Nico Rosberg led a smog-hit Singapore Grand Prix first free practice on Friday but America’s Alexander Rossi had a debut to forget as he smashed his Manor vehicle into the barriers.
Marussia are now last in the standings, without a point this season, so Rossi arrived in Singapore without any real expectations.
The smoky haze has wafted across from controlled burns in Indonesia, but has persisted over Singapore at levels considered unhealthy by the nation’s pollutant standards index after peaking on the Monday before the race.
With Singapore presenting a challenge that is far more chassis-oriented as opposed to favouring horsepower, the fight at the front ought to be fiercer this weekend.
Both Manor Marussias have been given a grid penalty for tomorrow’s race at Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The race has a few noteworthy elements already – defending champion, Lewis Hamilton seeks a win that will tie his victory record with his hero, Ayrton Senna in an equal number of starts.
“It was a long race, and halfway through, the radio stopped working, which is not what you want in your first race, but fortunately they were able to relay quite a bit of the information through the pit boards, so it worked out great”.
Red Bull’s 21-year-old Russian Daniil Kyvat was the big surprise, finishing first, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and his own teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.
His performances earned the approval of team principal John Booth who said the American “delivered a solid and confident performance”. “He is widely regarded as a driver who is on the cusp of an exciting F1 career and his current form in the GP2 Series has done much to reinforce his clear potential”. Earlier on Saturday, Alexander had looked to have the edge on his more established team-mate Will Stevens, the young Brit struggling to get to grips with the circuit in low-fuel trim and instead focusing on race preparation.
American drivers largely remain a curiosity in Formula One. He served as a test driver for the Caterham F1 team for three seasons before switching to Manor/Marussia. It is also fantastic news for the sport that it will have an American driver again, particularly with the United States Grand Prix on our horizon and now races in Mexico and Brazil.