The world champion team managed to put a new powerplant into the German’s car in double-quick time, but even so, he was forced to sit out the majority of FP2, only managing a handful of laps at the tail end of the session. But as Vettel explains, those few minutes of running could prove crucial in the long run…
Q: Sebastian, you’ve won this race three times in a row so you know the ins and outs of this track. Can it be that in theory this race is your best chance to get a win this season, even if it was a major setback having to change the engine after FP1?
Sebastian Vettel: Yes, it was very unfortunate. The car was running pretty smoothly when suddenly the engine bowed out. We had hoped to also run it in FP2, but it was not meant to be. It takes about three hours to change the engine and because the break between the two sessions is half an hour shorter than at other races - only two hours - we missed almost all of FP2. I was basically only running for a bit over eight minutes, but those minutes were important to get a feeling of the supersoft tyres. And it felt reasonably good. Does that brief encounter allow me to make any prediction for the race? I don’t know. I can answer this on Sunday evening. Yes, on paper this could be a better race for us. It certainly looks better than a race like Monza because, knowing that we are down on power, the layout of this track should be a bit in our favour. But without a crystal ball it’s hard to make any predictions. Let’s wait and see.
Q: The engine that is now in the back of your car is your last one permitted before a penalty. What does that mean given that there are still six races to go?
SV: Well, the engine that went bust ideally would have been used on the Friday in Japan - but that is now history! We always knew that we would have to use an extra engine so what happened does not overthrow any plans.
Q: How do you personally cope with the all the bad luck and that fact that you’ve scored zero victories this season?
SV: There are still races to go! Of course I prefer to win - I am here to win. I definitely don’t like being beaten - and this season I have been beaten many times - and obviously this is also part of life. You learn from winning - but you also learn from being beaten, from losing, and in that regard we’ve already learned a lot. So the confidence is high that we will win again - that we will fight our way back to the podium. What is really puzzling is that I have done so little mileage in a race season. That you could call really extraordinary.
Q: What do you make of the new regulations regarding radio messages? Teams and drivers seem to be very insecure about what you can and can’t say…
SV: Well, sometimes the conversations really sounded like kindergarten and there could be the impression that drivers are puppets on pit wall strings. On the other hand we definitely do depend on input from the outside - that is why we all have so many engineers and all the equipment in the pits to keep the cars running. Of course everybody will be extra cautious this weekend not to say anything ‘forbidden’ and get penalised afterwards, so it will be interesting to see how it all works.
Q: What will this all mean for the race? In the practice sessions you always have the chance to come back to the pits to have a discussion…
SV: Now, with the revised version of the radio ban, I think we are not a team that is affected too much as it is still possible to get information from the engineers in regards to the engine management - and a ban on that would have really hurt. So for now we got off lightly.
Q: You have a new chassis…
SV: … it was always the plan to have a new one at some point in the season. We are going a bit back and forth. We had some issues in Bahrain and China, which in the end didn’t turn out to be a chassis problem but a set-up problem. But in the end it was always the plan to bring a new one - and this is the first opportunity that we had to have it - so we’ve gone for it!
Q: Singapore is a very special race - Formula One racing’s first ever night event - and a very demanding track. How demanding is it compared to others?
SV: I would say it is the most demanding race on the calendar. It is a very long lap with many corners, it is bumpy and rough and the race is almost two hours. There is not much rest during a lap, then you add in the heat and the concentration that you need - that all translates into the toughest race that we have.
Q: In the last few days your name has constantly been linked with Ferrari…
SV: …like in the past several weeks! And my answer is still the same: I have a job here to do - it has not been a very smooth year for me so far, so I am fully concentrated to make sure that we come back.
Q: Then let’s look at it from another angle: you sure do owe your racing career in huge parts to Red Bull. After giving them four titles do you still believe you owe them something? Is that why you stay on?
SV: I do have a contract. And the relationship is very special. They have supported me since I was 12 years old and I have been wearing the Red Bull helmet for so many years - at times where it was not foreseeable that Red Bull would ever have a Formula One team, or even two teams, and that I would drive for both. So the future is so unpredictable, but I have a very strong link to them - in that regard nothing has changed - and it doesn’t look like it is changing.