4th in practice? Hamilton's not worried
World champ fails to fire in practice but pole position very much on his mind
He has won seven of 12 races this season and is the runaway leader in the world championship.
Many say it is only a matter of time before Lewis Hamilton seals a second successive world drivers' title and his third overall, and he arrived here for the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix as the favourite.
But Hamilton spluttered last night in his Mercedes, finishing fourth in the second practice session at the Marina Bay street circuit ahead of qualifying today.
Red Bull's 21-year-old Russian Daniil Kvyat was the big surprise, finishing first, ahead of Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and his own teammate, Daniel Ricciardo.
In the first session, Hamilton finished second, behind teammate Rosberg.
His struggles, albeit only in practice, did raise some eyebrows around the paddock.
He was in no mood to worry last night.
He was so unfazed he even appeared unaware he had finished fourth in the night's second session, asking: "Wasn't it third?"
When informed his finish was indeed fourth, he simply laughed off his mistake.
He admitted though, that the times posted by Raikkonen and the Red Bull duo made them real contenders.
Said Hamilton: "I think we've got a genuine challenge from these guys, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.
"It's going to be interesting, that's for sure."
On whether Mercedes were worried, he said: "We're not nervous, but for sure it's close here.
"It's always close."
Hamilton has made no secret of his ambition to take the chequered flag first tomorrow and match idol Ayrton Senna's 41 wins, writing in a recent column that he felt he was "picking the baton up" for the late Brazilian and carrying it forward.
With so much of the focus on him, the Briton was remarkably relaxed yesterday.
While most of the drivers were in their garages getting ready for first practice at 6pm, Hamilton was having a light-hearted chat with a member of the international media just outside the Mercedes garage, tracksuit halfway down round his waist.
Later, he obliged a fan who asked for a photo, as he made his way back to the Mercedes motorhome.
And, just before the second session, he got a visit from pop and hip hop trailblazer Pharrell Williams in the garage, who he later told media was like "a big brother" to him.
Lest one thinks Hamilton has taken his eye off the ball, expect a more familiar session from him in qualifying tonight.
When asked how important pole position was to his hopes of winning, he simply raised his eyebrows and said: "Well, you can't overtake for the life of ya' here."
The one time Hamilton did display irritation last night was when he talked about the change to the street circuit.
Organisers have made changes to Turns 11, 12 and 13 to the 5.065km circuit this year, as a result of enhancement works for the new Civic District.
Some thought the widening of the hairpin on Turn 13, in particular, would enable more overtaking opportunities, but Hamilton, who won in Singapore in 2009 and 2014, was not impressed.
"I don't like it," he said.
"It made the track worse. It was fine the way it was before.
"I love the challenges around this track, but I don't like the new change they've done, I don't know why they did it but I've got to live with it."
BY THE NUMBERS
Singapore is one of the four circuits where the race is run in an anti-clockwise direction.
Total number of turns on the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Average number of times the drivers change gears during the race.
Rosberg's not happy
He was all charm when he interacted with fans and entertained a host of questions on Thursday and Mercedes pilot Nico Rosberg still wore a smile after the opening two practice sessions of the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix last night, but there was a sense that it hardly told the full story.
The 30-year-old German (pictured above) made straight for the Mercedes motorhome after the second session, despite the chasing scrum of media and only emerged some 10 minutes later.
"I started well, but I went the wrong way in P2, I was not good," said Rosberg.
"The track was okay, there was a lot of grip, and it was very, very hot. That was for sure. I drank a litre of water when I got out."
Rosberg, who is second in the drivers' championship (199 points) and in a desperate chase of teammate and leader Lewis Hamilton (252), is aiming for a win on the slow and twisty Marina Bay street circuit to narrow the gap.
He looked good in the first practice yesterday, topping the session with a best lap of 1min 47.995sec, ahead of Hamilton (1:48.314).
But it all went pear-shaped for Rosberg in the second session. He finished seventh, with Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat topping the charts (1:46.142).
Nearing the end of the second session, Rosberg even went in the wrong direction on Turn 18 and was forced to reverse and get back on track.
Teammate Hamilton didn't fare too well in P2 as well, finishing fourth.
A journalist asked Rosberg if Mercedes were not comfortable on the Singapore circuit, or whether other teams had caught up with the German marque.
Rosberg said: "It was a bit of both. We didn't do a good job today and others have been pretty quick.
"I still learned a lot and I know what to do tomorrow, set-up wise.
"It's about always changing the car to put it right for qualifying."
He felt Red Bull and Ferrari would push Mercedes for the chequered flag tomorrow.
And he doesn't like it.
Asked if he relished the challenge, he said: "Not really, no, I prefer to be out in front. They have been quick today."
Rosberg predicted that the winning team will be the ones who master tyre wear this weekend.
"Tyre wear has been quite high, so it's difficult to do a two-stop strategy here," he said. "That is going to be the key to the race, and that's what we need to work on tonight."
With that, he exited the media scrum to enter the team's garage, declining anymore questions.
What a difference a day makes.
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