Singapore: Lewis Hamilton insists Red Bull can be caught despite seeing Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber steak to the top two positions in opening practice for the Singapore Grand Prix.
The Briton, who won here last year, had to settle for fifth and knows he needs to do better in qualifying as he tries to haul in Webber, who is five points ahead of him in the championship race with five Grand Prix to go.
“Definitely not,” said the McLaren driver when asked if the Red Bulls were unbeatable on Singapore’s street circuit.
“We’re reasonably close; we’re competitive; there’s more time for us to find tomorrow, so I’m optimistic.
“In fact I think we’ll be able to compete with the guys who were at the front today. The Red Bulls definitely aren’t unbeatable here.
“Okay, they’re very quick in the second and third sectors, so we’ll have to work hard to try to make up time there, but I’m pretty confident we can do it.”
Hamilton, who failed to get beyond the first lap in Italy this month, added that he felt track alterations made to improve driver comfort and safety had not helped.
“I think the changes made to the track have made it worse, and the chicane is now very tricky,” he said.
“You approach it at 170 mph -- and if something goes wrong, and you hit one of those kerbs, then you could have a nasty accident.”
His teammate and fellow Briton Jenson Button, the defending world champion who is 23 points behind Webber, finished third and said he was happy with his car’s performance, but not with the rain that left the track damp.
“We got some reasonable running during P2, and the car is working quite well. There are still some improvements we need to make, but I feel comfortable with it,” he said.
“We saw today that, after it rains, the track doesn’t dry very quickly, and a lot of water comes up through the circuit.
“It’s pretty tricky. It’s difficult to see which parts of the track are wet because of the glare. Hopefully, we won’t have any more rain this weekend, because wet conditions aren’t the nicest to drive in.
“Qualifying tomorrow will be all about finding track space. If you hit traffic, you’ve got to still keep pushing, especially in Q1, when the circuit will be at its busiest.”