Singapore Grand Prix | Sunday 20 September | Marina Bay Street Circuit | 14:00
After a controversial win at Monza many experts and fans are questioning whether the FIA are showing a bit more than a pinch of favouritism towards Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team.
The rest of the field will feel a bit miffed at the lack of punishment Hamilton and his teammate received for their under-inflated tyres. With one of the toughest races on the calendar coming up this weekend, those scorned emotions will have to be put aside and replaced by determination.
Monza lived up to its action-packed billing, with controversy, crashes, and even a guest appearance by Star Wars director George Lucas. Although there was to be no drama before the start, as has been the case in previous races, as soon as the lights went out it was all-action. Kimi Raikkonen, who was second on the grid, had a clutch issue which saw him fail to get off the line - by the time the Finn got the car going he had been passed by the rest of the field. Sebastian Vettel’s clean getaway saw him put pressure on Lewis Hamilton going into the first chicane, however the Brit managed hold Vettel off and was in first place through the turn. Once Hamilton had negotiated the early Vettel threat he started to build an ever-increasing lead. The other Mercedes runner, Nico Rosberg, had lost two places off the start and was struggling to reel in the two Williams drivers, who had benefited from Raikkonen stall.
By the midway point of the race Raikkonen had scythed his way through the field and had moved up into eighth position, while Lewis Hamilton was miles in front of second-placed Vettel and the rest of the field. Elsewhere on track, Nico Rosberg had overtaken the Williams duo and was sitting in third, while Daniel Ricciardo had moved up into sixth. As the race wore on, Rosberg started to narrow the gap to Sebastian Vettel - which by lap 45 was cut to less than three seconds. At this point it looked good for Mercedes, however a strange message to Lewis Hamilton via the team radio on the 49th lap saw a few nervous reactions amongst the occupants of the Silver Arrows hospitality box. While Hamilton questioned the call, the team refused to give him the exact details and simply reiterated that he needs to speed up. Hamilton did just this and brought his car over the line with a 25.42 second gap between himself and Vettel. A catastrophic engine blow out on Nico Rosberg’s car saw him retire on the penultimate lap. Rosberg’s retirement allowed Felipe Massa to steal into third; he was followed across the line by teammate Valtteri Bottas. Despite his nightmare start Kimi Raikkonen managed to cross the line in sixth place ahead of the Force India duo of Perez and Hulkenberg. Even with their power issues the two Red Bull drivers managed to get themselves into the Top 10, with Ricciardo claiming eighth and Kvyat finishing in tenth. Sandwiched between the pair was the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.
Post-race, the mystery behind the message to Lewis Hamilton was revealed. It was sent due to Hamilton, as well as his teammate, having an under-inflated left rear tyre. The Silver Arrows drivers escaped punishment and Lewis was clear to bask in his victory.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit is another one of F1’s favourite architect, Hermann Tilke’s designs. The circuit was constructed in less than a year and this will be the seventh staging of the event which made its debut on the Formula One calendar in 2008. The race itself covers a total distance of 308km, each 5.065km lap contains an astounding 23 turns.
While there have always been fears of a tropical rain storm hitting the track, it has yet to happen, however that is set to change this weekend with a 60% chance of rain being predicted for race day. On top of this, there is a new concern for the field to worry about with a thick haze hanging over Singapore due to farmers in neighboring Sumatra burning forest land. This haze coupled with the poor weather, as well as the race being held under lights, could make Singapore one of this year’s more treacherous races to negotiate. The track’s harsh nature has seen Pirelli stick with the softs and supersoft compound options, although the mandatory wet tyres may be the ones that see the most action. Last year’s race saw Lewis Hamilton claim victory. The Brit was joined on the podium by then teammates Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo who finished in second and third respectively.
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To Win Outright
Lewis Hamilton 5/10
Nico Rosberg 11/4
Sebastian Vettel 7/1
Kimi Raikkonen 16/1
Daniel Ricciardo 50/1
Sebastian Vettel - To Win (7/1)
While many proclaim the definition of madness is repeating the same thing over and over again, hoping for a different outcome, when it comes to backing Vettel at Singapore I’m happy for the general public to think I’m as touched as Hamlet. My reasoning for backing the German is simple; he has a fantastic record on this track. Out of the six races held at the venue, Vettel has managed to win three of them. While the wins came in his Red Bull heyday, he has shown that he is capable of recapturing that form in a Ferrari. The German produced a solid display at Monza last time out and will rightfully feel aggrieved with Hamilton getting away with his tyre indiscretion. At 7/1 for a win, the German once again offers great value for money.
Lewis Hamilton - Fastest Qualifier (7/20) & Fastest Lap (7/20)
Although the two Ferraris were a lot closer to matching Hamilton’s qualifying times at Monza, the Brit still managed to secure his customary pole spot. It seems there is just too much pace in that Mercedes of Hamilton’s for the rest of the field to compete with. The Marina Bay Circuit has been a bit of a bogey track for the Mercedes team. The circuit is renowned for the damage it can cause to braking systems. With the Silver Arrows’ only Achilles heel being their occasionally faulty brake-by-wire systems, we could see some trouble for Toto Wolff’s high flying team during the main race this weekend. Once again I can’t see anyone knocking Hamilton off his accustomed pole position perch or matching his fastest lap time. The main race however may be a different story with conditions likely to slow the Mercedes team down. While there’s not a huge amount of money to be made off Hamilton claiming either accolade, it’s likely to pay out.
Daniel Ricciardo - Podium Finish (7/2)
Singapore has proved a happy hunting ground for Red Bull over the years. The team is the best performing constructor at the track having seen one of their drivers win the event on three occasions - as well as having two drivers on the podium on four occasions. Last year’s race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit saw Ricciardo finish in third spot. The young Aussie actually led the race between laps 26 and 38. While Ricciardo hasn’t been spectacular in recent weeks he has put in some decent shifts in that underpowered Red Bull of his. His eighth-place finish at Monza was a fantastic result considering the track's reputation for favoring the faster cars in the field. The conditions at Singapore this weekend should help level the playing field between the speedier Mercedes and Ferrari, and the Red Bulls. At 7/2 for the Australian to finish on the podium I’ll definitely be taking a punt on this one.
Sergio Perez - Top Six Finish (7/2)
The Force India team is one to watch out for at the Singapore Grand Prix. The reason for this is mainly due to the cars being able to handle the wet conditions unlike the Williams vehicles. Whilst the Ferrari, Mercedes, and possibly Red Bull drivers will be battling it out for the podium positions; the Force India boys will be going head-to-head with their Williams counterparts for a top six finish. Perez could be the driver to score some valuable top six points for Force India. He has been in good form of late, finishing in fifth spot in Belgium last month and then sixth spot in Italy a fortnight ago. Last year’s race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit saw Perez finish in seventh place. My money's on Perez to go one better at Singapore this time around and finish amongst the Top Six.