Fernando Alonso lifts Ferrari gloom in Singapore F1 practice

Fernando Alonso gave his embattled Ferrari team some welcome cheer by clocking the fastest time in first free practice for the Singapore Grand Prix on a balmy floodlit evening at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Friday.

Reuters| Last Updated: Sep 19, 2014, 18:52 PM IST
Fernando Alonso lifts Ferrari gloom in Singapore F1 practice

Singapore: Fernando Alonso gave his embattled Ferrari team some welcome cheer by clocking the fastest time in first free practice for the Singapore Grand Prix on a balmy floodlit evening at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on Friday.

The Italian giants have endured a miserable campaign to date and are without a win since last year, having changed principal mid-season and witnessed the resignation of long-time chairman Luca di Montezemolo shortly after their home race at Monza earlier this month.

However, double world champion Alonso shook off the gloom with a best time of one minute and 49.056 seconds around a demanding 23-turn layout where the Spaniard has won twice before - in 2008 and 2010.

Lewis Hamilton (1:49.178) and the Briton`s Mercedes team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg, a further 0.027 seconds back, were second and third respectively on the timesheets.

Rosberg leads Hamilton by 22 points with six races remaining.

Alonso is looking to help Ferrari back to third place in the constructors` championship after he suffered his first retirement of the season at Monza and saw the team slip to fourth.

He has also been forced to fend off questions concerning his future at the Italian team he joined in 2010.

Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel, winner of the last three Singapore races, was a further 0.669 seconds slower in fourth place, marginally ahead of his Red Bull team mate Daniel Ricciardo.

Jean-Eric Vergne was a surprising sixth-fastest in his Toro Rosso, in a session where he stopped at the end of the pitlane and briefly stranded the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, who were stacked behind the Frenchman, waiting to head back out to the circuit.

Kimi Raikkonen was seventh fastest in his Ferrari with the top-10 rounded out by McLaren`s Jenson Button, Toro Rosso`s Daniil Kvyat and Force India`s Sergio Perez.

There was a more relaxed mood in the paddock after Formula One earlier announced a softening of a planned clampdown on radio race assistance due to be brought in for this race.

"Messages concerning a driver`s own performance will not be allowed, but the expected ban on those relating to car performance will now be postponed until 2015 to give teams more time to prepare," the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement. 

The session passed with very little incident for the first 80 minutes of the one-and-a-half hour practice period with just a few drivers struggling on turns two and seven but no one hitting the barriers or suffering major damage to their cars.

Raikkonen had a minor incident in the pits with three minutes remaining when his mechanics rushed to extinguish a brake fire on his front right wheel.

Vettel then suffered an engine failure after the chequered flag and had to be pushed back to the pits.

The second 90-minute session starts at 1330 GMT.