High stakes on the streets of Sin­ga­pore

There is all to play for in Sin­ga­pore as Red Bull pre­pares to put its Mercedes op­po­nent un­der max­i­mum pres­sure

F1 Racing - - FINISHING STRAIGHT -

No one, least of all Christian Horner, had counted on Daniel Ric­cia­rdo com­ing away vic­to­ri­ous from Mon­treal and SpaFran­cor­champs. After all, th­ese are two tracks which in the­ory should have played to the grunt ad­van­tage of the Mercedes-Benz power unit, which is said to be at least 50kW to the good of its Fer­rari and Re­nault op­po­si­tion. But just as Horner has been pleas­antly sur­prised by Ric­cia­rdo’s un­ex­pected 25-points bonus haul on those two venues (along with the win at the Hun­garor­ing), the Red Bull Rac­ing boss is re­ally look­ing for­ward to some of the later-sea­son races, held on cir­cuits likely to bet­ter suit the Red Bull RB10’s more sup­ple han­dling. Sin­ga­pore is one of those places. With six races to go, and with Mercedes-Benz pair­ing Nico Ros­berg and Lewis Hamil­ton hav­ing all but de­clared war upon one another, the Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix looms as a cru­cial contest on the 2014 cal­en­dar. If Ric­cia­rdo can take his fourth vic­tory of the sea­son here, there re­mains a chance that the Aus­tralian can achieve what would be ar­guably the great­est up­set in the his­tory of the world cham­pi­onship. For Ric­cia­rdo to be crowned world cham­pion there are a few things which will need to go his way. First and fore­most, he will have to rely on Nico and Lewis suf­fer­ing fur­ther mis­for­tune along with the way – and if at Sin­ga­pore the Merc pair don’t trip over one another ala Spa, it could be that they are let down not by one another but by their ma­chin­ery. Re­li­a­bil­ity could eas­ily prove the de­ci­sive is­sue here. The Sin­ga­pore street cir­cuit is hard on equip­ment at the best of times, but fac­tor in the heat and hu­mid­ity and the new-era 1.6-litre turbo ma­chines will be tested in a way they have not been tested in any of the ear­lier races. Over­all the re­li­a­bil­ity of the new cars has ex­ceeded ex­pec­ta­tions, but the fact is that they are not as bul­let­proof as were the old 2.4-litre V8 – and the Merc-pow­ered ones have tended to suf­fer more in this re­spect than their op­po­si­tion. If Ric­cia­rdo and Vet­tel – let us not for­get the reign­ing world cham­pion, who surely at some point will turn around what thus far has been a mys­ti­fy­ingly poor sea­son – do have the pace to push the Mercs, they’ll be as much try­ing to

break them as beat them on the track. Let’s also not for­get that Se­bas­tian Vet­tel is shoot­ing for a fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory at Sin­ga­pore. It all should make for a fas­ci­nat­ing contest, and that’s be­fore we even con­sider a Fer­nando Alonso who has noth­ing to lose, a Wil­liams team which has been on the podium at ve of the last six races but with­out a win, and a McLaren team which de­spite a de­cid­edly lack­lus­tre sea­son is try­ing to at­tract both Alonso and Vet­tel for 2015. The Ma­rina Bay har­bour­side street cir­cuit’s Monaco-like at­mos­phere – but with the added at­trac­tion of be­ing at night and un­der lights – al­ways makes this, the clos­est non-Aus­tralian grand prix to our shores, a tan­ta­lis­ing prospect. But the 2014 race holds the po­ten­tial to be a sea­son defin­ing event.

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