Friday, 25 September 2009

Vettel heads Alonso in practice

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel clocked the quickest lap of Friday practice for the Singapore Grand Prix as minor crashes interrupted each session at Marina Bay.

The German posted one minute 48.650 seconds in the faster second session ahead of Renault's Fernando Alonso.

Rubens Barrichello topped the first at dusk ahead of his Brawn team-mate and championship leader Jenson Button.

Renault's Romain Grosjean and then Red Bull's Mark Webber crashed out on the dusty street circuit.

The first session was red-flagged for 10 minutes half-way through after Grosjean lost control of his Renault and crashed at Turn 17.

The Frenchman's mishap was laden with irony as it was at the same point where former Renault driver Nelson Piquet Jr was ordered to crash last year, the controversial race-fixing incident which saw Renault recently handed a suspended disqualification from the sport.

We're here to do the best job we can as normal, keep our heads down, and put everything that's happened in the past few weeks behind us

Acting Renault team boss Bob Bell
Third fastest as the sun dropped and darkness descended in the first session, Webber was running aggressively at the top of the timesheets around the hour mark during the second before he crashed head on into a wall on the pit straight.

That meant that despite finishing sixth under the lights the Australian, who has faded somewhat from the championship battle in recent races, lost running time and only managed 14 laps.

"It was simply driver error," Red Bull team boss Christian Horner told BBC Sport.

Alonso, who won the now-infamous Singapore race in 2008, was fourth fastest in the first session.

Little is ever read into the order of drivers on the timesheets, but practice is important for teams as they attempt to discover their best set-up for qualifying and the race.

The Marina Bay street circuit, which hosted F1's first-ever night race last year, has also been slightly realigned so drivers were getting used to the track adjustments.

Along with Grosjean's incident, Kovalainen and Force India's Adrian Sutil also spun on the concrete dust in the first session but drivers gained more grip as more rubber went down on the track throughout the day.

In-form Barrichello - who trails Button by 14 points in the drivers' championship with 40 available for the remainder of the season - set a best almost two tenths of a second ahead of Button in the slower first session.

Like many teams coming into the 14th race of 2009, the Brawn cars were running with a moderately updated package - and it appeared to pay dividends earlier in the day for a team fresh from securing a one-two at the Italian GP.

Purely by coincidence, this weekend's grand prix marks the first race since Renault were handed their suspended qualification for what occurred in Singapore last year - and it saw the French team with a new-look management team.

Bob Bell, now acting team principal for Renault having replaced disgraced former boss Flavio Briatore, said it was important to move on from the scandal which had engulfed F1 in recent weeks as they returned to the scene of their wrongdoing.

"It's going to be an interesting weekend for the team," he said. "We're here to do the best job we can as normal, keep our heads down, and put everything that's happened in the past few weeks behind us.

"We've always tried to structure the team so that if people do disappear for whatever reason we can recover.

"Fernando likes this track, he's confident and I think he can do a good job here."

The third and final practice session starts at 1200 BST on Saturday before qualifying takes place at 1500 BST.

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