Seemingly in a class of their own on Friday, the stage is set for another almighty clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton this weekend in Singapore.
Say what you will about Charles Leclerc and Ferrari’s triumphs in Belgium and Italy, they at least provided us with a reprieve from the hysteria that gripped the F1 world after Germany and Hungary – alas, the reprieve seems over. “Max v Lewis” is back.
The two best drivers with the two best high-downforce cars, it really isn’t that much of a surprise that Hamilton and Verstappen have set the early standard here in Singapore, but what is surprising is the margin by which they have already separated themselves. Two tenths is all that separates one from the other, while the next closest runner, Sebastian Vettel, couldn’t even get within six tenths, with their own teammates even farther back.
That said, as close as Verstappen is over one lap, even he has some work to do to match Hamilton’s absolutely blistering pace on the soft-tyre race sims. Over six laps, the Briton averaged a 1:45.027, while the Dutchman’s five-lap stint was only good for a 45.869, even if it was comfortably second-fastest. More than his rival, Verstappen will need pole if he is to win here in Marina Bay, although the times suggest that even with the lead on the grid, he’ll have a hard time keeping it.
0.634 seconds. Gap between Verstappen in second and Sebastian Vettel in third in FP2. If this is to be anything other than a two-horse race, the field have some serious catching-up to do.
0.467 seconds. Speaking of, the gap between P4 Valtteri Bottas and P9 Lando Norris. I wonder how much this is due to Bottas, Alex Albon and Charles Leclerc all struggling, and how much it is due to Nico Hulkenberg and both McLarens overperforming?
€5000. Fine levied on Mercedes for having a fuel temperature of 20.3°C on Lewis Hamilton’s car, which is more than the allowed 10° from the ambient temp, which an hour before FP1 was 32. As far as fines go, that a pretty big one – I just hope they can still afford some Singaporean noodles.
I don’t know what’s more surprising: the sudden speculation Daniel Ricciardo could be headed to Ferrari in 2021, or that Eddie Jordan didn’t start it. Either way, it would be incredible if Vettel was pushed out the door by the guy who (you could argue) did it already at Red Bull.
What to make of Sergio Perez nearly running Kevin Magnussen into the wall in FP2? Unintentional as it was, I’d say he was lucky to escape with just a reprimand.
Fantastic to hear Juan Manuel Correa is out of his induced coma, still a long way to go, but a big step in the right direction.