It was a mixed day at the office for the Infiniti Red Bull Racing drivers at Singapore. Despite both drivers placing inside the top five in both sessions, Sebastian Vettel’s day was troubled, with yet another engine change required after a loss of oil pressure. Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest during Saturday’s second free practice after finishing fifth in FP1.
Ricciardo placed inside the top five in both free practice sessions at Marina Bay, but feels the Mercedes team are still just out of reach for Red Bull here. He was surprised at the time difference on the tyres, but knows that getting the best out of each compound is imperative for the team to have a good race on Sunday.
“I’ve got a feeling Mercedes probably have a bit more in the bag,” said Ricciardo. “I saw Hamilton is about three tenths up the road and Rosberg was improving and then he caught the red flag or the yellow flag so I don’t know, I think they’ve got a bit more in the tank. I think we do too, but probably not enough to get on par with them yet, but hopefully a good night of homework will pay off tomorrow.
“I wasn’t expecting such a big difference between the tyres, it just doesn’t seem the prime is working as well, the supersoft seems normal but the prime is tricky to turn on so that’s making it a bit hard. The tyres are going to make a big difference in the race – to be quick on the tyre is one thing, but to make it last more laps is another and that could save you doing an extra pit stop in the race.”
Vettel’s second session was hampered by an oil pressure loss that meant the mechanics had to change the engine, but in the ten minutes he was able to get on track at the end of the day, he was able to set the fifth fastest time after being fourth in the first session.
“Was today unlucky,” asked Vettel. “I don’t believe in good luck and bad luck. I think we did a lot in the last few years that was right and we weren’t just lucky then; this year it’s a bit different and we have had some problems, but that’s part of life. We have overcome the troubles that we have had and it’s progressively getting better.
“In terms of pace it’s looking good this weekend. It was important to get a good feel on the supersoft tyre. The mechanics were pushing hard and changed the engine in less than three hours after FP1, which is a massive job, so thanks to them that I was able to get out in the second session.”
Vettel’s engine change means that the threat of a grid-penalty for introducing a sixth engine to his car becomes even more likely, with Renault’s head of trackside operations Remi Taffin admitting it was likely in the next few races.
“We had to stop the engine because we had an oil pressure loss,” said Taffin. “Obviously it affected the ICE [internal combustion engine]. We still need to check, but it is lost.
“The engine was at something like half-life, so it was quite a surprise and quite a shame, because we still had a small chance to go through the season without introducing a sixth unit. With this failure, we will have to commit to a sixth ICE. It is now a question of where we are going to strategically introduce it, instead of how we are going to avoid it.”