The 2013 Formula 1 season begins its "Asian swing" with a visit to Singapore for the night race around Marina Bay.
Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel has a dominant championship lead going into the weekend, and will be looking to firm up his title chances. With plenty of questions over tyres and personnel, there is plenty to play for at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Practice sessions for the race take place on Friday and Saturday ahead of qualifying, with the race set for Sunday.
Bleacher Report Race Weekend Essentials
Your comprehensive Singapore GP preview by Neil James.
Key storylines to watch at Marina Bay by Scott Mitchell.
Looking at the race weekend odds.
Sebastian Vettel produced an imperious drive to take pole for the Singapore Grand Prix.
The Red Bull has looked good all week and Vettel cashed in on his car’s liking for the Singapore circuit by posting a time of 1:42.841.
There were a few anxious moments for Vettel, as he elected to park his car after posting his time early in the third part of qualifying and he saw a couple of rivals get close to his time.
Nico Rosberg ensured there was no Red Bull lockdown of the front row, as he put his Mercedes in second thanks to a time of 1:42.932.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber looked to have taken third, but Romain Grosjean produced a blistering late effort to take that spot for Lotus.
Kimi Raikkonen came into the session nursing a bad back and the Lotus driver did not make it into final qualifying, as a time of 1:44.658 was only good enough for 13th place.
(You can see the race times in full on Eurosport):
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel saw off the challenge of Romain Grosjean (Lotus) to finish on top of the pile in the final practice session in Singapore.
The world champion was 0.191 seconds ahead of the French driver, while Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) finished in third on the timesheets with Red Bull's Mark Webber in fourth spot.
Former world champion Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) was fifth, a place ahead of former McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso, who was a full second off the pace after rejecting suggestions he could return to Martin Whitmarsh's team, as Paul Weaver of The Guardian reported.
Vettel's lead was cut from the one-second gap the Red Bull driver had opened up on Mercedes in P2 on Friday, but he remains strong favourite to take pole position for the Grand Prix on Sunday.
— Scuderia Ferrari (@InsideFerrari) September 21, 2013
Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel reprised their familiar position at the top of the standings with a blistering lap in free practice two ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.
Vettel's 1:44.269 was devastatingly quick—Mark Webber in second place was more than six-tenths of a second behind, while Nico Rosberg in third place was a second adrift of the world champion.
The times came down from the earlier session appreciably as the track continues to rubber in, although there was also a move to softer, option tyres as teams tested setup with tomorrow's qualifying in mind.
Vettel backs off after a long stint. He is fastest of all in Singapore with a stunning time of 1m44.249s, 0.604s clear of team-mate Webber.— AUTOSPORT Live (@autosportlive) September 20, 2013
It was a much heavier session, with much of the field also running race simulations later in the 90 minutes, and many drivers put down as many as 30 laps.
But on either compound of tyre and in single lap pace or longer runs, the Red Bulls look the outstanding car on the grid.
Here are the times from the session—you can also view them on the Eurosport website:
Classifica FP2 - - FP2 Time Sheets pic.twitter.com/0hOeqYXy3g— Scuderia Ferrari (@InsideFerrari) September 20, 2013
Lewis Hamilton stole a march on the field to set the pace in free practice one—a full four-tenths of a second quicker than his nearest rivals.
The Red Bull duo of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel were second and third, however, suggesting that once again they will be firmly in the mix come qualifying and the race.
Vettel is third in the other Red Bull and the only other driver within one second of Hamilton's time. Rosberg leads the chasers in fourth.— AUTOSPORT Live (@autosportlive) September 20, 2013
In truth, it was a muted session—the street circuit takes time to evolve into a race track as rubber is laid down by the tyres of F1 cars, and FP1 will feel considerably different to later sessions at the weekend.
As such, there was initially no rush to come out and test, with half an hour of the 90 minutes almost at a complete standstill.
When the drivers did venture out, there were reminders of what makes this venue such a fine addition to the calendar—night fell and the floodlights rose, while F1 cars raced under busy overpasses still being used by the public.
Meanwhile, talk continued over the available race seats, with McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh having stoked the fires of the rumour mill earlier in the day by expressing an interest in Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.
It was more interesting than either of their performances in FP1. Alonso was down in seventh place, while the struggling McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez occupied 14th and eighth places respectively.
Here are the official timesheets from FP1—you can see them also on the Eurosport website:
Classifica FP1 - - FP1 Time Sheets pic.twitter.com/bsqiTufBW7— Scuderia Ferrari (@InsideFerrari) September 20, 2013