Hav­ing fallen be­hind Hamil­ton a fort­night ago, he’s favourite to get back on top, thanks to the tight twists of the Sin­ga­pore track

The Economic Times - - Sports: The Great Games - Ab­hishek Takle

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

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