Saturday noticebook - Singapore GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Singapore, Marina Bay Street Circuitsg

Following the epic battle between Ferrari and Mercedes at Monza two weeks ago, Formula One left the old continent to continue its exciting show in Singapore. The street circuit with its buzzing atmosphere represents arguably the toughest challenge in the sport due to the heat, humidity and very complicated layout.

Big surprise – Ferrari’s great performance during the qualifying session for the Singapore Grand Prix left Lewis Hamilton puzzled over the current pecking order. Like most in the paddock, the Briton also thought that the characteristics of the Marina Bay Circuit would favour Mercedes and Red Bull as the Scuderia was struggling on similar circuits. The five-time world champion admitted he could not explain the reasons behind Ferrari’s improvements. “I don’t know where they have picked up their pace for a street circuit like this. They’ve obviously done a great job. I don’t really know where we’re losing it, the first sector is a bit of a loss to us, part of it is a straight line but they are able to match us in the middle and the last sector.” When asked about Mercedes’ development programme, Hamilton conceded that his team has not brought any major new parts lately. “We’ve not had an upgrade for a while so maybe when that comes that will help us a little bit. We’ll just keep pushing.”

Within grasp – Sebastian Vettel failed to secure the pole position for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix despite to his promising great first lap during the last qualifying segment. On his second attempt, the German did not feel that comfortable as on his first hot lap because his car was sliding around on several corner exits. The German thinks that he could have matched his teammate’s pole position lap time with a clean lap had he not pushed too hard. “I think the lap time was possible so I thought the first run was good, it was a good reference but I thought that especially in sector three I had quite a bit of lap time in hand and parts in sector two. And then in the last attempt I lost the car a little bit through turn three in sector one and then again in turn nine. From that point onwards I was a little bit down compared to the previous lap,” he said.

Less than expected – Max Verstappen admitted that he expected more from his car as Singapore was supposed to highlight the strengths of the RB15. The Dutchman was happy with the balance of the car, but he was struggling for grip which Red Bull has to look into before the race. Asked about Ferrari’s sudden lift in performance on a high-downforce track which has been the Scuderia’s Achilles heel so far, Verstappen said that he “ didn’t expect Ferrari to be on pole but they did a really good job and we will have to work harder. We came here wanting to fight for the front row and P4 feels a bit disappointing on a track like this where we hoped to be quicker but it was the best we could do and at least we are ahead of one Mercedes.”

Decision sooner than later – Speaking to SkySport, Red Bull advisor dr Helmut Marko confirmed that his team will decide about its driver line-up after the Mexico round. According to the Austrian, Daniil Kvyat will stay at Toro Rosso and the company does not intend to sign a driver outside the current pool of its four drivers, meaning that it will be either Alexander Albon or Pierre Gasly who will drive alongside Max Verstappen in 2020. Based on Albon’s performance during his first two outings with the senior team, the Thai-British driver seems to be the leading contender to occupy the second race seat at Red Bull.

Race against time – On Friday, Juan Manuel Correa’s family announced that the American has taken out of a medically-induced coma. Correa suffered horrific injuries when he collided with Anthoine Hubert during the feature F2 race at Spa, Belgium. The Ecuadorian-American spent the first days after his accident in Belgium before he was transported to a specialist hospital in London. Although the family welcomed the improvements of Juan Manuel’s state of health, it conceded that the 20-year-old is still not completely awake. According to the statement, the driver needs a major leg surgery “in order to minimise risk of irreversible injuries to his right lower extremity but can’t proceed until lungs are ready to withstand a lengthy operation.”

Heavy price for a mistake – Daniel Ricciardo has been disqualified from qualifying for exceeding the power output limit. The Australian secured a strong eighth place for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix, but the stewards discovered through several inspections that the Australian had exceeded his MGU-K power limit in the Q1 segment of qualifying. The Stewards heard from the FIA Technical Delegate and team representatives including the team manager and two of the engineers responsible. The team tried to defend by claiming that the excess was very small and offered no measurable benefit. However, the Stewards decided to disqualify the Australian from the qualifying session based on Article 1.2.2 of the International Sporting Codex which states that “If an Automobile is found not to comply with the applicable technical regulations, it shall be no defense to claim that no performance advantage was obtained.

Multiple plans – After Haas announced the contract extension with Romain Grosjean, the Frenchman admitted that he had been working on different plans to cover any situations. When asked about his plans, the former GP2 champion said that other high-quality championships like Formula E and DTM were also among his favoured options. Grosjean also admitted that he himself pondered about the possibility of leaving Formula One as he has been missing the fights for top positions, something he has not experienced since he drove for Lotus in 2013. “Plan A was Formula 1 and there was a few options there. And then plan B were Formula E and DTM or the both together,” the Frenchman said.