September 20th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel looked ominously fast during second practice for this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix. The championship leader finished the session six tenths of a second clear of Mark Webber in the second Red Bull. The Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton followed, both over a second off the pace.
Vettel's time is vastly quicker than anything at last year's event. He was over two seconds faster than Lewis Hamilton's 2012 pole position time, mostly as a result of the change in track layout at turn 10, where the infamous triple-apex chicane known as the "Singapore Sling" has been replaced by a much smoother, much quicker left-hand corner.
The gap between Vettel and Webber might not be entirely representative. On his first flying lap on the red-marked supersoft tyres, Mark Webber clouted the wall with his right-rear tyre on the exit of turn 21. Although he was able to continue and finish the lap without seeming to lost too much time, the impact was great enough to release a massive spark as the magnesium wheel made contact with the wall. Normally it's only the tyre that will make contact with the wall if a driver runs slightly wide. For the wheel rim to make contact requires quite a large impact.
After finishing that lap, which was almost over anyway, Webber coasted back to the pits to have the wheel checked over. There didn't seem to be any particular damage, but it's likely that his brush with the wall cost Webber at least a small amount of time. He is therefore likely to be closer to Vettel's pace over the rest of the weekend than this session might suggest.
In FP1, it looked like Mercedes might have a small edge over Red Bull, but such ideas evaporated in FP2 as Vettel and Red Bull stamped their authority on the Singapore Grand Prix weekend. Sir Jackie Stewart, commentating for the BBC, observed that Hamilton and Rosberg appeared to be working harder for their lap times, but were over a second off the pace, illustrating that the Red Bull is working very well around the Marina Bay street circuit.
After missing out on much of the first practice session due to a steering rack problem, Romain Grosjean found himself stuck in the Lotus garage again in the early part of FP2, this time with a brake cooling issue. But he eventually emerged from the pit lane and managed to complete 18 laps, setting the fifth fastest time in the process, just a fraction behind Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
Fernando Alonso followed in sixth place for Ferrari. If he is to keep his championship hopes alive, Alonso will be looking to find plenty of speed overnight, as his Ferrari is currently very far off the pace of Red Bull and championship leader Vettel. Alonso's team-mate, Felipe Massa, was only 15th fastest, but his lap times suggest that he was probably running a reasonable amount of fuel throughout the session.
Jenson Button followed in seventh place, after having some issues early on with front tyre locking and understeer. In the other McLaren, Sergio Perez set the tenth fastest time, a quarter of a second behind his team-mate. The McLarens were split by the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen in 8th and the Force India of Adrian Sutil, who had a competitive FP2 after being only 16th fastest in FP1.
Pastor Maldonado became the first F1 driver of the weekend to do any meaningful damage to his car on track. Maldonado made an error under braking and ran wide onto the dirty part of the track. He was able to slow down quite significantly before meeting the wall, but the impact was enough to break his front wing. He made it back to the pits and, after a nose change, returned to the track and set the 18th fastest time, just behind his team-mate, Valtteri Bottas.
Full results from FP2:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:44.249||34|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:44.853||0.604||30|
|9||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:46.002||1.753||27|
|13||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:46.606||2.357||33|
|19||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:49.434||5.185||34|