Haas F1 Team’s preparation for the Singapore Grand Prix Sunday at Marina Bay Street Circuit got off to an inauspicious start on Friday when in the first of two 90-minute practice sessions, the car of Romain Grosjean developed problems on its installation lap.
That left Esteban Gutiérrez to carry the mantle for Haas F1 Team in FP1, and he did so superbly, setting the 10th-quickest time with a lap of 1:48.109.
Grosjean’s desire for a strong start to the race weekend was squashed almost immediately. Technical issues on his installation lap led to a 25-minute stint in the garage, and when trouble continued on a second installation lap, the team decided to end Grosjean’s run to perform a more in-depth analysis of the car. An engine inlet air leak was deemed to be the culprit, resulting in a time-consuming, but necessary, engine change, with Grosjean’s race engine getting installed into his Haas VF-16.
“It was the worst Friday you could imagine for us. I didn’t get a lap in this morning, and then we had some issues this afternoon that we need to solve. There was just no performance. It’s a very bad way to start one of the most difficult grand prix of the year. Tomorrow is another day.”
Gutiérrez, meanwhile, was able to record 23 laps around the 5.065-kilometer (3.147-mile), 23-turn circuit as dusk began to settle over Asia’s first-ever temporary street course. With powerful floodlights illuminating the course as teams prepped for the second of three night races on Formula One’s 21-race calendar, Gutiérrez ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire, available for the first time since the Austrian Grand Prix in July. Gutiérrez’s quick time came on his 15th lap while riding on a scuffed set of Purple ultrasofts, and it put him a solid 10th on the speed chart.
“It was quite an interesting day. We brought some updates and it was very interesting to get a feeling from them. We were exploring the package, and at the beginning it’s hard to judge – you really need to run it and try to adapt as best as possible. We ended up experimenting a little with the setup, even into FP2. I think we have plenty of data to analyze. It’s unfortunate that Romain’s car wasn’t able to run. Obviously, having two sets of data to analyze is more important. We have plenty to look at though, and we’ll focus on that tonight and make the best of tomorrow.”
Quickest in FP1 was the Red Bull Racing duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo. The teammates traded the top spot before Verstappen finally nipped ahead with a fast lap of 1:45.823, which was .049 of a second faster than Ricciardo’s best time.
With FP1 beginning during the waning sunlight hours, the temperature was 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit) with 58 percent humidity. When FP2 began two hours later, the temperature had dropped to 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), but the humidity rose to 74 percent.
Unfortunately, the change in weather conditions did not provide a change in fortune for Grosjean. While he was able to begin making quick laps, a spin at turn 23 roughly 45 minutes into the session sent Grosjean backward into the wall. The rear wing of his Haas VF-16 was heavily damaged, and upon returning to the garage, a thorough inspection of the car commenced. There, it was determined the floor and rear suspension also needed to be replaced, sidelining Grosjean for the remainder of practice. Grosjean totalled only 12 laps, with his best time being a 1:48.391 earned on his 10th lap to put him 19th overall.
Gutiérrez continued his workman-like performance from FP1 to log 36 laps in FP2, the most of any driver. His best time was a 1:46.727, earned on his ninth lap with a new set of Purple ultrasofts that put him 13th overall. Gutiérrez did some experimenting with the tire compounds available for Singapore, as he began FP2 on a new set of Pirelli P Zero Red supersofts before switching to the ultrasofts. Gutiérrez returned to the supersofts for a 10-lap run and then donned a used set of ultrasofts for his final 13 laps.
The pacesetter in FP2 was Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg. His quick time of 1:44.152 was .275 of a second better than his closest FP2 rival, Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. The Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo followed in third and fourth, respectively, with Räikkönen’s teammate, Sebastian Vettel, rounding out the top-five.
Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 73 laps – 59 by Gutiérrez and 14 by Grosjean.