Alonso fifth and Raikkonen seventh sounds like the norm this season, but it hides the fact that yesterday’s qualifying was exciting for everyone and one with several positives for Scuderia Ferrari.
There were moments during the 240 total minutes of free practice here in Singapore, when it looked as though the 2014 season’s established order of things might be upset this weekend, with Fernando Alonso putting his F14 T at the top of the time sheet in two of the three sessions, while his Scuderia Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was quickest come the end of the first 18 minutes of this evening’s qualifying around the Marina Bay street circuit.
However, there was always a suggestion that the usual front-runners were sandbagging, holding something back for when it mattered and so it proved.
When the final chequered flag was waved, at the end of what was the most exciting qualifying of the year, Fernando Alonso found himself fifth on the grid. As he said himself after the session, “we are always around fifth.” But he was pleased with what was in many ways the best qualifying session of the year for the Prancing Horse, as his time was only two tenths off the pole man’s. That honour, for the sixth time this year went to Lewis Hamilton, who beat his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg by just seven thousandths of a second. That makes it the most closely contested pole since Sebastian Vettel beat our own Fernando Alonso by just two thousandths to take pole in the 2010 German Grand Prix.
Separating the silver arrows from the Spaniard’s F14 T today and occupying the second row of the grid for today’s fourteenth round of the season are the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo in third and Sebastian Vettel in fourth.
The team that appeared to have underperformed slightly yesterday was Williams, with Felipe Massa lining up sixth alongside Fernando for today’s race. He finished ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who had to abort his second run because of a technical problem: a great shame as the Finn has been in great shape all weekend, which we hope will see him fight his way up the order today.
The big difference in lap times between the Soft and Supersoft Pirellis means the general expectation has switched from a two to a three stop race today, with the Option tyre expected to be used the most. It will make for a fascinating tactical battle, with teams prepared to adjust their strategies at a moment’s notice if the Safety Car continues its 100% appearance record at this race.
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