Hamilton hopes to be streets ahead
LEWIS Hamilton is relishing a return to the tough conditions at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore this week as he looks to wrest back control of the Formula One title race from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
The Briton leads his German rival by two points with seven rounds remaining but his seemingly unstoppable charge to a fourth title has stalled in the last two races, allowing Rosberg to close the gap at the top of the standings.
Rosberg had surged to a 43point lead over Hamilton at the start of the season before the Briton won six of seven races to seize the momentum going into Formula One’s traditional summer break with a healthy 19-point cushion.
In the two races since the season reconvened, Hamilton surged through the field from the back of the grid to finish third in Belgium but endured a miserable start from pole at Monza as Rosberg romped to a second straight triumph.
A second-place finish in Italy was not a total disaster but Hamilton had dominated practice and qualifying and would have been expected to convert his superiority into a 50th Formula One victory.
“I don’t know what happened at the start.… I did everything normal,” Hamilton said. “The procedure was done exactly how I was supposed to do it but the wheels were spinning from the get-go.”
Hamilton, however, is one of only three men to win in Singapore since the inaugural Grand Prix in 2008, while Rosberg has struggled to come to grips with the tight, 23-turn street circuit, managing just a single podium in eight visits.
“Next up is Singapore, which is always a great event. The race is a challenge with the heat and humidity … but it’s a street circuit, which I love,” said Hamilton, who won the 5.065km. 308.828km (61 laps) One minute 50.041 seconds. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull, 2015. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1:43.885 Vettel 2pm SA time (8pm local) Champions Mercedes have won 45 of the last 52 races and 13 of this season’s 14. Germany’s Nico Rosberg has won seven, triple world champion Lewis Hamilton six. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is the other winner this season. Hamilton has 49 career victories. The Briton is third in the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher (91) and Alain Prost (51), and seven ahead of Ferrari’s four-time world champion Vettel. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso has 32 wins, Rosberg 21, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen 20 and McLaren’s Jenson Button 15. Rosberg has more victories than any other nonchampion in the history of the sport. Ferrari have won 224 races in total, McLaren 182, Williams 114, Mercedes 58, Red Bull 51. McLaren last won in 2012. Mercedes have been on pole in 49 of the last 52 races and all but one of this season’s grands prixes. Hamilton has 56 career poles and is third on the all-time list behind Schumacher (68) and Ayrton Senna (65). Vettel has 46, Rosberg 28. The race was the first to be held entirely at night.
Only three drivers, all world champions, have won at the Marina Bay circuit. Alonso (2008, 2010), Vettel (2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015), Hamilton (2009, 2014).
The race has been won from pole position on six occasions. race in 2009 and 2014.
Just as Singapore citizens have been advised to exercise extra vigilance due to a recent outbreak of the Zika virus in the city-state, Mercedes will need to be wary of their Red Bull and Ferrari rivals on a track that nullifies the German team’s power advantage.
Last year Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won his fourth Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo as Hamilton retired and Rosberg limped to a fourth-place finish, and Mercedes will be keen to avoid a repeat performance.
“This is a Red Bull track and we weren’t so strong there last year,” Rosberg said. “But I have faith in the team and my belief in myself is as high as ever.”
Vettel’s triumph a year ago was Ferrari’s third of a resurgent campaign but the Italian outfit have fallen further behind Mercedes this season and remain without a win in 2016, a sequence the German driver would love to end this week.
“I have excellent memories from previous years in Singapore,” Vettel said. “The track is rough, bumpy, long, with longlasting laps. So it’s hard work inside the car, but it’s something we all enjoy.”