuits, the track surface is invariably not in great shape on the opening day of practice – and today was no exception. The heavy traffic and red flag stoppages in each session didn’t help our progress through the day.”
Practice two times
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:48.650 (31 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:48.924 (27 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren 1:48.952 (30 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:49.098 (31 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn: 1:49.311 (34 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:49.317 (14 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:49.333 (33 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:49.342 (30 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:49.358 (28 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW-Sauber: 1:49.609 (24 laps)
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn: 1:49.616 (30 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:49.710 (23 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:49.795 (29 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:49.941 (29 laps)
- Kajuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:50.023 (34 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari: 1:50.253 (31 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:50.527 (29 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:50.605 (28 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:50.972 (17 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:51.423 (31 laps)
Practice one times
- Rubens Barrichello, Brawn GP: 1:50.179 (19 laps)
- Jenson Button, Brawn GP: 1:50.356 (22 laps)
- Mark Webber, Red Bull: 1:50.416 (21 laps)
- Fernando Alonso, Renault: 1:50.567 (16 laps)
- Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull: 1:50.614 (16 laps)
- Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren: 1:50.699 (21 laps)
- Lewis Hamilton, McLaren: 1:50.715 (17 laps)
- Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber: 1:50.815 (15 laps)
- Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari: 1:50.865 (19 laps)
- Kazuki Nakajima, Williams: 1:51.089 (25 laps)
- Nico Rosberg, Williams: 1:51.427 (23 laps)
- Adrian Sutil, Force India: 1:51.544 (14 laps)
- Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso: 1:51.643 (28 laps)
- Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber: 1:51.656 (15 laps)
- Timo Glock, Toyota: 1:52.083 (20 laps)
- Jarno Trulli, Toyota: 1:52.135 (20 laps)
- Giancarlo Fisichella Ferrari: 1:52.390 (24 laps)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India: 1:52.905 (23 laps)
- Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso: 1:53.232 (24 laps)
- Romain Grosjean, Renault: 1:53.458 (9 laps)