SINGAPORE, September 20th, 2013 (F1Plus / Jacob Polychronis) - Nico Rosberg is the faster of the two Mercedes drivers on day one in Singapore, placing third in Free Practice Two on Friday. Rosberg marginally outperformed his team-mate on the supersoft compound, posting a time of 1:45.258. Lewis Hamilton placed in fourth with a time 0.043 seconds slower than Rosberg.
Nonetheless, neither Mercedes driver seems likely to take the challenge to Red Bull Racing, who once again excelled. Rosberg’s time was 1.009 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel and 0.405 slower than Mark Webber.
Battling tyre degradation
Tyre preservation as always is paramount to achieve success in Formula One. Certain characteristics of the Singapore street circuit, however, mean it becomes even more crucial than at any other race. This was a point Rosberg emphasised after Friday practice:
“There’s a lot of degradation so that’s a challenge.”
Difficulty in cooling tyres down is a key characteristic of the circuit which contributes to its nature to degrade tyres.
“Tyres are overheating a lot on one lap but also the long runs,” Rosberg said.
“And also the tyres cool down on the straights because of the wind. But here there [aren't] many straights, they are very short.”
The other key characteristic of the track, and all street circuits, is that it is extremely abrasive. Subsequently, it is accelerating tyre-wear, with tyre marbles evident early into Friday’s action.
“The main thing (about trying to save tyres) is the surface of the track. The little rocks in the asphalt have very sharp points which puts a lot of energy into the surface of the tyres,” Rosberg explained
Despite topping the times in FP1, Rosberg’s team-mate Lewis Hamilton appeared very disappointed and offered little response to the media after FP2.
“That didn’t feel great” Hamilton simply said to Sky Sports F1.
It is well known that both Mercedes cars have struggled to preserve their rear tyres at various circuits this season and Singapore appears to be no exception. Red Bull looks set to continue their winning streak, looking particularly fast on the supersoft compound.