Sin­ga­pore GP wide open for rac­ers

A pre­dictable Marina Bay win is not guar­an­teed as pres­sure and im­proved per­for­mance may see the leader board shift to ac­com­mo­date new faces on the podium

CityPress - - Sport - MICHELLE FOS­TER sports@city­press.co.za DRIV­ERS Se:AstiAn Vet­tel VAlt­teri Bot­tAs DAniel Ric­ciAr8o Kimi RCikkö­nen MAx Ver­stAp­pen Ser­gio Perez Este:An Ocon CArlos SAinz Jr Nico H lken:erg CON­STRUC­TORS Fer­rAri Re8 B6ll-TAg He6er Wil­liAms-Merce8es Toro Rosso-F

It is not of­ten that Fer­rari and Renault are men­tioned in the same sen­tence. How­ever, in Sin­ga­pore to­day, they have some­thing in com­mon – they both have driv­ers un­der pres­sure. For the Scud­e­ria, the race at the Marina Bay cir­cuit is be­ing her­alded as their best chance to fight back against Mercedes in a ti­tle bat­tle that is be­gin­ning to slip from their grasp.

Only three points sep­a­rate Lewis Hamil­ton and Se­bas­tian Vet­tel at the top of the stand­ings, and, for the first time, the lead is in Hamil­ton’s favour af­ter chang­ing hands at Monza Cir­cuit in Italy.

That, with­out a doubt, marked Fer­rari’s worst Grand Prix in this cam­paign. Third­placed Vet­tel came in a whop­ping 36.317 sec­onds be­hind race win­ner Hamil­ton – at Fer­rari’s home race!

How­ever, there will be a bright light shin­ning down on Fer­rari, thanks in part to about 1 600 light pro­jec­tors that will be used dur­ing the night race. The Marina Bay cir­cuit is a Fer­rari cir­cuit with its high down­force, low-speed cor­ners and heat. More to the point, it is a Vet­tel cir­cuit.

The Ger­man has four Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix wins to his name, the most re­cent com­ing in 2015 with Fer­rari. Last sea­son, Vet­tel raced from the back of the grid to fin­ish in fifth po­si­tion – mov­ing up 17 spots on a street track where over­tak­ing is no­to­ri­ously dif­fi­cult.

The Scud­e­ria can also draw en­cour­age­ment from their Monaco show­ing, a race where Kimi Räikkö­nen claimed pole po­si­tion and Vet­tel led his team-mate home to first and sec­ond po­si­tion fin­ishes for Fer­rari.

Mercedes, though, haven’t been idle since Monaco. While Toto Wolff – 30% team owner and ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor – ac­knowl­edges that the na­ture of Marina Bay doesn’t work with the DNA of Mercedes’ F1 cars, he reck­ons they raised their level of per­for­mance sig­nif­i­cantly in Hun­gary. The team will do so once again to­day as they look for a third Sin­ga­pore win in four years.

But the cham­pi­onship ri­vals may yet fall to Red Bull Rac­ing at to­day’s race, which has 61 laps. Af­ter Monza, a track that doesn’t suit Red Bull’s RB13 en­gine, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo joked that he would lap the field in Sin­ga­pore af­ter rac­ing from P16 to P4 at the Ital­ian Grand Prix.

While this is lit­tle more than a dream se­quence, a podium re­sult – or even a win – is not. Red Bull have three Marina Bay wins on the board, while, last sea­son, Ric­cia­rdo lost to Nico Ros­berg by a mere 0.488 sec­onds. The Bulls may not be in the ti­tle race, but could yet in­flu­ence the out­come by tak­ing points off the con­tenders.

Nico Hülken­berg will be a most des­per­ate

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