Why the Singapore GP could be this season’s closest

Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix is almost upon us and it could prove to be one of the tightest and most important races of the F1 season.

George Howson by George Howson

With 2 hours of flat-out racing in unrelenting heat, the Singapore Grand Prix is Formula 1’s toughest challenge. After a comfortable 1-2 for  Mercedes last time out in Italy, you’d be forgiven for believing that we’ll see a similar race unfold this week. However, the Marina Bay  Street Circuit has a history of surprise results and this year’s  iteration could produce another great spectacle and here’s why:

The rise of Red Bull

With a much greater focus on aerodynamics in this season’s regulations,  experts and fans alike predicted that Red Bull Racing would carry on  their 2016 resurgence into this season. That hasn’t happened though, with Mercedes maintaining their position at the top and Ferrari now being their closest challengers. At the start of 2017, the Milton Keynes outfit were a clear third fastest in the pecking order, having more pace than Force  India in 4th but a good chunk of time behind Ferrari and Mercedes.

If you saw our latest Power Rankings, you’d know that Daniel Ricciardo’s  performances haven’t gone unnoticed and some even believe he’s currently F1’s fastest driver. His drive in Italy was sensational, beating Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen on outright pace, despite the Aussie  starting at the back of the grid. Indeed, he would’ve caught  title-challenger, Sebastian Vettel, had the race been a few laps longer and that was around a circuit where Red Bull were meant to struggle.  Marina Bay on the other hand, should suit their car perfectly.

With only 1 straight of decent length and plenty of slow 90 degrees left  and right handers, the streets of Singapore arguably provide Red Bull  with their best opportunity of a win this season. In 2016, they went  incredibly close to victory with that man Dan finishing less than half a  second behind Rosberg after a blisteringly fast final stint.

You’d be a fool to bet against a shoey taking place on the podium on Sunday, but don’t discount Max Verstappen’s chances either. The Dutch teenager has proved more than a match for Ricciardo through much of  their time as team-mates and will be desperate for a big points haul after several frustrating retirements in 2017.

So, the Bulls look in good stead, but what about the prancing horses?

Sebastian is scintillating in Singapore

With 4 wins in Singapore, Sebastian Vettel is the undisputed master of  Formula 1’s Far-East night-race. The Ferrari driver has a deft touch  around Marina Bay, winning with ease in all but one Grand Prix between  2011 and 2015. The German is always there or thereabouts and he  finished a very impressive 5th last season after starting 22nd. Even with  an uncompetitive car, you can’t rule Seb out but this year’s Maranello challenger is arguably a match for the Mercedes. So, Vettel will go into the weekend as the strong favourite, but what about the Silver Arrows?

Mercedes’ marina bay ‘mare

Mercedes have dominated the V6-era but Singapore has been their consistent bogey track during this time. On the surface, 2 wins in 3 years is a brilliant conversion rate but they haven’t been anywhere near as  comfortable as usual in Marina Bay. In 2014, Lewis Hamilton required a  late surge to pass the Red Bulls to take the top step and the opposite was true in 2016, with Rosberg just holding off Ricciardo at the finish. 2015 was a disaster by their lofty standards, being off the pace all weekend, Hamilton suffering a retirement and Rosberg crossing the line 4th.

The Brackley team should be worried, not least because of their issues warming their tyres up for qualifying and a Safety Car restart. We saw evidence of this in Russia, Azerbaijan and not least, Monaco. There, Hamilton qualified a lowly 13th due to failing to switch on his tyres, even after several warm up laps. Despite Pirelli bringing their softest compounds of tyres to Singapore, there’s a real chance of a repeat of that on Sunday, and if this happens Lewis can kiss his championship lead goodbye. Add all of that to the fact that the Mercedes is generally poor in traffic and it could easily be a difficult race for the Silver Arrows.

How do you think the race will go? Let us know in the comments below!


George Howson