RACE DEBRIEF

    It’s time to get nocturnal, as Formula 1 returns to the sweltering, floodlit heat of the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix. Ahead of this year’s race, here are the drivers we think are most likely to get the job done in The Lion City.

    Who’s the top tip for pole?

    Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are the only two drivers on the grid with pole experience in Singapore, both drivers tied on four apiece. Yet, while numerologically-speaking, Vettel is due one this year (he likes to claim Singapore poles in odd years, having put it on P1 here in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017) we think that in a Ferrari SF90 built for low drag, both he and Charles Leclerc could struggle to take Ferrari’s third pole in as many race weekends around the twisting Singapore streets.

    Instead, a repeat of Hamilton’s ‘magic lap’ from last year seems more probable, in the slow corner-devouring Mercedes W10 – more probable than a Valtteri Bottas pole, mind, with the Finn having never started in the top three here.

    But Max Verstappen has been on the front row at Marina Bay the past two years – and if Honda’s Spec 4 engine can give him the power to challenge the Mercedes in his Red Bull RB15, we’d predict a tantalising Q3 shoot-out between Verstappen and Hamilton.

    READ MORE: Why the only thing splitting Red Bull and Mercedes in Singapore could be the drivers

    FAN VIEW: Over half of F1 Play gamers correctly chose Charles Leclerc to win the Italian Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton is the most popular selection for Singapore – 64% of gamers have picked the Mercedes man to repeat his victory from last year.

    WARP SPEED: A fresh look at Hamilton's 'magic' Singapore pole lap from 2018

    Who’s looking good for the win?

    Again, it’s Vettel and Hamilton who are tied on four wins each around here, the only Singapore victories on the current grid.

    But as with the pole position sitch, while the Ferrari could sing on tracks like Spa and Monza, around the slow corner-filled confines of the Marina Bay Street Circuit – where Hamilton’s maxed-out pole lap in 2018 was set at an average of just 118.13mph, only 12mph faster than his Monaco pole this year – it could be hard for Vettel to make it a fifth Singaporean victory, or for Charles Leclerc to take his hat-trick.

    Again, we’re predicting a repeat of Hamilton and Verstappen’s close scrap for victory here 12 months ago, given that both will be armed with high downforce-oriented machinery – indeed, perhaps an even closer scrap than last year, given the steady improvements seen on the Red Bull throughout this season.

    Whoever does take pole on Saturday will have the upper hand, too, with the race won eight times in the past 10 years by the driver leading the field away when the lights go out – while one-two-three on the grid have finished in that order for the past three dry Singapore Grands Prix.

    FAN VIEW: After disappointing back-to-back races at Spa and Monza, Max Verstappen is tipped to bounce back under the floodlights this weekend. 60% of F1 Play selections feature the Red Bull driver to finish either first, second or third.

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    Who’s a podium outsider?

    Assuming that the first two spots on the podium will be occupied by Verstappen and Hamilton – and that’s by no means guaranteed, of course, given that a Safety Car has appeared at every Singapore Grand Prix, and been brought out for first-lap shunts the past three years… but assuming it is, that makes the fight for P3 an intriguing one.

    Leclerc is magic on street circuits, and finished ninth for Sauber here last year. So if he can use that magic to overcome the Ferrari’s anticipated deficiencies in Singapore, he could be a prime candidate. Bottas, meanwhile, should be able to threaten too, having finished in the top four for the past two seasons with Mercedes.

    It will likely be harder for Alex Albon, who’s never driven the Marina Bay Street Circuit before, which, with 23 corners of bumpy track to master in sweltering humidity, could make the going tough in just his third race for Red Bull.

    FAN VIEW: Unsurprisingly, three-quarters of F1 Play entries believe the trend for a Singapore Grand Prix Safety Car will continue this weekend.

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    Who’ll hoover up any points on offer?

    After a challenging couple of races for current fourth-placers McLaren, we’d expect a papaya-hued fightback in Singapore.

    Carlos Sainz thrives around the Singapore streets, finishing fourth here for Toro Rosso in 2017, while he’s only ever finished out of the points here once in four attempts. The higher downforce of the McLaren MCL34 relative to its midfield rivals, meanwhile, should help the team too – although in the #4 car Lando Norris, like Albon and George Russell, makes his first appearance here.

    READ MORE: McLaren won't compromise next season in battle with Renault for fourth

    After a strong Monza race, there’s potential for Renault to once again be in the mix, too, with Ricciardo a four-time podium taker in Singapore in his Red Bull days.

    Someone else with podium experience at Marina Bay is Kimi Raikkonen. And with the Alfa Romeo package improving, look out for points from the Iceman, while team mate Antonio Giovinazzi will also be looking to string two points-scoring races together for the first time in his F1 career, at a track where he drove in Free Practice 1 for Haas in 2017.

    FAN VIEW: F1 Play gamers are backing Renault’s resurgence to continue after Daniel Ricciardo’s flawless run to fourth at Monza. Over a third of gamers have gone with the Australian to top a group including team mate Nico Hulkenberg, the two McLarens, the Haas pairing and Kimi Raikkonen.