September 20th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Ferrari got off to anything but a dream start in Singapore, struggling to come close to the front-running pace in either of the Friday practice sessions. Fernando Alonso finished up sixth fastest in Free Practice 2, but he was a massive 1.442 seconds off the pace of Sebastian Vettel. Felipe Massa was 15th fastest, a further 1.2 seconds behind his Ferrari team-mate.
Alonso desperately needs to finish ahead of Vettel in Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix in order to keep his championship hopes alive. Although Alonso will still, mathematically, be in the title fight even if he scores no points and Vettel wins this weekend, Alonso's chances in the title become less and less realistic every time Vettel pulls a few more points ahead.
For Massa, this is also an important weekend. It's his first race since it was announced that he will be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2013, and he will be aware of the need to deliver results in order to impress potential new F1 employers.
Both Ferrari drivers expressed their concerns after a difficult Friday for the team. Alonso said, “We can’t say this was a good start, because we weren’t competitive, but if we consider that last year, at the end of a difficult weekend we managed to get on the podium, we definitely aren’t throwing in the towel yet. We have yet to analyse the data, but we certainly have to be realistic, because when you have one car in sixth place and the other in fifteenth, it’s clearly not the result we were hoping for, without taking into consideration the updates we have brought for this race."
Far from giving up, however, Alonso is aware of the need to move forward during the final practice session on Saturday ahead of qualifying. He said, "Now, we have a lot of work to do to find the right set-up and the best strategy. Then we will need to put in a very good qualifying lap and attack from start to finish in the race. However, we know that won’t be easy because on tracks which require high downforce, we suffer more and, just as in Hungary, apart from the fact that Mercedes seem to be on a par with Red Bull here, there are others who also look strong, like Lotus and McLaren."
Alonso's comment about Mercedes being on the pace of Red Bull seems at odds with the lap times from FP2, but agrees with Sebastian Vettel's statement that he expects Mercedes to be fighting for pole position on Saturday evening.
Felipe Massa's day was complicated by setup changes that did not work, which affected his lap times significantly. He said after Friday practice: "This was a difficult day, because I struggled to find the right way to move forward in both sessions. In the first session, we concentrated on evaluating various aerodynamic components, while in the second one, we managed to complete the programme, doing a long run, starting on the Supersofts and ending on the Mediums. Along with the team we decided to go in another direction to try and find a set-up with which I was more comfortable on this track. Unfortunately this did not produce the results we were expecting. I think that for tomorrow’s qualifying we need to retrace our steps, trying to improve the balance of the car. I am sure it will be better and that I will manage to once again find the car I’m used to driving”.