Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2013

Gearbox gremlins may be Vettel’s biggest worry

2013 Singapore Grand Prix pre-race analysisPosted on Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Singapore, 2013Sebastian Vettel is eyeing a potential third consecutive Singapore Grand Prix win after a crushing performance in qualifying which secured his fifth pole position of the year.

It’s hard to see any of his rivals threatening him on raw speed alone. Instead the greatest threat to his victory chances may be the reliability of his Red Bull.

Last year Lewis Hamilton led the Singapore Grand Prix from pole position until to the moment a gearbox failure snatched a likely victory from his grasp.

His team had known about the problem going into the race and endeavoured to fix it, to no avail. Twelve months on, Red Bull are in a similar situation. Both cars had gearbox problems in Italy, and both have to use the same units at this race – or face a five-place grid penalty.

If Red Bull have any serious concerns about Vettel’s gearbox, changing it may be a prudent course of action given the championship situation. A five-place penalty would leave Vettel ahead of Fernando Alonso, his closest championship rival, on the grid. And the new top three on the grid – Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber – are all well out of championship contention.

The start

The configuration of the first corners at Singapore invited drivers to cut across it. We saw this last year when Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg cut the corner and had to exercise caution not to gain an advantage by doing so.

It’s a short run to the first turn at Singapore – just 200 metres. Given that, and the lack of grip off the racing line, it is unlikely Vettel will face a threat from behind at the start – second-placed Rosberg may be more concerned about potentially losing a position to Romain Grosjean.

Having made several poor starts already this year Mark Webber spent part of final practice going through the starting procedure in his car to improve his getaways. That may prove valuable as, like Rosberg, he also starts on the dirty side of the grid.

Fernando Alonso will have to extract all the benefit he can from starting on the clean side of the grid to make progress from seventh. Felipe Massa starts ahead of him in sixth, and a potential storyline of the race may be whether Ferrari ask their outgoing driver to make way for Alonso – and whether he obeys.

Strategy

Romain Grosjean, Lotus, Singapore, 2013The large difference in performance between the two tyre compounds may make for difficult decisions on strategy during the race. The super-softs are around two seconds per lap quicker than the mediums.

On top of that the high likelihood of a Safety Car appearance during the race is another consideration. It has been summed at least once in each of the races so far at this track, and teams know they must be ready to react to it appearing at short notice.

In Pirelli’s view the high chance of a Safety Car appearance may lead teams to avoid the risks of a three-stop strategy, which is theoretically faster, and opt for a more conservative two-stop plan.

Having an extra set of fresh super-soft tyres will give drivers more strategic options. The risks taken by Vettel and Grosjean in Q3 and Q1 respectively to avoid using a set of super-soft tyres shows the potential value of this route.

Grosjean is an especially interesting prospect for the race because the Lotus has been so good on its tyres in hot conditions. Webber, who starts alongside him, has had a slight edge on Vettel for pace on the harder medium tyres.

The top nine will all start on super-softs. Behind them the Saubers of Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg are the first drivers to have free choice of tyre compounds.

Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified ninth and is the last driver who has to start the race on used tyres, suspects that getting into Q3 may prove to have been a mixed blessing: “the guys who went out in Q2 might have a little bit of a tyre advantage, so let?s hope that doesn?t have too much influence tomorrow”.

It looks set to be a long, hard race for Kimi Raikkonen who starts in 13th place and is nursing a sore back. He had to have painkillers injected into it before qualifying, and faces 61 gruelling laps of the bumpy Singapore track on Sunday.

Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1 Q2 (vs Q1) Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1’45.376 1’42.905 (-2.471) 1’42.841 (-0.064)
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’45.208 1’43.892 (-1.316) 1’42.932 (-0.960)
3 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1’45.851 1’43.957 (-1.894) 1’43.058 (-0.899)
4 Mark Webber Red Bull 1’45.271 1’43.727 (-1.544) 1’43.152 (-0.575)
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’44.196 1’43.920 (-0.276) 1’43.254 (-0.666)
6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’45.658 1’44.376 (-1.282) 1’43.890 (-0.486)
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’45.115 1’44.153 (-0.962) 1’43.938 (-0.215)
8 Jenson Button McLaren 1’45.009 1’44.497 (-0.512) 1’44.282 (-0.215)
9 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1’45.379 1’44.407 (-0.972) 1’44.439 (+0.032)
10 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1’45.483 1’44.245 (-1.238)
11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1’45.381 1’44.555 (-0.826)
12 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1’45.657 1’44.588 (-1.069)
13 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1’45.522 1’44.658 (-0.864)
14 Sergio Perez McLaren 1’45.164 1’44.752 (-0.412)
15 Adrian Sutil Force India 1’45.960 1’45.185 (-0.775)
16 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1’45.982 1’45.388 (-0.594)
17 Paul di Resta Force India 1’46.121
18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 1’46.619
19 Charles Pic Caterham 1’48.111
20 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1’48.320
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia 1’48.830
22 Max Chilton Marussia 1’48.930

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel 27.894 (2) 39.430 (1) 35.465 (2)
Nico Rosberg 28.020 (4) 39.474 (3) 35.438 (1)
Romain Grosjean 28.047 (6) 39.449 (2) 35.562 (3)
Mark Webber 27.881 (1) 39.489 (4) 35.782 (5)
Lewis Hamilton 27.971 (3) 39.632 (5) 35.651 (4)
Felipe Massa 28.125 (7) 39.807 (7) 35.958 (6)
Fernando Alonso 28.041 (5) 39.795 (6) 36.102 (9)
Jenson Button 28.138 (9) 39.899 (9) 36.114 (11)
Daniel Ricciardo 28.181 (11) 40.008 (10) 36.056 (8)
Esteban Gutierrez 28.300 (13) 39.834 (8) 36.111 (10)
Nico Hulkenberg 28.430 (15) 40.052 (11) 36.024 (7)
Jean-Eric Vergne 28.173 (10) 40.196 (14) 36.219 (12)
Kimi Raikkonen 28.128 (8) 40.191 (13) 36.236 (13)
Sergio Perez 28.308 (14) 40.075 (12) 36.369 (14)
Adrian Sutil 28.266 (12) 40.264 (15) 36.634 (16)
Valtteri Bottas 28.502 (17) 40.296 (16) 36.590 (15)
Paul di Resta 28.499 (16) 40.662 (17) 36.960 (18)
Pastor Maldonado 28.790 (18) 40.854 (18) 36.952 (17)
Charles Pic 29.164 (21) 41.394 (19) 37.553 (19)
Giedo van der Garde 29.080 (19) 41.494 (20) 37.746 (20)
Jules Bianchi 29.101 (20) 41.843 (22) 37.872 (21)
Max Chilton 29.284 (22) 41.611 (21) 38.035 (22)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Jenson Button McLaren 293.5 (182.4)
2 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 293.3 (182.2) -0.2
3 Adrian Sutil Force India 292.9 (182.0) -0.6
4 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 292.3 (181.6) -1.2
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 292.2 (181.6) -1.3
6 Mark Webber Red Bull 292.2 (181.6) -1.3
7 Valtteri Bottas Williams 291.4 (181.1) -2.1
8 Paul di Resta Force India 291.3 (181.0) -2.2
9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 290.9 (180.8) -2.6
10 Sergio Perez McLaren 290.8 (180.7) -2.7
11 Charles Pic Caterham 290.7 (180.6) -2.8
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus 290.7 (180.6) -2.8
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 290.4 (180.4) -3.1
14 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 290.4 (180.4) -3.1
15 Felipe Massa Ferrari 290.2 (180.3) -3.3
16 Pastor Maldonado Williams 289.6 (179.9) -3.9
17 Giedo van der Garde Caterham 289.2 (179.7) -4.3
18 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 288.7 (179.4) -4.8
19 Jules Bianchi Marussia 288.1 (179.0) -5.4
20 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 287.8 (178.8) -5.7
21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 287.8 (178.8) -5.7
22 Max Chilton Marussia 285.1 (177.2) -8.4

Over to you

Do any of Vettel’s rivals have a realistic chance of beating him – or is it just a battle for second place?

Share your views on the Singapore Grand Prix in the comments.

2013 Singapore Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 Singapore Grand Prix articles

Images ?? Red Bull/Getty, Lotus/LAT