Having fallen behind Hamilton a fortnight ago, he’s favourite to get back on top, thanks to the tight twists of the Singapore track
Sebastian Vettel heads to the Marina Bay street circuit this weekend as favourite to bounce back from a crushing Monza defeat with victory under thelightsinSunday’sSingaporeGrand Prix. The German trailed home a distant third in his Ferrari team’s home race a fortnight ago in Italy over half a minute behind his title rival Lewis Hamilton,wholedMercedesteammate Valtteri Bottas to a dominant one-two.
Not only was the Mercedes drubbing a disappointing result for Vettel in front of Ferrari’s passionate tifosi, but it also cost the German the overall championshipleadhehadheldallyear. The30-year-olddroppedtothreepoints behind Hamilton with seven of the 20 racesstilltorunbutcanregainthelead on Sunday.
“I think it’s more important to have the lead after Sunday night in Abu Dhabi,” Vettel told reporters in Singapore on Thursday, referring to the season-ending race. “Whatever happens along the way happens. The target is clear. We have a lot of races, a lot of time to get points and then we see and count at the end.”
Unlike the f lat-out blasts of Italy’s Monza, which were tailor-made for Mercedes, the tight twists of the Singapore track, which has the most corners of any circuit on the calendar, should play to Ferrari’s strengths.
The Italian outfit was dominant at similar layouts at Monaco and Hungary earlier in the year, scoring one-two finishes at both. But Vettel, who with four wins is also the most successful driver at Singapore, played down the ‘favourites’ tag.
Hamilton and Mercedes, meanwhile, haveachequeredhistoryatSingapore. Though one of just four drivers to have won the race since it joined the calendar in 2008, Hamilton has only won in Singapore twice.
The Briton heads into the weekend as the season’s first back-to-back winner following his Monza triumph. While he is aiming to chalk up a hat-trick, the triple champion is expecting to have a battle on his hands come Sunday.
Mercedes, too, won in Singapore last year and in 2014. But the reigning champions endured an uncharacteristicallyoff-colourweekendin2015,when Vettel won for Ferrari instead.
“It’snotgoingtobetheeasiestofweekends, but man I’m coming with positivity and with the plan of winning this race,”saidHamilton.“Wehaveworked as hard we can to understand the car and we come here with full attack.”
Red Bull are also fancying their chances. The layout of the circuit, the team hope, will mask the power deficiencies of their Renault engine. Australian Daniel Ricciardo duly put theteamintheframeforvictorybytoppingFriday’sopeningpracticesession.
“IbelieveSingaporewon’tbeouronly chance but is one of our best chances of a win in the second half of the season,” Ricciardo, who won the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in June, had said in the build up to the weekend.
“I’ve started second and finished second at this track in the last two years, with fastest lap both times, so my aim this year is definitely to start on pole and try to go one better in the race.”
McLaren and Honda stole the spotlight from the championship battle early in the weekend before finally confirming news of their divorce on race in Singapore. Introduced in 2008, it was the first night-time grand prix.
Friday.McLarenwillswitchtoRenault engines starting next season while Honda will partner with Red Bullowned Toro Rosso, who are currently powered by the French manufacturer.
ToroRosso’sCarlosSainzwillmoveto Renault on loan next year as part of the complex deal while Fernando Alonso is also set to extend his stay at McLaren. Speaking to reporters on Thursday before confirmation of the split, though, the Spaniard remained tight-lipped on his future.
“I will think what is the best option,” the 3 6 -year- old double champion said. “As I said many times whatever I do next year is because I want to win.
“AtthesametimeIwanttogivetimeto myteam.Afterthelastthreeyearswith some struggles that we went through together, to have time for them to make decisions ... and after they take decisions, I will take mine.”
Ferrari was dominant at similar layouts at Monaco and Hungary earlier in the year, scoring onetwo finishes at both