Singapore Grand Prix 2017: 5 drivers who need a good performance
RealSport looks at who needs to be at the top of their game going into one of the most demanding races on the calendar.
Beating Mercedes at Monza was always going to be a real tough ask for Ferrari, given the firm advantage the Silver Arrows possess over the Scuderia in terms of engine performance. But Sebastian Vettel wouldn’t have expected to cross the line over half a minute behind his championship rival, who was cruising for the majority of the 53 laps.
Mercedes’ dominance at Monza was reminiscent of the last three seasons, and as a result, Lewis Hamilton was able to gain the championship lead for just the first time this season. Vettel expressed how he’s not concerned about the difference in pace between the teams, and he emphasised the point that Mercedes should not hold such an advantage at any other track for the rest of the season.
He’s right too, but you can’t help feel that Mercedes just have the edge over Ferrari, and are winning a closely contested development war. It’s imperative then that Vettel performs this weekend, and performs well, as if Hamilton was to secure his third win on the bounce at a track where Ferrari fancy their chances, then the momentum of Mercedes may just be too much to halt.
Not a regular on the list due to his point scoring consistency, but for the first time at Force India, Sergio Perez is feeling the heat.
Many, including myself, see Perez as primarily the one to blame for Force India throwing away a bucket of points for the team at Spa, as the Mexican hustled Ocon into the wall on two occasions. The first incident, they both luckily got away with, but Perez was the one who suffered more in the second, and recorded a DNF in the end.
He was also comprehensively out-qualified by his younger teammate at Monza, and even though Perez put in a solid race performance to finish ninth, he still found himself behind Ocon and both Williams drivers. Consequently, his teammate is now only three points behind in the drivers’ standings, so Checo will hope for a much better showing this weekend at Singapore, where he will at least aim to beat Ocon if nothing else.
As he has done so many times this season, Max Verstappen showed real pace at Monza, but had nothing to show for it. Well, little to show for it, as he valiantly managed to salvage one championship point, after his shenanigans with Massa.
Even though his collision with the Brazilian was deemed a racing incident, it was a collision which the teen really could have done without, after his fairly torrid season to date which has been characterised by reliability issues and plain bad luck on the whole.
What will frustrate him more perhaps is seeing his teammate consistently delivering exceptional race finishes, as he did last time out in Italy. The Dutchman has shown this season that he can better his teammates qualifying pace, but doesn’t quite have the race craft which Ricciardo possesses.
Monza was another race of what could have and should have been for Verstappen, and he will be hoping that he can have a clean, and strong race weekend in Singapore, where Red Bull are quietly optimistic of challenging for victory.
Does he even need an introduction? Jolyon Palmer has become a regular on this list, and he’s on it again as he failed to put in a good performance in Italy.
Knocked out in Q1 again, Palmer would have been hoping to take advantage of Monza’s long straights and overtaking opportunities to claw himself up into a respectable finishing position and give the team something to be impressed about. But none of that actually occurred, unsurprisingly…
To be fair to him, he once again suffered reliability issues, which are of course beyond his control, but this was after receiving a five-second time penalty for cutting the chicane when battling with Alonso, and then not justly returning the position. And it was not like he was on for a points finish either when he experienced car unreliability.
I know it’s been said many a time before, but it’s now or never for Palmer, and he needs not just a good performance this weekend, but a stellar one. And even that might not save his seat, as Sainz is heavily rumoured to be joining the Renault team very soon. So, whatever performance the Brit delivers this weekend, it may just prove futile.
It’s been a pretty solid season for Wehrlein, but Monza was one race which will not live long in the memory of the German. He was out-qualified by his teammate who he has boasted an advantage over this season, and then went onto finish plum last, two laps down on the leader.
I feel sympathy for him however as he is in a very poor Sauber car, where he cannot show the heaps of talent which he possesses. Even though he has quietly gone about his job this season, and has manged to score 5 points for the team, he is somewhat being pushed under the radar and his name is being mentioned considerably less.
Not a positive, especially when Mercedes’ other young driver, Esteban Ocon is having a brilliant first full season in F1, and is securing race finishes which reflect his talent. A good performance this weekend may provide a confidence boost for himself, but unless its something extraordinary, it is unlikely to boost his 2018 prospects, which are looking increasingly bleak as the season progresses.