Nico Hülkenberg was feeling positive after Friday’s track running at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, with the German ending inside the top eight in both free practice sessions.
The Renault F1 Team driver, currently without a seat in Formula 1 in 2020 after the announcement earlier this month that Esteban Ocon would be replacing him next season, ended sixth fastest in the afternoon session before closing the day with the eighth fastest time in the evening.
Hülkenberg admitted there were some concerns about the pace of the R.S.19 over the longer runs but there is scope to improve before race day, and he hopes to be in contention for a points finish on Sunday evening under the lights in Singapore.
“It’s always tricky in Singapore as it’s a busy circuit and very humid,” said Hülkenberg. “I felt at home on the low fuel runs and I had a good rhythm with the car doing what I wanted.
“The long runs seem to be more challenging at this stage and I struggled a bit in FP2. We’ll investigate that and see what’s going on. Apart from that, it was an okay Friday with no big issues.
“As expected, it will be tight this weekend, but we have a competitive package to fight for points.”
Team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finished outside the top ten in both sessions, ending seven-tenths of a second shy of Hülkenberg in the first session and just under half a second down in the second. The Australian feels he will be able to find that pace when it matters, and Hülkenberg’s pace confirms that there is decent speed in the R.S.19 this weekend.
“Today seemed to go alright,” said Ricciardo. “I have a bit to find on short runs but I’m not too worried. I know we’ll find some pace quite easily, it’s just some small things.
“The long runs seemed a bit more positive. The car was certainly there, but I just need to put it all together. We’ll work on that tonight and analyse the data. Nico was well in the top ten all day so it shows the potential of the car.
“I knew this would be trickier than Monza, but we’re not in bad shape.”
Marcin Budkowski, the Executive Director at Renault, says getting both cars into the top ten shootout for Qualifying is the aim on Saturday, while on Sunday it will be to get Pirelli’s tyres to last for a full stint, something they will continue to work on during final practice on Saturday afternoon.
“It was a productive Friday for the team,” said Budkowski. “We got through our programme as planned without any particular issues. We had decent pace on the Soft tyre and we look in good shape for qualifying.
“Our long runs were trickier here and it’s going to be a case of getting the tyres to last. We have data to work through to identify the right strategy which will, of course, depend on our qualifying tyre and position.
“Both cars will be close and it will be a competitive fight in qualifying, where we’re targeting Q3.”