x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Vettel sets the early pace

Red Bull revitalised their Formula One championship hopes with a strong display in practice for the Singapore Grand Prix

Romain Grosjean steps out of his vehicle after crashing during the first practice session of the Singapore. The French driver lost control on the same corner, turn 17, as the infamous Piquet crash in 2008.
Romain Grosjean steps out of his vehicle after crashing during the first practice session of the Singapore. The French driver lost control on the same corner, turn 17, as the infamous Piquet crash in 2008.

Red Bull revitalised their Formula One championship hopes with a strong display in today's practice for the Singapore Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel recording the best time. With the Red Bull cars needing to finish ahead of their Brawn GP rivals Sunday to keep interest in the drivers' and constructors' championships alive, Vettel set a best time of 1 minute and 48.650 seconds at the Marina Bay circuit. Fernando Alonso, who won the race last year, was second fastest, ahead of the McLaren drive, Heikki Kovalainen, and Nick Heidfeld, of BMW. Champions leader Jenson Button, in his Brawn, was fifth. Lewis Hamilton was in a tightly-bunched group behind them, although off the pace of his McLaren teammate Kovalainen. Renault were desperately hoping to put the race-fixing incident behind them but had little chance after Romain Grosjean crashed in Friday's opening practice, in exactly the same spot where Nelson Piquet Jr was instructed to do so in 2008. The young Frenchman, who was complaining of feeling ill prior to the session, lost control of his car at Turn 17, bringing out a red flag to end Friday's session while debris was cleared. "It's no coincidence, it's racing," said Grosjean. Flavio Briatore, the disgraced former Renault team principal who was banned from the sport for orchestrating the Piquet Jr incident, says he has been betrayed and promised to hold a big party when he eventually emerges victorious from a likely legal battle with the International Automobile Federation (FIA) . "In the end I will win and you will see, we will have a big party," he said. "It will be well organised and we'll invite everyone who has stayed close to me in these difficult times. I've been betrayed by my own world," Briatore added. "I will talk only at the right time, assuming they let me talk." The sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Briatore's friend and business partner, has said the life ban is too harsh as has Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo. Media reports have said Briatore will appeal to the FIA or take his case to the civil courts. "Look at the verdict the FIA put online on Tuesday. It's not about me," he said. Renault suffered further fallout from a race-fixing scandal on Thursday when two of their sponsors torie up their contracts with immediate effect. * With agencies