Amazing how all that nostalgia for the classic European circuits — Spa, Monza, venues for the last two races — tends to make you forget the astonishing sight of F1 cars racing under floodlights. Ferraris especially; the red loses all that fluro-modernity and the white’s, er, whiter, retro-style. Must be something to do with the exposure knob button on the TV cameras. It’s like watching F1 through a grainy Instagram filter. The future, all dressed up as the past.
Anyhow, what with the wide-shots the producer seems contractually obliged to edit in; that high-fly over, the ‘Singapore Eye’, those hotels with what looks like the world’s biggest and best party deck; it’s one hell of advert for Singapore (other views on the appeal of the city state are available) and it’s one hell of setting for “F1: The Showdown. Starring Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso”.
Oh, and Sebastian Vettel. If recent form had meant we tended to overlook the fact that although it’s Lewis who is ‘Nando’s nearest challenger, Vettel’s dominant performance in FP1 and FP2 today was a timely reminder that although Lewis might be 37 points behind Alonso, Kimi Raikonnen is just 38 and the reigning double world champion Sebastian Vettel just 39. Don’t count Red Bull out yet.
‘Fridays Schmidays’ you say, ‘it means nothing’ not with the track still damp from the inevitable late afternoon monsoon. Well, we beg to differ. It just has not gone well for Red Bull at any stage of any part of the weekend at any of the recent grand prix. If they have brought new bits to Singapore (and most of the teams have) they will have run them by now, in one or both of the sessions, and still found the space to put in some quick times. Really quick times; Vettel was three-tenths quicker than Jenson Button in FP2 and while he was barely quicker than Hamilton in FP1, the pair of them were a remarkable eight tenths quicker than Button.
Most significantly Vettel looked like last year’s champion driving today, clinical execution allied with real derring-do. Awesome stuff. He’s not been himself this year, someone ill-at ease maybe with the pace at which he’s seen himself ranked alongside some of the very greats of the sport. At times one suspects the sense of expectation he imagines sits upon him has clashed with what he’s been able to achieve in what is Red Bulls worst car in four years. He hasn’t reacted so well and we’ve seen a pouty Sebby. But not today. He is well up for the fight.
And Lewis? Well the HAMoFoDope Lewie has got his old Mum with him and she seems to make him happier than a whole MTV Awards room full of HipHopsters. Confident, smiley, engaging, not-pissing-around-on-twitter he knows he can win this won; just a smidge behind Vettel in FP1, fifth and eight-tenths off in FP2 but clearly running heavy. The car looked great under the floods, Lewis too. He needs to win on Sunday.
And the man he has to hope is far behind as possible, Fernando Alonso? Well he didn’t trouble the top of the time sheets, third in FP2 fourth in FP1. But then again, he rarely does at this stage of the weekend.
Cometh Sunday, cometh the man Alonso.