For 90-minutes Friday afternoon in Singapore, the crash-gate issue that dominated the headlines this week was swept to one side as the 20 drivers began preparation for Sunday’s 61-lap Singapore Grand Prix and it was the championship leading Brawn Mercedes duo that topped the timesheets.
has won two of the last three grand prix and set the early pace in Singapore with a best time of 1:50.179s, with title leader Jenson Button
just under two-tenths of a second shy in what was a fairly routine session for most.
With the sun setting, this was a twilight session with the drivers able to lap first in daylight and then in the final 30 minutes under the artificial lights that make the 5.067km Marina Bay circuit unique. With the circuit especially dusty this year, the first third of the session was handed over to installation laps and very limited running while the final third saw plenty of action with the circuit cleaning up and the lap times coming down.
While Brawn set the early pace, the Red Bull Renault team proved strong with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel third and fifth fastest respectively while a late push from double world champion Fernando Alonso
saw the Renault driver move fourth best in the hastily re-liveried R29.
Heikki Kovalainen survived a couple of wide moments and an early spin to set the sixth fastest time just ahead of McLaren Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Robert Kubica was an encouraging eighth best in the much revised BMW Sauber, while Kimi Raikkonen
and Kazuki Nakajima rounded out the top ten for Ferrari and Williams Toyota.
Romain Grosjean brought out the red flags when he spun his Renault exiting turn 17 40 minutes into the session. The Frenchman lost the rear end of the R29 just before the apex and made light contact on the outside of the circuit before spinning to a halt on the inside. The irony of the incident, an almost carbon copy of Nelson Piquet’s race-fix incident 12 months ago - except he braked - was lost on nobody.
With no facilities to crane away the R29, there was a lengthy 11 minute halt to the session while the car was removed. Grosjean was seventh fastest at the time of the incident but was unable to take further part and dropped to the bottom of the timesheets.
Other notables included, Giancarlo Fisichella
who was just 17th and over a second and a half adrift of Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen, while Toyota endured their now traditional slow start to the race weekend with Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli
15th and 16th respectively.
It’s early days, but so far it is advantage Barrichello as the battle continues with Button and the Red Bull Renault team.