Singapore - With the Singapore street circuit suited to
Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel is hoping to reclaim the Formula One championship
lead from Lewis Hamilton this weekend.
Vettel secured six straight podiums on Singapore's floodlit
Marina Bay street circuit until his run ended with a fifth place last year.
No driver has had more podium finishes in Singapore than
Vettel, whose impressive streak at the night race includes three straight wins
from 2011-13 during his run of four straight F1 titles with former team Red Bull.
The 5-kilometre circuit resembles the Monaco GP in terms of
its sinewy layout: A low-speed, hard-braking track favouring maximum down force
and reducing the outright pace of Hamilton's Mercedes.
Vettel's confidence will be further boosted by the fact he
comfortably won Monaco this year, with Ferrari securing a 1-2 finish and
Hamilton in seventh place. Ferrari also clinched 1-2 in Hungary, another track
which neutralizes the power of Mercedes.
The last two races of this season, in Belgium and Italy,
were more suited to Mercedes and played to Hamilton's strengths. And he won
them to move three points ahead of Vettel in a thrilling title contest.
There are six races remaining after Singapore, a circuit
which has caused problems for Mercedes before.
When Vettel won here in 2015 - in his first season with
Ferrari - Mercedes stuttered as Nico Rosberg placed fourth and Hamilton retired
with engine failure. Although Hamilton won here in 2014, he finished only fifth
the previous year, and retired two further times with his previous team
"This is a circuit we have found difficult to
master," Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said. "On the
surface, Singapore is the kind of circuit that should favour both Ferrari and
There are few places to overtake in Singapore, but one of
those is the blistering run into Turn 7.
Drivers must get the timing just right as they approach at a
top speed of 320 kilometres per hour before braking heavily down to 120 kph.
Such a tough corner invariably puts drivers under strain, and Hamilton
sustained a puncture and retired after bumping tires with Red Bull's Mark
Webber in 2010.
Drivers must also contend with sweltering humidity, as Red
Bull's Daniel Ricciardo explains.
"When you stop after the race and the adrenaline
decreases you feel it even more," he said. "After the race I will
easily sink five litres of water to rehydrate before I go to bed."
His teammate Max Verstappen, meanwhile, prepares for the
race by "doing heat training in the sauna and getting ready to
Ricciardo arrives in Singapore in very consistent form, with
six podiums in the last nine races. After a tough start, punctuated by two
retirements in four races, he is hitting peak form.
The Australian driver is growing in stature and arguably has
credentials of a future champion, particularly in turning difficult situations
In recent weeks, he has demonstrated the full repertoire of
his driving skills: brilliantly cutting through the field to finish fourth in
Monza two weeks ago, and making an astutely opportunist overtaking move in Spa
the race before.
His uncanny ability to sense an overtaking move is among the
best, and he feels he has a good chance to challenge for a victory.
"I've started second and finished second at this track
in the last two years, with fastest lap both times," he said. "So my
aim this year is definitely to start on pole and go one better."