Ferrari might have found its preparations for the 2010 edition of the night-time Singapore Grand Prix this weekend frustrated by reliability issues for Fernando Alonso during Friday practice, but the Scuderia was nonetheless encouraged to note that it is 'on the pace' – and primed to challenge.
Having kept their powder dry during the wet/dry FP1 session – with Alonso just eleventh on the timing screens and team-mate Felipe Massa a lowly 18th – the two scarlet machines featured significantly higher up the order later on in FP2, with the Spaniard looking set to depose Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel from the head of the order when he made a mistake and went straight on up an escape road with just over 20 minutes remaining.
After reversing back onto the track, the double F1 World Champion's F10 then suddenly stopped – what was initially suspected to have been a stall, but transpired to be a gearbox gremlin – curtailing his running on the spot. That consigned the Oviedo native to fourth position at the close, with Massa – never quite on the same pace as the former Singapore Grand Prix-winner, who was fearsomely fast in sector three in particular – three places further back in seventh.
“I braked a bit late at Turn 18 and ended up in the escape road,” reported Alonso. “I selected reverse, but when I then selected first gear to get going again, the car stopped. It's a shame, because I lost the final 20 minutes of the session, the part when I was due to run with a heavy fuel load. In the debrief, the engineers told me the problem was that an experimental part in the gearbox had broken. This can happen on a Friday when you try a lot of things, some of them even aimed at next season.
“Our individual sector times don't seem too bad; in fact, you could say they were quite competitive when compared to our main rivals. We tried the car with and without the blown rear wing; for me, the first option seems to be the best, but we must study the data carefully before taking a definite decision. The hard tyres proved to be consistent, and the softs give more grip than expected. [In FP1] I did not do much running because the track was not dry enough for slick tyres, while the intermediates would have quickly been destroyed.”
“We did a lot of laps to try out different configurations on the car, especially comparing performance with and without the blown rear wing,” added Massa, who annexed pole position in the Far-Eastern city-state two years ago, going on to lead the race comfortably until disaster struck at his pit-stop. “I am not particularly pleased with the balance of the car, and that is another reason why we spent a lot of time on-track in the first session, even when track conditions were not ideal. Especially on the soft tyres, I had a bit too much oversteer.
“There is much work to do, but I think we can be competitive all-the-same, even up against Red Bull who seem to be very strong. The track was very slippery when it was still damp, especially the kerbs and the part that was recently resurfaced. The hard tyres take a while to get up to temperature, which is not the case with the soft ones, although these probably suffer a bit more from degradation.”
One of the major focusses for Ferrari was aerodynamic comparisons, and as the Prancing Horse endeavours to close down and ultimately overturn the current 60-point deficit separating it from championship leaders RBR, team principal Stefano Domenicali acknowledges that everybody needs to be absolutely at the top of their game.
“Despite today's difficulties, we still managed to acquire sufficient data which our engineers can now use to decide on the car set-up for qualifying and the race,” affirmed the Italian. “Friday's times are always difficult to evaluate, and today was no exception. From the little we could see, Red Bull look very strong, as indeed was to be expected, but we are on the pace. Having said that, clearly we will have to perform faultlessly if we want to achieve our objective, starting from qualifying.”