The F1 circus leaves Europe and relocates to the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday. This unique event takes place at night in a real party atmosphere, with the likes of Calvin Harris, Ariana Grande and Duran Duran providing the off-track entertainment.
Since returning to the calendar in 2008, after a break of 35 years, the safety car has been deployed at least once per race in the Singapore Grand Prix, and an astonishing 14 times in total – most controversially, Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to crash on purpose to give teammate and eventual winner Fernando Alonso an advantage.
Marina Bay is a tight and twisting circuit, and one of the slowest in Formula One.
It’s a gruelling test for drivers, who will have to cope with sweltering humidity as well as the lack of natural light.
Lewis Hamilton heads the drivers’ championship after victory in the Italian Grand Prix and has won this event twice previously, in 2009 and 2014. He was also leading the standings coming into this race last year, but could only finish third to teammate and eventual World Champion Nico Rosberg. Street circuits haven’t been a happy hunting ground for Hamilton this season – he underperformed at Monaco, finishing seventh, and was forced to pit because of a loose headrest in Baku after a coming-together with Vettel. Lack of downforce was an issue at both venues, but the car is improving all the time and a third consecutive win is difficult to rule out despite the widely-perceived view that Ferrari will have an advantage this weekend.
Sebastian Vettel finds himself three points behind Hamilton after his third place in Monz, and has plenty of ‘previous’ in this race – winning three in a row from 2011 to 2013 for Red Bull, and scoring for Ferrari two years ago. He had to start from the back of the grid last year – having received a penalty for gearbox and power unit violations – and, in the circumstances, did remarkably well to claw his way up to fifth place. Given their liking for street circuits – Vettel and Raikkonen ran one-two in Monaco – confidence will be sky high in the Ferrari camp.
Nothing short of a win is needed to halt Hamilton’s momentum.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo continues to impress: he followed his Belgian Grand Prix third with another fine drive at Monza, where he picked up 12 points for fourth. He has a massive lead of 76 points over teammate Max Verstappen, who continues to disappoint. Verstappen has out-qualified Ricciardo on several occasions this season, but his lack of patience and maturity have cost him dearly in the races themselves. Red Bull have a good record in Singapore, with Ricciardo and Verstappen finishing second and sixth respectively 12 months ago, and the young Australian can again out-perform his teammate. Ricciardo also podiumed here in 2014 (third) and 2015 (runner-up) and could be the value wager in this year’s renewal. He also makes some appeal to beat Verstappen in a match bet.
Valtteri Bottas cemented his third place in the drivers’ standings when chasing home Hamilton in Italy, but remains a risky betting proposition, at least in the win market, as team orders could come into play.
Force India driver Sergio Perez has finished in the points every time he’s raced in Singapore and another good showing could be on the cards.