The track of Singapore offers, once again, a good qualifying session, a race on a damp track which, with the very high humidity of the air and the city asphalt, was unable to dry out completely. And so Q1 and Q2 were faced, practically by everyone, on intermediate tires, to then try the slick tire only in Q3 with the track finally starting to dry out. And from the first two fractions came the first surprises of the day in terms of performance, good for the Ferrari. In fact, Leclerc has always found performance, with simplicity and continuity, even on a wet track. The higher temperatures than usual for these conditions (27/28 degrees) helped the F1-75 to quickly find the ideal tire window and from then on Leclerc showed excellent quality of the car, confirming everything seen in free practice. The red number 16 showed with the intermediate tires to be predominant in all the relatively medium speed corners, able to better absorb lateral acceleration, a symptom of a higher load level than the competition, as we have almost always seen this season. Let’s see the comparison between Leclerc and Verstappen in Q2, on intermediate tire in an image taken from the live screen.
The resurfacing of the track seems to have allowed the Maranello team to lower the car to find efficient load and a slightly higher stiffness in the suspension allows the F1-75 to perform better with higher lateral accelerations. At the same time Red Bull confirms many of its strengths seen in the season, with the ability to bring a slightly more aggressive suspension package to the track, apparently a “softer” step compared to the F1-75. This is what you can guess when you see the RB18’s agility in very slow corners, but Ferrari’s prevalence in slightly faster ones. The good news at Ferrari, however, is there competitiveness on intermediate tires, together with a fast and predictable car in general, in contrast to what has been seen in recent races. Many argue that this is due to the relaxation of the TD39 for this appointment. From the outside it is difficult to say, since there is nothing public about the technical directives. However, if it were true that the amendment to the directive for this weekend only concerns the metric of vertical accelerations due to porpoising, then this should not have a fundamental impact on the performance of the F1-75, which, as far as we can understand, is more affected by the limitations to the wear of the bottom have arisen compared to the detection of oscillations. The impression is of a Ferrari that on this particular track has managed to find a good mechanical trim which allowed the tires to function properly.
On a dry track, in Q3, a bit of everything happened. Leclerc, after a good first attempt, made a mistake in his best lap and returned to the pits, convinced that the pole was now lost. Surprisingly, however, neither Perez nor Hamilton managed to beat his time, albeit for a matter of thousandths. Verstappenon the other hand, he found himself in his hands two opportunities to comfortably take the start at the pole (fundamental in Singapore), but he will have to be satisfied only with the eighth place at the start, for the serious double error of the wall, who first asked him to abort a lap in which he was recording partial records, almost 1 second faster than Leclerc’s, and then realized that the number 1 car would not have had enough fuel at the end of the session, recalling Verstappen to the garage when he was closing the last lap with an advantage of about half a second over the Monegasque, and forcing the World Championship leader to a difficult start in eighth place for the race. We have the data of a double comparison of Leclerc’s lap, both with that of Perez and with the one finished in Verstappen’s pits.
Even on soft tires, what was seen on intermediate tires is confirmed a bit. In both cases, it can be seen that Leclerc’s strongest sector has always been the third, where the medium-speed curves (always relative to the track) follow one another non-stop from 16 to 23. Compared to Verstappen it is interesting to note how Leclerc has regularly higher minimum cornering speeds than rival, but is generally less effective on the stopwatch. The much better track conditions found by the Dutchman in the last few laps, together with a Red Bull that had probably found a perfect temperature peak in the tires at the end of the session, allowed Verstappen to regularly register remarkable traction cues as well as a driving with tighter, more effective and direct trajectories, guaranteeing him a better yield in terms of timing. But in this case it is Ferrari to thank for Red Bull’s gratuitous mistake and for a bit of luck regarding the gaps with Perez and Hamilton. There is absolutely no luck, we know it well, but something that resembles it, even if only vaguely, rarely passes through Maranello.
However, the thing that struck us most with respect to what happened in Verstappen is a human aspect of the story. Max has accustomed us to calm and composed reactions throughout the year, and indeed to one coldness particular in the face of adversity. The Dutchman came to Singapore with a 116-point advantage over the competition and the possibility of closing the world championship with 6 races to spare, yet, when called back to the pits, he exploded in a series of utterances of anger, both on the radio, but especially once he got out of the car, to interviews and, reportedly, leaving the paddock prematurely, without even attending the team briefing. It could all be the result of the anger of the moment, but the doubt that comes, without wanting to go too far with empty speculations, is that there is a certain level of tension in the Red Bull house because of the burning matter of the budget cap. If so, however, we will know very soon.
There competition it looks very tough for the drivers and the cars. The chances of rain before or during the Grand Prix are high and making predictions is obviously difficult if not impossible, given the possibility of Safety Car and complicated strategic situations. Leclerc starts, obviously, with the favor of the prediction even if he will have to watch out for the departure from Perez and Hamilton. The latter in particular seems in better shape than ever, the only one able to extract performance from the W13 in mixed conditions compared to a Russell in clear difficulty. Sainz he will in turn try to “invite himself to the party” of the trio in front and could be used strategically by Ferrari to break Hamilton and Perez’s plans towards Leclerc. From behind Verstappen will try to recover, even if he will certainly not have the easy life he had at Spa and Monza, both because Red Bull does not seem to have the same abysmal advantage over everyone shown on those occasions, and because the Singapore track offers very few. overtaking opportunities. The race therefore promises to be interesting and could be full of twists and turns, in an always fascinating setting.
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