Singapore Grand Prix 2017: Mercedes on full attack, Alonso waiting for McLaren, and NSFW merchandise

RealSport brings you highlights from today's driver press conferences


Talking to the press today were Fernando Alonso (McLaren), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), and Jolyon Palmer (Renault) in the first part, with Lance Stroll (Williams), Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas) in the second.

The importance of pole

As one interviewer pointed out, pole in Singapore seems to be critically important. Seven of the nine races held here since the race’s inception in 2008 have been won from pole, with 2008 and 2012 being the exceptions to this, and even then the pole sitters ended up having race ruining issues, from Lewis Hamilton’s car failure in 2012, to Felipe Massa’s infamous fuel hose incident in 2008. He then put the question to Hamilton over whether Saturday was the main focus for the championship leader this weekend.

Lewis tried to play it cool, saying that he hasn’t really thought about it yet and that this was all part of the preparation he will go through with the team as they build towards the weekend. He did, however, acknowledge that given the wider cars this year, pole seems like it will be all important.

When asked about the threat from Red Bull and Ferrari, he said he expects the Red Bulls to be quick and that despite the team heading into “not the easiest of weekends potentially” after Merc’s struggles here in the past, he is coming in with a positive view to winning the race, and insisted that the team will be on “full attack”.

Fernando’s future

Another press conference, another round of questions about the Spaniard’s future. September was meant to be the time when Alonso would announce his 2018 plans, and although we are still in September, the month is rolling on and still nothing.

Expect that to end soon though, as Alonso dropped a hint that things may be coming to a head. We’ve seen all week the stories circulating that McLaren have agreed to run Renault engines for 2018. This deal is meant to be done, and all we are waiting for now is an official announcement, which is expected to take place sometime over the Singapore GP weekend. So when Alonso said today that he wanted to give the team a chance to “make their decisions”, this is probably what he is referring to.

He has said repeatedly, and reiterated today, that he is only interested in a 2018 F1 drive is he is fighting for wins. Whether a McLaren-Renault partnership could deliver this is up for debate, but if McLaren can give evidence that they can provide Alonso a car of the caliber of the Red Bull, who also run the Renault power unit, then I think he is likely to stay. It’s not like any other teams can offer him anything better.

Ricciardo’s Red Bull ambitions

After an encouraging last few races, Daniel Ricciardo was upbeat on his, and the team’s, chances in Singapore this weekend. He stated that the strong team showing in Monza was a big surprise to him, as while they knew they were going to be strong on high downforce circuits, Red Bull didn’t expect such a high level of performance from the car in low downforce configuration. This, added to a few new updates for this weekend, has the Aussie’s confidence soaring, especially since, as the man himself pointed out, Singapore isn’t exactly Mercedes’ strongest circuit.

Asked about targets for 2018, Ricciardo was clear, he wants to win, and he wants to be fighting for the title. While this may seem a lofty ambition given the strength of Mercedes and Ferrari, the progress Red Bull have made this year is staggering. In Melbourne (a race Ricciardo described as feeling like it was from a “different season”) their relative performance was so much worse than the leading 2, and it’s a testament to the ability of that Red Bull team to catch up to the extent they have. The crucial aspect for Ricciardo for 2018 is to start strong so that their incredible development rate will see the team fighting at the front rather than playing catch up.

Jolyon under pressure (again)

Poor Jolyon Palmer. First he has to sit in the press conference next to Fernando Alonso, who he got into a little spat with in Monza after he overtook the McLaren driver by cutting the second chicane, and then when he is asked a question, all it is about is whether he will still be in F1 for the next race in Malaysia, never mind in 2018!

To be fair, Palmer kept calm when it would have been quite easy to lose his cool a bit with the reporters asking these questions, and stuck to the line that he knows what his situation is and that he will be driving for Renault for the rest of the season. He argued, with some justification, that his mechanical record this season has cost him some good results, especially in places like Silverstone and Baku. He went further to say that he believes that the team have made great progress in the reliability, as well as general speed, department lately, and that this will give him a chance to show what he can really do in the last seven races of the year.

Let’s hope he can, because otherwise, given the interest around the Renault seats for 2018, he could easily find himself cut adrift.

Magnussen’s NSFW clothing line

Towards the end of the second session, Daniel Ricciardo was asked about his clothing line that launched at the Australian Grand Prix, and whether any of the other drivers would consider a similar venture.

Ricciardo reported that he launched the line as a response to fans who were asking for merchandise and that it was currently doing well, which means he must have “some fans, which is nice!” He also offered the reported a free hoodie for bringing his clothing up in an internationally televised press conference!

When the question was put to Magnussen, he said that while he didn’t yet have a line of his own, he had seen some Danish fans with shirts that sport a quote from a recent interview he did when he was interrupted by Nico Hulkenberg. Ricciardo was eager to hear the quote again, but Magnussen claimed he had unfortunately forgotten, while in the background the FIA driver wrangler was gesticulating furiously for the quote not to be repeated on live TV!

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Nick Brown

Audio tech by day, caffeine fuelled RS F1 writer by night/horrifically early flyaway race weekends.

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