Business Day

Hamil­ton hopes to be streets ahead

- AGENCY STAFF Sin­ga­pore

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.”

 ?? Pic­ture: EPA ?? PRE­PARED: For­mula One leader Lewis Hamil­ton of Mercedes sits on a sim­u­la­tor ahead of Sun­day’s Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix.
Pic­ture: EPA PRE­PARED: For­mula One leader Lewis Hamil­ton of Mercedes sits on a sim­u­la­tor ahead of Sun­day’s Sin­ga­pore Grand Prix.

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