Though, like many of his Formula 1 colleagues, he may retain his reservations about the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix to be held this weekend, Fernando Alonso did not let his concerns hold him back as he stormed to the top of the timesheets during second free practice around the all-new Marina Bay Street Circuit on the opening day of action.
Having lapped seventh-quickest in the morning, the former double F1 World Champion saw off both 2008 title challengers Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa to steal the top spot later on - and professed himself pleased with early progress.
“The first day of work went well,” the 27-year-old remarked. “The circuit is interesting – very bumpy in places, especially into turn 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 300km/h some parts of the track are a bit dark. Despite that, this is an amazing opportunity for the spectators to attend a night race and I am satisfied with my day.”
Team-mate Nelsinho Piquet lapped four tenths of a second adrift of the Spaniard in the morning running, but having barely improved his time in the afternoon session – ultimately winding up some 1.5 seconds shy of the sister R28 – the Brazilian rookie admitted he still had 'a bit of work to do'.
“It was an interesting experience to drive during the night,” the 23-year-old affirmed, “and the organisers have done a remarkable job to make this possible. The behaviour of the car felt good and it reacted well to the different set-up options that we tried. We still have a bit of work to do ahead of qualifying, but the first signs are encouraging.”
As Renault and Toyota's fraught battle over the coveted and highly lucrative fourth position in the final constructors' standings hits top gear with four races left to run – the two teams currently tied on 41 points apiece, with the momentum, it would seem, very much in the former's favour – the Enstone-based concern's executive director of engineering Pat Symonds knows that from hereon in every point will count, and with interest.
“It is always exciting to come to a new track,” the Englishman acknowledged, “and the spectacle in Singapore is even better than I had imagined. It is a really exciting new era for Formula 1, and I'd like to congratulate all of those who have made 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 1980s. Our cars and drivers seemed to be pretty competitive, so let's see what [Saturday] brings us.”
“Our first day has gone smoothly,” agreed the Régie's
head of engine track operations Denis Chevrier, “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 [on Saturday].”