The Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One’s only night race, takes place around the Marina Bay Circuit on Sunday.
With seven rounds left of the season and a maximum 175 points up for grabs in the driver’s championship, there’s still time to haul in reigning triple champion Sebastian Vettel’s commanding 53 point lead. However, that’s becoming less likely than America adopting the metric system, given the form the young German is in.
Vettel heads to Singapore – a Grand Prix he’s won for two years running – with six victories already to his name this season and a points haul of 222.
More ominously, he’s fresh from back-to-back victories in Belgium and Italy on what Red Bull considers to be among its weaker circuits, which must be demoralising for the drivers who still have a mathematical albeit fading chance of preventing him cruising to a fourth title.
ALONSO’S BEST BET
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, on 169 points, is the closest of those after taking second places in Spa and Monza.
Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen, who has just been re-signed to the red team next year as Alonso’s teammate, has slipped from second to fourth in the standings after ending his record run of 27 consecutive points finishes.
A brake failure in Spa, followed by a finish outside the points in Monza due to a first-corner crash, leaves the Finn on 134 points trailing third-placed Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton on 141. Vettel’s Red Bull teammate Mark Webber is fifth with 130 points after a lacklustre season at times plagued by poor luck.
Ferrari is certainly not in a quitting mood, and having narrowly missed the title in the last two years, plans to fight until the end. Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo says he is expecting car updates that will bring improvements for the rest of the season and that the team “will support Alonso until the very last metre”.
MERC SHIFTING FOCUS
Mercedes, on the other hand, is starting to shift its focus more towards next year’s campaign, which will see the current normally-aspirated V8 engines replaced by smaller turbocharged V6s.
“While our design and development priorities are naturally increasing towards our 2014 efforts, our aim is to extract the maximum from the car we are racing and regain our second position in the Constructors’ Championship,” says team principal Ross Brawn.
“This will require a big effort from the team combined with consistent points finishes from Nico (Rosberg) and Lewis (Hamilton).”
Singapore’s Marina Bay track layout is tricky, one of the slowest circuits on the calendar, and the punishing heat and humidity, together with it being a long race that runs close to F1’s two-hour time limit, provide an extra challenge for the drivers.
This has often resulted in cars having untimely meetings with walls and resulting safety car deployments, and if this happens as it has in each of the previous five Singapore Grands Prix, it could help mix up the field a little. Vettel’s rivals can only hope.
Many F1 watchers might like to see a closer championship fight, but the flipside of Vettel’s domination is being able to witness a history-making era by a sportsman at the top of his game, much like Usain Bolt on an athletics track. And is that such a bad thing?
The race will be broadcast live on DSTV at 2pm on Sunday. -Drive Times