Singapore: Friday Recap
Fernando Alonso drove his Renault round to the fastest time of the second session, although his best time did not beat the best lap set in the early evening session by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton was second quickest in the session with his World Championship rival Felipe Massa third fastest and Heikki Kovalainen fourth in the second McLaren. The second Ferrari driver, World Champion Kimi Raikkonen, was seventh behind both Nico Rosberg's Williams-Toyota and the BMW Sauber of Robert Kubica.
Fernando Alonso finished his day by topping the late session timesheets, but championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa's first session times remained faster. Nelson Piquet did a similar lap time in both 90 minute sessions, and was P12 at the end of the latter.
Felipe Massa (3rd, 1:45.793): "A positive day. This is only the start of the weekend and there is still a lot of work to do, but we have got off on the right foot. The car is handling well, especially on the harder tires, but we know track conditions will improve so it is too early to draw conclusions. Visibility is not a problem. The entry and exit to the pit lane could turn out to be a bit critical in the race. In general, the track surface has a lot of grip but in some points there are some bumps that are a bit of a pain. I think we will be competitive: whether we will be more or less so than our rivals, I cannot yet say. It is a street circuit which means you have to concentrate all the time as there is no margin for error."
Kimi Raikkonen (7th, 1:46.580): "The visibility is great and you don't really feel you are driving at night with all the lights on the track. In general I like the track although some parts are too bumpy. The entry and exit to the pit lane are pretty difficult and we will have to be very careful. At the start of the day, we had a well balanced car and then, in the afternoon, we tried a modification to the front end that we had tried at the Mugello test last week, but it did not produce the effect we hoped for, but there was not enough time to switch back. Overall, I think we will be competitive. Overtaking? I don't think we will see much, as usual in fact."
Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal: "Definitely a different Friday to usual: the timetable and the on track action taking place under artificial lighting gave it a really special atmosphere. Overall, this has been a positive day. We acquired a lot of data which we must analyze to be as well prepared as possible for qualifying and the race. From what we saw today, and taking into account the usual unknowns on a Friday, we should be competitive compared to our closest rivals."
Luca Baldisserri, Head of Trackside Operations: "Running under these lighting conditions and to this time schedule has been a very interesting experience. From a strictly technical point of view, it was a normal Friday, dedicated to finding the best set-up and comparing the two types of tire available. In general, the F2008 seems pretty well balanced on this track. In the second session, on Kimi's car, we tried some settings we had tested last week at Mugello, which apparently do not seem to offer much in the way of performance. However, we must analyze the data carefully, before reaching any definite conclusions. At some points on the track, the curbs make driving very demanding, which can be seen from the fact that there were quite a few spins and off track excursions. Also, the entry and exit to the pit lane have to be approached with caution both by those using them and the cars out on track."
Robert Kubica (6th, 1:46.384): "As expected the track is quite demanding - not only for the driver but also for the car. You are always going round corners and the surface is very bumpy, especially in two or three places. It is very important to have a stable car here as you can easily lose a lot of time in several corners. On the first lap I got used to the track and, as I was going at a good pace immediately, we were then able to start working on the set-up. In the second session we did the tire comparison. Now we have to analyze the data and see what we have to change for tomorrow."
Nick Heidfeld (16th, 1:47.760): "Overall I had a good first practice day here, although my fastest lap from the second session doesn't give that impression. The track is a lot of fun. It is much more of a street circuit than the new track in Valencia and is more challenging. Here it's significantly narrower. When I walked the track on Wednesday night the straights appeared relatively long, but that's not the case when you fly along at F1 speed. I found it easy to get used to the light. After one or two laps you forget it is artificial, although the brightness isn't exactly the same everywhere. Bumps are an issue, and there are plenty! I have no problem adapting to the rhythm and turning night into day. I just stay awake long enough and then sleep until lunchtime so I can be fit in the late evenings."
Willy Rampf, Technical Director: "This was a good start to what will become the most exceptional race weekend of the year. The atmosphere is fantastic, the style of the place is unique. Both drivers needed a few laps to familiarize themselves with the new circuit, and then, as usual, we were concentrating on race preparation. We have been doing some set up changes and will be analyzing all the data tonight."
Fernando Alonso (1st, 1:45.654): "The first day of work has gone well. The circuit is interesting, very bumpy in places, especially into turn number seven, and we have to keep an eye on that because it can become a problem. In terms of the lighting, when I walked the track I was impressed, but behind the wheel at 300 km/h some parts of the track are a bit dark. But despite that, this is an amazing opportunity for the spectators to attend a night race and I am satisfied with my day."
Nelson Piquet (12th, 1:47.145): "It was an interesting experience to drive today during the night and the organizers have done a remarkable job to make this possible. The behavior of the car felt good and it reacted well to the different set-up options that we tried. However, we still have a bit of work to do ahead of qualifying tomorrow, but the first signs are encouraging."
Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "It is always exciting to come to a new track and the spectacle in Singapore is even better than I imagined. It is a really exciting new era for Formula 1 and I'd like to congratulate all of those who make it possible. The circuit itself is almost as we expected, although much bumpier than what we have experienced before. It reminds me of the North American circuits in the 1980's. Having said that, our cars and drivers seemed to be pretty competitive this evening. Let's see what tomorrow brings us."
Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "Our first day has gone smoothly, which proves that we were well prepared coming here. We made the most of the track time available to evaluate some different settings and, as for any new circuit, we have concentrated on cooling, fuel consumption and the gear ratios. The results from the two sessions are therefore encouraging and we hope to continue in the same way tomorrow."
Nico Rosberg (5th, 1:46.164): "In general I think we can be quite happy with our performance today. We have started well and I feel quite confident that we can have a good weekend. Of course there is some way to go to see how we will shape up with the competition around us. As far as the track is concerned, it is a lot of fun to drive but it is however incredibly bumpy, so much so you could even get a headache. But, importantly, the track is safe and the visibility under the lights is absolutely fine. The organizers have done an amazing job and I think everybody will have a great weekend."
Kazuki Nakajima (9th, 1:47.013): "It's a very tough track, hot and bumpy, probably the bumpiest track surface we encounter all season. As a consequence, I think it will be a pretty demanding race. The grip level is not at all bad, maybe a little low at the moment, but by the time we get into qualifying and the race, the track will have rubbered in well. In the second session I had a bit of a moment as I made contact with the wall, but fortunately the damage was minor and I could complete the planned program. Looking ahead, I know exactly the places on the track where I need to improve and I will have a good go at this tomorrow."
Sam Michael, Technical Director: "Today's two practice sessions were a good first chance to run in night time conditions. We worked through all of our planned program. The only real issue we encountered was damage to the bargeboards on both cars due to the curbs, but beyond that we had no issues with all of the aspects to a new track and running under artificial light. In conclusion, it looks like a great circuit and it will be a new and interesting challenge for the rest of the weekend."
Mark Webber (11th, 1:47.137): "It's a nice track, they've done a good job with it. My first session was much too short, as I got into the little chicane a bit too hot and hit the wall. I should have gone down the escape road, but hindsight is a great thing! I damaged the front right corner and also the steering rack, which gave the guys a lot of work to do in a short space of time. I owe them one. Even though we lost a lot of track time, I feel we've made a reasonable recovery. There's still quite a bit of work to do, but at least I've now got a good idea about the circuit. Running at night seems okay, but I might make a few tweaks to my visor and tear-offs."
David Coulthard (15th, 1:47.640): "It's like the cobbled streets of Paris and very unforgiving, I think there will be a lot of incidents during the race. Unlike Valencia, which was a smooth circuit with very good curbs, the curbs here are very aggressive, especially at turn ten. We've already seen a few people having incidents this morning and I think we'll see more of the same story during the weekend. We've been playing around with the set-up of the car and the biggest influence at the moment is the tires and getting the tires to come in, in order to get a clear lap."
Timo Glock (10th, 1:47.046): "They were both quite difficult sessions for me today. The track is really bumpy and the car is quite tricky to handle at the moment. It was a different experience driving in the lights and the whole track is a bit unusual. At the end of second practice I just lost the car when I hit a curb and that was it, I made contact with the barrier. But that didn't affect our program and overall we got through a lot of work today, so it was successful in that sense. So far I am not totally happy with the car and we have quite a lot to improve but I will sit down with my engineers and I'm sure we will make progress before qualifying. We will see how it goes tomorrow."
Jarno Trulli (19th, 1:48.059): "We have been improving gradually throughout the two sessions. We are trying to find the right set-up and we have changed quite a lot on the car. It is really bumpy out there and I struggled a little bit with driving at night because there are some dark spots which make it a bit harder than normal. To be honest the circuit is not particularly challenging for a driver because it is mainly made up of 90° corners but I hope it will be a good spectacle for the fans. In first practice unfortunately I had a spin at the last corner and I wanted to move off the racing line as safely as possible, so I decided to go down the pit lane. I took the quickest and safest option available to me and the other cars. I have been penalized and I accept that but I know I did the safest thing for me and the other drivers - it is one of the quickest corners on the track and you don't want to have a crash there."
Dieter Gass, Chief Race Engineer: "We should say congratulations to the organizers who have prepared a fantastic facility here. I think it is going to be a very exciting race; it is the first time Formula 1 will race in the night and all the ingredients are there for an interesting weekend. In general the track is a bit bumpier than we expected so that is something we have to adapt to and that situation is the same for everybody. In terms of running at night, we had no real issues, although the drivers were commenting that there were some areas which were a bit darker than expected, but in general it was fine. Today the track was evolving throughout, as you would expect with a new street circuit like this. Obviously it was very dirty in the beginning but then it rubbered in. We still have some work to do on the set-ups before qualifying, but we got through a lot of work today so we have plenty of data to study."
Sebastian Vettel (13th, 1:47.300): "Visibility is not a problem. Some places are darker than others and it's good fun. The track is very difficult, but unfortunately the surface is very bumpy which does not make life easy. It is tough and demanding for both car and driver. As for my car, I'm not happy yet as it feels very loose and I don't think we will have an easy time. So tonight we must work hard to improve it and hopefully make a step forward tomorrow."
Sebastien Bourdais (14th, 1:47.487): "There are no worries about running under the lights and I even ran with a lightly smoked visor. There are hardly any shadows and you can see very well. It's a very nice track but unfortunately, the quick parts are the bumpiest and so we are having to run the cars quite high, which obviously reduces performance. Globally the car is not too bad and today we have been trying to find the best set-up and assess the two types of tire."
Jenson Button (8th, 1:46.901): "It's been a very strange day of testing tonight! You would expect the conditions to be cooler but this has to be one of the hottest Fridays that we've ever had and it's just so humid. The circuit is interesting to drive and it's very bumpy which adds to the excitement as the bumps bounce the car all over the place. We spent both sessions trying to improve the ride quality and balance of the car by testing many different things and the outcome was largely positive. We didn't get the best out of the car on my final run with the new tires, due to too much understeer, but it was still nice to end up eighth quickest. All in all, a good start to the weekend and I'm sure there is still a lot more to come."
Rubens Barrichello (18th, 1:48.009): "We worked really hard today but unfortunately our practice was compromised as the car was bouncing and touching the ground so much. I was a passenger for the second session really as we could not resolve the problem, despite trying many different solutions. The layout of the circuit is quite good but it is very bumpy which has been the cause of the problems with our car. The lighting is quite bright although there seems to be a dark spot at Turn 5. Visibility is not a problem although it may be more tricky if it rains."
Steve Clark, Head of Race & Test Engineering: "We have endeavored to make the schedule as normal as possible by staying more or less on European time. It's just a little strange when you look at your watch! The heat and humidity is tough but as always this improves as you become accustomed to the conditions. The true test came in between the sessions today following Rubens' small accident in the closing stages of FP1. We normally have the 'luxury' of a 2½ hour interval to make any repairs or set-up changes. Here in Singapore, the schedule affords just a one hour break and it was a race against time in fierce humidity for the mechanics to make the necessary changes to the car. Rubens missed only 15 minutes of the second session, so congratulations to the team on a great turnaround. We have done some a lot of good work in race trim today because brake wear and temperatures can be an issue at this type of track. We would like to have a clearer view of tires and set-up for qualifying and the race at this stage, but in reality we will have to be very careful with the evolving track conditions as things change significantly between now and Sunday. We will need to stay sharp and respond quickly as the track develops."
Giancarlo Fisichella (17th, 1:47.965): "I feel very positive about the new circuit. It is very challenging and difficult to learn and especially to feel confident. It's a very physical circuit, very twisty, and it's hot and humid so I think it will be tough on Sunday. It's interesting to run at night. It doesn't make that much difference for us to be honest on the track, but it's a different routine and having a free morning and then practice at 7pm was really good. Today was generally okay, apart from the gearbox problem we had on the first run in the second session, but not too bad a start for the weekend."
Adrian Sutil (20th, 1:48.311): "It's a really beautiful circuit here and a great place to visit. It's a very physical track as the humidity is so high - it's very much like Malaysia in that respect. There were also several bumps, probably more than at any other circuit, and sometimes it actually hurt when I was driving, particularly my legs as they crashed into the monocoque over some bumps. The whole race will be really hard. There's not very much room for error here, the walls are very close so you need to be very careful not to get too much oversteer on the exit. I really enjoyed it today."
Mike Gascoyne, Chief Technical Officer: "Congratulations to the circuit and the city for putting on such a fantastic venue. It was a very interesting first day. Obviously the circuit was new and dirty but rubbered in during the day. The drivers had no real problems in the first session, but unfortunately Giancarlo's car developed a gearbox problem in the second practice and he had to stop early. Adrian was able to complete his full program of tire and set-up evaluation and overall we have lots of data for tomorrow."
Lewis Hamilton (2nd, 1:45.752): What are your first impressions of the circuit? "Through certain corners there was lots of bottoming, and when you hit a bump it would throw the car around quite a bit - but it's an amazing venue." Were the lights a distraction? "No, they weren't an issue for me." Was it difficult to learn the circuit? "On my first proper run, I managed to find a half-decent line - but the car was still bottoming in places. I was able to get more comfortable with the car; on first impressions, there seems to be quite a lot of grip on the track, so you can brake quite late into the slower corners." Is any part of the track particularly memorable? "It's a very physical circuit - more than I expected, actually. You need to put a lot of work into the car to get a good lap - I'd say it requires double the energy of Monaco over a single lap. One lap around here is like two laps of Monaco!"
Heikki Kovalainen (4th, 1:45.797): How did you find your first laps driving in the dark? "To be honest, racing under the lights wasn't really a problem. The track was quite bumpy. Perhaps we should also look at the pit entry - it could be quite difficult if a driver decides to pull into the pits at the last minute. However, everything else about the track is fine." What was the visibility like? "The visibility was fine, to be honest - I don't think it really makes any difference for the drivers. Same with the bumps, we'll get used to them very fast." Was there one part of the track that was difficult to learn? "Not really, this place has got some difficult corners but I quite like all the sectors. It was quite a busy session today and the traffic made it a bit difficult to pull a clear lap together but it feels good when you get it right." And the turn ten chicane? "It's fine."
Ron Dennis, Team Principal: "From a procedural point of view, today was a very encouraging day - which, as usual on a Friday, we spent evaluating race tires. But I want to make a broader point: along with everyone at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the Singaporean government, and to Bernie Ecclestone, and to everyone else who has made this event possible. It's a fantastic circuit, and the added attraction of racing under floodlights has been very well achieved. It feels a little strange to be at the circuit so late, well past midnight in fact, but overall I would describe the advent of night-time grand prix racing as an excellent new development in the ongoing history of Formula 1."
Norbert Haug, Mercedes Motorsport Director: "Atmospherically probably the best pictures ever seen in Formula 1. Here the World Championship does in my view a step forward and interested viewers from all over the world will recognize it in the international television broadcasts. On the track our first day was okay with good lap times during our planned Friday program. Compliments to the organizers, the FOM and Bernie for making this remarkable event happen."
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