Round 13 of the 2015 F1 season is set to play out under the lights of Singapore this weekend, and with Lewis Hamilton leading the charge at the top of the standings, can anyone prevent him from winning race number 8 come Sunday night?
It was around this time in the season last year that the Championship began to turn on its head, as Nico Rosberg’s lap 13 retirement paved the way for Hamilton to return to the top of the standings. After Singapore 2014, Hamilton went on to win 4 out of the last 5 races finishing the season in emphatic style and deservedly sealing the title at the final race in Abu Dhabi. And if Hamilton’s form at the flyaway races last season is anything to go by, then very soon Rosberg could find Hamilton out of reach. Already two race wins behind, Nico must hope for lady luck to strike in his favour on the streets of Marina Bay for him to have any chance of stopping the unstoppable juggernaut that Lewis has become.
Further down the grid, a repeat of both Red Bull’s on the podium is a distant possibility, with less focus on power and more on aero in Singapore, Ricciardo and Kvyat could well find themselves in contention for some much needed points in the race to catch third placed Williams. With their engine supply situation for 2016 the hot topic of the F1 paddock, a solid points scoring finish for the Milton Keynes outfit would provide a welcome distraction from what can politely be described as “engine-gate”.
It’s not often here at thehairpincorner that we look forward to races such as this. And by that we mean events Bernie has chosen to expand global reach/money grab (delete as appropriate) in favour of F1’s classic circuits but I’m sure we’re not alone in saying that the Singapore GP has become one of our highlights of the season. The lights, the tight twists and turns and in fact the whole spectacle make the Singapore Grand Prix a race not to be missed.
As we begin the final leg of F1’s tour of the planet, here are four questions we’d like to see answers for this weekend.
Can McLaren finally stop offering empty promises?
They’ve said it themselves, Singapore is, McLaren believe their best chance to score points for a significant number of races. The tight and twisty nature of Marina Bay places far less emphasis on power and engine performance and much more on aerodynamics and car design. I mean, let’s face it, McLaren did luck into points in Hungary, and that double points scoring finish after a bitter disappointment at Silverstone took at least some heat of the Woking squad heading into the summer break. Alas however, not for long. After three weeks of bold statements, and even bolder predictions Belgium and Italy made it look like McLaren had taken a step backwards, further away from Sauber and Toro Rosso and closer to Manor GP. All of Boullier, Alonso and Button have publicly stated their next big chance is Singapore, and with Honda Chief Arai believing their engine is 25bhp ahead of Renault (really???) the pressure on McLaren to deliver some points, and at least a Q2/Q3 appearance will be huge.
Will Raikkonen come out on top?
Until the lights went out at Monza, for the first time in many races, since Bahrain in fact, it looked like Raikkonen would have the edge over Vettel. Since the announcement that he would remain at the Scuderia for one more season in 2016, Kimi has shown an improved form and if not bad bad luck in qualifying at Spa, and the unfortunate “incident” on the grid at Monza (which no one at Ferrari seems to want to take the blame for) Raikkonen could have outscored Vettel at both the last two races. Although catching his illustrious teammate in the standings now seems unlikely, if luck falls his way Raikkonen could well be right in contention for a podium come nightfall on Sunday.
He’s said it himself, Nico’s got nothing to lose
Rosberg can’t afford to underestimate the importance of this weekend in his battle with Hamilton for the championship. An unfortunate engine failure with two laps to go in Monza saw Rosberg fall 53 points (two race wins) behind Lewis, and finishing behind Hamilton on Sunday could mark the beginning of the end for his title hopes. Another DNF would all but spell disaster, whilst a retirement for Hamilton and victory for Rosberg could ensure the Championship fight stays open for at least a couple more races.
“Obviously, Monza didn’t go to plan,” Rosberg said. “It was gutting to miss out on a good result so close to the end but now I approach the final seven races with the attitude that there’s nothing to lose.”
Will Williams struggle like they did in Monaco?
It’s safe to say that tight and twisty circuits are not Williams’ forte. Their struggles were laid bare for the world to see in Monaco, Canada and Hungary, and the chances are Singapore won’t be doing them any favours. The FW37 tends to favour low downforce circuits so after a strong weekend for the Grove squad at Monza, they could find themselves fighting with Red Bull for best of the best this weekend. Of course, as they have done before, Williams could spring a podium if either Mercedes runs into trouble but expect Ferrari to be closer to the front than Williams this weekend. Luckily for Williams, the next races in Japan, Russia and America are back at circuits which should play to their strengths.
thehairpincorner prediction for race day at Marina Bay: Hamilton to continue to dominant form with both pole and a win. Rosberg will be closely challenged by a Ferrari (but we don’t want to predict which) with Red Bull finishing as best of the rest. McLaren to improve but will still struggle to break into the top ten on pace alone.
So, that’s our prediction, what do you think could happen in Singapore at the weekend? Let us know your thoughts and comments below!