Toro Rosso

Expecting the unexpected

2012 Singapore Grand Prix Getty Images

We’re in the middle of the Q2 group again, which is not exactly cause for celebration but it does seem as though there is a small positive trend emerging over the last couple of races – remember that but for a fuel pressure problem, Monza would have been a second consecutive points finish. Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne will both start the 61-lap Singapore Grand Prix from the eighth row of the grid on Sunday at 8pm, the Australian having posted the fifteenth best time and the Frenchman the sixteenth.

Daniel had hoped to pip the Sauber of Sergio Perez, but missed out by a couple of tenths. As for Jean-Eric, he’s had to cope with a neck that’s still giving him a bit of pain after his Monza crash a fortnight ago and that, combined with learning one of the toughest tracks on the calendar, means he’s had his hands full. So “chapeau” as the French would say, that he eventually put in a lap within a tenth of his team-mate, who had the benefit of racing here last year. Our new(ish) technical director James Key in fact praised both drivers for keeping it on the black stuff so far this weekend, when many others have been caught out by the ever-present threat of the barriers. In fact, Daniel just kissed the barrier with the right rear corner of his STR7 in Q1 this evening, but thankfully not hard enough to do any damage.

Tyres will play a key role tomorrow because a high level of degradation can be expected from both the Soft and Supersoft Pirellis, so picking the best moment to change tyres, before the performance level drops off dramatically, can make a big difference on a street circuit. Reliability will be vital too, because heat and humidity can do strange things to mechanical components, not to mention the human mind and body. If all these factors are not enough to make life complicated, then we need to consider that at all four previous Singapore Grands Prix, the Safety Car has been required to put in an appearance: to be honest, starting in the middle of the field this could be just the sort of unexpected helping hand we need.

Starting from pole, just as he did in Monza, before going on to win the Italian Grand Prix, will be Lewis Hamilton for McLaren, while surprisingly alongside him will be Pastor Maldonaldo, who threw in a fantastic and frankly unexpected lap in Q3. The second row sees Sebastian Vettel third for Red Bull Racing, with the other McLaren of Jenson Button alongside him. Current series leader Fernando Alonso is fifth for Ferrari, with Paul di Resta’s Force India for company on row three.

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