Singapore Grand Prix: What I’m Looking Forward To

After wrapping up the European season in Monza, the F1 road show now heads to Asia. First stop: The Marina Bay Street Circuit, the Singapore Grand Prix.

This race definitely has the makings of a real thriller, here’s what I’m personally really looking forward to this weekend.

The title race continues

While Nico Rosberg was expected to deal damage to Lewis Hamilton’s 19 point lead at Spa (given all the engine penalties Hamilton took that sent him to the back of the grid), he wasn’t really expected to further dig into Hamilton’s lead at Monza, a track where Hamilton normally does well at. Nico pounced on Hamilton’s poor start and that was all she wrote. Rosberg won the Grand Prix and cut Hamilton’s championship lead to just 2 points. The two recommence battle this weekend.

We’re now reaching a crucial stretch of the season where any slip up from either driver from here on out may ultimately prove to be very costly.

It’s hard to say which driver has the advantage here. In their time as teammates (which is a much fairer comparison), Rosberg finished 4th ahead of Hamilton (5th) in 2013 but that was the last time both of these drivers have both finished the Grand Prix. Rosberg retired in 2014 with an electrical problem as Hamilton went on to win the race, and in 2015 it was Hamilton’s who retired with Rosberg finishing the race in 4th place.

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the title cont enders fare in Singapore, because there’s another serious factor at play here…

Mercedes’ upper hand to be reeled back?

It’s going to be extra fascinating to see how Hamilton and Rosberg fare because this is definitely not a Mercedes track. They’ve really struggled in Singapore. Last year they were 1.5 seconds off the qualifying pace and neither Mercedes finished on the podium.

It was the one blip in an utterly dominant season, it could well be the case again this season.

In theory you should see the Red Bull’s and Ferrari’s be much more competitive than they have been in comparison to the Mercs.

Mercedes are hopeful they have solved their Singapore issues but team principle Toto Wolff is taking a cautious stance when it comes to this weekend, saying his team must not think that they are favourites for the spoils.

“Ferrari were mighty around this circuit last year and it will suit the high downforce design philosophy followed by Red Bull, so we must not make the mistake of thinking we are favourites this weekend.”

And it’s not just Toto who is unsure about Mercedes’ potential performance in Singapore. Nico Rosberg has described Singapore as a “Red Bull track”, while Mercedes’ Executive Technical Director Paddy Lowe has said a lot of hard work has gone into figuring out why Mercedes were so far off the pace here last year.

“A lot of work has been done during the intervening 12 months to understand why that was.” 

I’m expecting Red Bull to be the team to beat this weekend, but it’s going to be fantastic just to see a much more even competition this weekend rather than the Mercedes dominance that we’ve been accustomed to this season.

A night race and a street circuit

There’s something special about night races and there’s something special about street races. A Saturday afternoon Tottenham Hotspur game isn’t as special as a Champions League game at White Hart Lane. It’s just more special, more of an occasion. Singapore merges both of the rarities in F1 together in one lovely ribbon.

Sure, I get it, Singapore is no Monaco and that’s OK. At the end of the day, there’s only one Monaco. Marina Bay is still a street-style circuit and that means that there is very little room for error. It’s nice and tight, you don’t have the luxury of massive run off areas like you do in some of the Eastern Grand Prix of past and present such as Turkey or Bahrain. If you make a mistake there you have a 1000 miles of runoff track in which to recover. But if you mess up on a street circuit you will be punished. And I love that. Bring it on.

Fight for fourth place continues

Mercedes have runaway with the constructors championship, leaving Red Bull and Ferrari to scrapping for second and third places in their dusts’ dust. Behind them though is another scrap going on between Williams and Force India for fourth place.

The two teams seem so evenly matched, with Williams edging it by just three points. Force India were much better around Spa but Williams bounced back at Monza behind a great drive from Valtteri Bottas.

It’ll be interesting to see which team has the upper hand in Singapore. Really looking forward to finding out.

McLaren

McLaren have always been one of my favourite teams and they boast one of my favourite driver lineups ever in Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. So naturally I’m always very interested to see what they can do.

Their car, however, has not been great in the past two years and that’s largely due to their switch from Mercedes powered engines to Honda power. It has been a disaster so far (though things have definitely picked up this season) and while they have made strides with the engine, it’s still not on par with the likes of Renault (who power Red Bull), Ferrari and Mercedes. Those three engine manufactures provide engines for pretty much the entire field and on a track like Monza where straight line speed rules, McLaren had themselves a tough weekend with Button finishing 12th and Alonso 14th.

But the tables should turn here in Singapore. McLaren’s straight line speed issues will not be as big of a factor as it was in Italy, with more emphasis — as you can imagine — being placed on aerodynamic.

I’m fascinated to see how that car gets on, I’d stick a sneaky bet on the McLaren of Fernando to finish on the podium. Actually… The more I think about that the more I want to do that. Hmmm…

Ultrasoft tyres

The softest tyre compound of all is back this weekend. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the beautiful purple-ly goodness that is the ultrasoft tyre.

usoft

It’s good to see you, old friend… Tyres can’t be friends…

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