Now Mercedes braced for a Fer­rari back­lash

Cape Times - - SPORT -

SIN­GA­PORE: Lewis Hamil­ton ar­rives in Sin­ga­pore as For­mula One leader and the sea­son’s first back-to-back win­ner, but Fer­rari ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel could dash the Mercedes driver’s hopes of a third win in a row on Sun­day.

Hamil­ton led team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas in a dom­i­nant one-two at the Ital­ian Grand Prix two weeks ago to take his sec­ond suc­ces­sive win from a record 69th pole po­si­tion.

Vet­tel trailed home in third place, more than half a minute be­hind the Bri­ton, and lost the over­all lead he had en­joyed all sea­son with Hamil­ton now three points clear and seven races re­main­ing.

Now Mercedes are braced for a Fer­rari back­lash at the Ma­rina Bay street cir­cuit.

“Sin­ga­pore will be a dif­fer­ent story but it’s bet­ter to go there in the lead than be­hind,” the team’s non-ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Niki Lauda said af­ter the Monza race.

Hamil­ton also ex­pects a closer bat­tle.

“I think the learn­ing from th­ese two weeks should hope­fully put us in a bet­ter po­si­tion for Sin­ga­pore,” he said.

“But I think Fer­rari are go­ing to be quick there. They’re rapid through the medium and low speed sec­tions of the cir­cuits.”

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 team, now 62 points be­hind Mercedes in the team stand­ings, have been dom­i­nant this year at sim­i­lar venues like Monaco and Hun­gary, scor­ing one-two fin­ishes at both.

Hamil­ton and Mercedes also have a chequered his­tory in Sin­ga­pore, even if now re­tired 2016 cham­pion team­mate Nico Ros­berg won there last year.

The Bri­ton is one of only four driv­ers to have won the race since it joined the cal­en­dar in 2008 but Hamil­ton has only two wins there to Vet­tel’s four. The Ger­man, the most suc­cess­ful driver around the city-state’s flood­lit streets, scored the last of those for Fer­rari in 2015, when Mercedes failed to fin­ish on the podium.

“In 2015, Sin­ga­pore pro­vided us with one of the most painful ex­pe­ri­ences in re­cent sea­sons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and man­aged to bounce back with a great win last year,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.Red Bull, who took Vet­tel to three of his wins, boast the best record of all teams in Sin­ga­pore and see this year’s race as a real op­por­tu­nity.

“I be­lieve Sin­ga­pore won’t be our only chance but is one of our best chances of a win,” said Aus­tralian Daniel Ric­cia­rdo. All eyes will also be on McLaren, with a split from en­gine part­ner Honda and new re­la­tion­ship with Re­nault set to be an­nounced im­mi­nently. – Reuters

Picture: EPA

BRING ON THE BAY: Lewis Hamil­ton heads into Sun­day’s Grand Prix lead­ing the driver’s stand­ings.

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