2013 Singapore GP Practice Two: Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel races clear of rivals
Vettel one second faster than Mercedes under the lights
By James Galloway. Last Updated: September 21, 2013 12:17pm
Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull conclusively turned the tables on Mercedes in Practice Two in a jaw-dropping show of strength around the Singapore GP street circuit.
For the fourth Friday P2 session in a row, Vettel headed Mark Webber at the head of the timesheet, but even more so than the three previous occasions, it was the World Championship leader's advantage - a full second over the first non-Red Bull car - which will likely prove hugely dispiriting for the chasing pack.
By topping the opening practice session Mercedes had offered hope that the battle for victory in higher-downforce conditions would prove closer than was the case at either Spa or Monza, but the Brackley team were unable to stay with Red Bull as the pace picked up as twilight turned to night at Marina Bay.
Although Vettel and Webber initially traded quickest sectors when the field first sampled the super-soft tyres, the German then unleashed a step forward in pace that even his team-mate couldn't follow and clocked an impressive 1:44.249 time.
But while what was 0.6s gap to his team-mate was in isolation a massive margin, such appears to be the dominance of Red Bull over the tortuous 5km lap that Webber - who survived a brush with the wall on his best effort - was still four tenths of a second quicker than the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in third and fourth respectively.
Hamilton, a tenth slower than the sister W04, would arguably have lapped at a similar pace to Webber had he not hit traffic on his opening flying on the red-marked tyres, his personal best time of 1:45.368 ultimately coming on his third timed run.
However, even with that taken into the account and the possibility that Mercedes were running with slightly more fuel than Red Bull, the one-second gap wouldn't have been bridged.
Indeed, Mercedes actually slipped back towards the chasing pack of Lotus and Ferrari - although it will be the huge deficit to Red Bull that will be causing all three teams concern overnight.
Romain Grosjean completed only 18 laps in the afternoon, taking his day's tally up to a relatively meager 30, owing to a recurrence of the power steering problems that affected his E21 in P2, but the Frenchman was fast when he was out on the circuit, pipping Fernando Alonso to fifth place.
For Alonso, despite further additions to the F138 for this weekend, Ferrari's 1.4s deficit to Red Bull would suggest the Scuderia's hopes of transferring their low-downforce circuit improvements to such a street venue could well prove forlorn.
On a brighter note, McLaren - now firmly at the centre of transfer speculation regarding the aforementioned Spaniard - ran respectively close to both Lotus and Ferrari with Jenson Button splitting the latter's prospective 2014 line-up of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
Adrian Sutil (Force India) and Sergio Perez in the second McLaren rounded up the top ten.
But while only seven tenths of a second separated Rosberg in third to Perez in tenth place, it was the ominous sight of Vettel at the head of a session for the 25th time in 86 attempts this season - and the margin of Red Bull's superiority in particular - that will prove the familiar post-practice talking point overnight.