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F12017: Singapore Gp Preview – Advantage Ferrari?

The Formula 1 paddock heads east as it readies for the final stretch of the 2017 season.

More specifically, Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit will be the spectacular backdrop to the ever-intense battle for championship glory in 2017. As it stands Lewis Hamilton leads the driver’s standings by three points after winning back-to-back races in Belgium and Italy.

However, while these past two races, and their low downforce configurations, were always slated to highlight and play to Mercedes’ strength the streets of Singapore hold a completely different connotation in prospect. At five kilometers with twenty-three relentless corners the Marina Bay Circuit is one of the most demanding layout of the season. Add to that the closeness of the barriers and the humidity and it becomes, arguably, the most physically demanding race on the calendar. “As a track, it’s really tough and physically demanding – arguably one of the hardest of the season. The lap is long with lots of corners and some tight and sharp bits. The high temperature and humidity, combined with the fact that it’s a street circuit, makes it quite hard,” says Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Singapore, on the calendar since 2008, has delivered some memorable races in its time. The inaugural race itself likely saw one of the shadiest incidents in the 21st century for Formula 1 and it had nothing to do with the fact that the grand prix is run at night. Instead controversy swept through the Renault team, as it was later revealed that Nelson Piquet JR. was ordered to deliberately crash to prompt a safety car and setup then teammate Fernando Alonso to win the race. It led to a lifetime ban for teamboss Flavio Briatore and Piquet JR. was never seen in F1 again. Contrastingly, it’s also delivered some superb races as in 2013 when Kimi Raikkonen, then a Lotus driver, stormed onto the podium despite starting thirteenth with severe back pain.

singapore-vettelThe Marina Bay Circuit, as a high-downforce track, is expected to suit Ferrari in the way that Monaco and Hungary highlighted the strengths of the Scuderia. Pirelli have nominated the same range of compounds as in Monaco, which include the ulta- and supersoft tyre. While Mercedes have made some progress in getting their tyre temperatures perfectly balanced there’s no telling how much progress they’ve made and they’ll not like having these spread of compounds available this weekend. As it stands Niki Lauda believes that Mercedes have zero chance of seeing the top step of the podium in Singapore. What’s more is that Red Bull has made significant strides since the start of the season and could be factor for Mercedes and perhaps even for Ferrari.

The fact that Marina Bay is a street circuit exponentially increases the likelihood of the safety-car making an appearance, which makes strategy that much harder to predict.

Off the track it’s been announced that Carlos Sainz is joining Renault for 2018 with McLaren being expected to announce an engine supply deal with Renault in the coming days. It’s further expected that Honda will remain in F1 by partnering with the Toro Rosso team.

As Hamilton holds a slender championship lead of three points over Vettel the expectation is, barring unreliability, that the German driver will soar into the lead of the 2017 standings on a circuit tailor-made for his Ferrari.

About Natalie Le Clue

Natalie Le Clue is an F1 aficionado of the most dedicated vein. And, true to form for any F1-enamoured junkie, she readily admits to crying the first time she saw a F1 car, calling it an ‘overwhelming moment’. Natalie has won the 2010 gSport Woman In Media award, the 2015 Woman In Media Print award, and has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential People in South African Sport by the Department of Sport and Recreation. Natalie is currently serving as SAfm's F1 correspondent. Follow Natalie on Twitter @nlc27

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