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Singapore preview - Mercedes ready to fight back 19 Sep 2013

Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03, Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8 and Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E20 at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Italian Grand Prix, Preparations, Monza, Italy, Thursday, 5 September 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrate in parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 (L to R): Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren, Ole Schack, Red Bull Racing mechanic, race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing and Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari celebrate on the podium with the champagne.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Lotus F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 22 September 2012 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 21 September 2012 Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 22 September 2012 Singapore flag on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012 Marina Bay Circuit view from level 65 of Swissotel, The Stamford. the new chicane profile is visible.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Preparations, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Tuesday, 17 September 2013 Night scenic view.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 23 September 2012

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso are pinning their world championship hopes on strong enough performances to beat Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull in this weekend’s 2013 Formula 1 Singtel Singapore Grand Prix, one of the longest and toughest races on the F1 calendar.

They are the only three drivers to have won under the floodlights of the demanding Marina Bay Street Circuit, but Hamilton arrives trailing Vettel by 81 points, while Alonso is 53 points behind the reigning champion. Hamilton for one, though, is confident of taking the fight to the German.

“When we get to Singapore I hope that I will have the same sort of car that I did in Hungary, when we get back to our high-downforce package,” Hamilton says of the Mercedes W04 with which he wiped the floor with everyone just before the summer break. “If that’s the case, then I believe that we can still keep fighting. That’s what I’m looking forward to.”

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says he still believes that Mercedes can deliver, despite two disappointing races since Hungary: "There is obviously the danger that momentum stalls, but we have momentum. You cannot expect to be on pole at each race and be on the podium at each race, especially from where we came from last year. Everyone is still motivated, we enjoy ourselves and sometimes it just needs a little kick to get back on track. But I am satisfied."

Alonso, meanwhile, is more cautious on his and Ferrari’s title chances: “I think we need to be realistic about the championship now there’s a very big gap. We don’t have enough races and probably we don’t have the speed right now to win some consecutive races and hope to reduce the gap just by pace. We need to be lucky and we need to have some DNFs from Sebastian or something to win the championship. With the races left and the points disadvantage, it’s hard but in a way, it was exactly the same last year. We could only lose the championship, with 41 points advantage in front of Sebastian after the Monza race. It was difficult for him to catch up and so it was maybe up to us. We didn’t complete the job and we had a DNF in Suzuka and some other problems.

“There’s still a long way to go; we will try until the last race to be as good as we can and score as many points as possible and then in Brazil we will see how many points we have compared to him.

“Obviously we were expecting a lot from Monza and it was very good. We didn’t win the race because Red Bull and Sebastian did an even better job and they were very, very good but in our level of competitiveness that we had this year, Monza is one of the best weekends. We came from Silverstone, from Nurburgring, from Hungary where we had Red Bull in front of us, Lotus in front of us, Mercedes in front of us and some other cars sometimes, so here in Monza we were able to beat all those cars and fight for the wins. So if we can repeat this good performance in Singapore… We hope so, but this will be the real test for us. We made some changes in the car, they seemed to be positive in Spa, seemed to positive in Monza, but when we reach the maximum level of downforce in Singapore, like we had in Hungary, we need to check. If we still have Mercedes in front, Lotus in front and some other teams, we will be more or less the same as in Hungary and we don’t want to be. I think we prepare everything to make a step forward and in Singapore hopefully we can see it.”

Despite Red Bull’s domination of the last two low-downforce races, Vettel remains guarded about the prospect of a fourth consecutive title.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much. Obviously the last two races have been very good for us but overall this year, I think it’s been very close. Monza was the first pole position we got in real dry conditions, so on that front we seem to have made progress and in the race it has stood out this year that we have had a very, very strong race car. Together with Ferrari, I think on average we have been the fastest in the race.”

Elsewhere, Felipe Massa will be starting his countdown to leaving Ferrari as Kimi Raikkonen starts his towards taking over his seat, so Lotus in particular will have mixed feelings this weekend as they try to get back into the mix after a couple of disappointing outings. They can also expect endless questions over who might fill Raikkonen’s seat for 2014. McLaren will be keen to see how changes to the MP4-28 work after some respectable races with the car in low-downforce trim, and Force India will be eager to get back ahead of the silver cars from Woking.

Pirelli will be bringing their P Zero White medium and P Zero Red supersoft tyres, which means that the softest tyre in the range will be making its first appearance since Canada. The fact that Singapore is both a street circuit race and run at night places unique demands on the tyres. Even at night the ambient and track temperatures, which are expected to be around 30 and 40 degrees Celsius respectively, create challenges, as does the humidity which tends to remain within 75 to 90 percent throughout the weekend. Traction is critical as Singapore features the highest number of corners - 23 - seen all year. Besides the asphalt being slippery and bumpy, traction is also further compromised by street furniture such as manhole covers and painted white lines. Nonetheless, the cars generate around 4.3g under braking despite the inherent lack of adhesion.

The tight and twisty corners make the supersoft the ideal tyre to generate traction and grip, while the medium tyre adds extra durability into the strategy mix.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery says: “The tyres we are bringing to Singapore this year represent a change from last year, when we went for supersoft and soft. This is because the tyres are generally softer across the board this year in order to maximise performance and grip.

"We're racing at night, which presents a unique set of parameters for the tyres to deal with when it comes to the way that track and ambient temperatures evolve. The cars also carry the heaviest fuel load of the year, which again has a direct effect on tyre wear and degradation. It's a long race, and that gives the teams plenty of scope to come up with some interesting strategies at what is a truly spectacular event in every sense.

“We've always been made to feel incredibly welcome at Singapore, which is probably the most spectacular event of the year in terms of the whole show that is put on for the public. Our aim as always is to contribute to that show by providing tyres with exactly the right compromise between performance and degradation in order to guarantee close racing."

There are a couple of important track changes for 2013. Firstly, Turn 10, known as Singapore Sling and formerly a chicane, has been reprofiled and is now a normal left-hand corner. This is expected to make the approach to Turn 10 about 40 km/h quicker and cut around a second off lap times. Secondly, there are now two DRS zones. The first is between Turns 5 and 7, with the detection point at Turn 4, while the second is on the start-finish straight, with detection before Turn 22.

The weather should be consistent, with ambient temperature highs of 28 to 30 degrees Celsius and partial cloud each day, but there are chances of showers on Friday and Saturday. The race will run over 61 laps of the 5.065-kilometre (3.147 mile) circuit, or 308.828 kilometres (191.905 miles), and starts at 2000 hours local time, which is eight hours ahead of GMT.

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