There will be worried frowns in the McLaren and Ferrari teams ahead of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix after Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel crushed them in practice.
The top five drivers in this season’s title showdown occupied the top five places on the timesheet at the end of the second session around the Marina Bay street circuit.
The concern for McLaren duo Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, along with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, is that Vettel was a second faster than the trio.
Only team-mate and championship leader Mark Webber came anywhere near to challenging the 23-year-old, who is 24 points adrift in the standings, and even then he was over six tenths of a second down.
Vettel set a time of one minute 46.660secs, with Button third and Alonso fourth, both a fraction just over a second down.
Alonso arguably could have run Vettel close as he was on a flier before coming unstuck 20 minutes from the finish.
The 29-year-old had just set the quickest first sector and a personal best in the second before being caught out midway through the third.
The Spaniard struck a kerb exiting turn 17, forcing him to catch the back end of his car as it attempted to slide away.
As he then attempted almost immediately to brake for turn 18, he found himself unable to turn in and was forced to use the short run-off road.
It appeared as if Alonso failed to keep the engine ticking over because although he managed to back the Ferrari onto the track, he soon ground to a halt.
After an attempt to push the car back into the run-off area, Alonso quickly gave up and had to rely on the marshals to provide him with a helping hand.
Hamilton completed the top five, 1.158secs adrift of Vettel, with Rubens Barrichello in his Williams and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa a further half a second back in sixth and seventh.
As for the rest, headed by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, they were at least over two seconds down, underlining Vettel’s superiority in conditions more akin to night racing.
The first session was highly changeable as it started out on a wet track following a torrential downpour 90 minutes before the start, yet in sunny conditions.
As daylight gave way to dusk and eventually to the dark, the 72% humidity ensured the track dried out slowly despite an air temperature of 29 degrees centigrade.
Webber finished top come the conclusion of the opening 90 minutes, but with a time that was eight seconds down on Vettel’s best in the second session.
Renault’s Robert Kubica and Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher, competing in his first night race this weekend, rounded out the top 10.
As in the first session Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and Nick Heidfeld, in his first race this year after replacing Pedro de la Rosa, were again 12th and 13th, separated by 0.120secs.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil joined Alonso on the casualty list after hitting a kerb in the chicane, sending him airborne by a few feet before landing on his front-left wheel, breaking the suspension.
Hispania Racing duo Bruno Senna and Christian Klien, due to race in his first grand prix for four years on Sunday after replacing Sakon Yamamoto who has been sidelined with food poisoning, finished 23rd and 24th, both over eight seconds down.