With the European leg now behind us, it’s Singapore’s spectacular Marina Bay Street Circuit that raises the curtain for the final third of the season. Last year, this race proved to be chaotic from the start – will it be more of the same this time round?
It would certainly follow the theme this year. Indeed, much of this season has been drama-filled, and the previous round at Italy’s iconic Monza track mustered up yet another cracker, with Mercedes getting the upper hand on title rivals Ferrari.
Here’s all you need to know ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix…
The form book
It’s Mercedes who have enjoyed the most recent success at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, Hamilton winning a dramatic race last year (remember the first-lap collision between the two Ferraris and Max Verstappen?), while Nico Rosberg won for the Silver Arrows in 2016.
Hamilton has history here, too. The Brit is a three-time Singapore GP winner, scoring a hat-trick in 2014 (win/pole/fastest lap) - and that three-win record is only bettered by Vettel, who has won here four times including three consecutive victories with Red Bull.
And so, it looks like it could well be a battle between those two title-chasing drivers this weekend. Ferrari’s SF71H challenger represents their strongest package since 2014, and the tight-and-twisty nature of this track should suit them – as long as they keep out of trouble.
There’s no writing Mercedes off though. Toto Wolff himself has admitted that Ferrari are favourites for this race – conceding that the ‘Marina Bay Street Circuit is one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us’ - but Hamilton’s magical Monza victory showed that they are more than capable of producing a shock when the odds are against them.
Let’s not forget three-time winners Red Bull either. Mercedes and Ferrari may have the power advantage over them, but with this challenging circuit boasting plenty of low and medium-speed corners, it’s among their strongest venues on the current calendar. They won at the similarly-twisty Monaco circuit, so who knows what they can achieve this week?
The stats that matter
Lewis Hamilton leads the championship by the largest margin for any driver in the 2018 season (30 points), a margin 10 times greater than he had with 7 races remaining last season (3 points).
His Mercedes squad were the last team to lock out the front row at Singapore (2014), but twice in the last three seasons they’ve only lined up 5th and 6th on the grid (2015, 2017)
Sebastian Vettel is the record holder for most Singapore GP wins and poles (4 each), and has led the most laps in Marina Bay history (221). Vettel led the Singapore GP from start-to-finish in 2011, 2013 and 2015, with the 2013 race being a grand slam victory (led every lap from pole with fastest lap).
Monza pole-sitter Kimi Raikkonen has never qualified on the front row in eight previous visits to Singapore, and has only outqualified a team mate twice here (2009, 2016).
Daniel Ricciardo has finished on the podium at Singapore in all four of his previous visits with Red Bull – the only circuit on which he has achieved this – although he has never won at Marina Bay and he’s only ever led one lap here (in 2014).
This race will mark Max Verstappen’s 75th Grand Prix start – and the Dutchman qualified second at the 2017 Singapore GP, which remains his career-best tied with the 2016 Belgian and 2017 Mexican GPs.
This is the only circuit on which Sergio Perez has scored in all seven previous visits in his F1 career, with fifth last year being his best-ever finish in Singapore - and he has never been beaten by a team mate in a Singapore F1 race since joining Force India in 2014.
Nico Hulkenberg is making his 150th Grand Prix start this weekend, the 36th driver in F1 history to reach that number, but the first man ever to do so without ever scoring a podium finish (he’s now a long way ahead of second-placed Adrian Sutil, on 128).
Pole position is vitally important here. In the last nine Singapore GPs the pole-sitter has won seven times, with the exceptions being 2012, when Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren broke down while he was leading the race from pole, and 2017, when Sebastian Vettel was hit within 150 metres of the start.
The Safety Car has appeared in every Marina Bay F1 race ever held, with 12 laps of Safety Car running last season (more than 20% of the entire race). Furthermore, Lap 1 accidents have caused a Safety Car deployment in each of the last two years.
In 2008, Singapore had the honour of hosting the first night-time race in F1 history. The Grand Prix – the 15th round of that season – proved a huge hit with the teams and drivers, while Renault’s Fernando Alonso claimed a controversial victory.
And it’s been a regular feature on the calendar ever since, providing some memorable moments and drama along the way. The layout has seen minor changes over the years - the latest of which this year has seen alterations to the course at Turn 16/17 - but it has never lost its magic.
The 5.063km Marina Bay Street Circuit is one of the most physically demanding on the calendar, its bumpy street surface coupled with humid conditions giving the drivers plenty to think about.
With 23 corners, they are working the wheel a lot, too, around the high-speed lap – the physical stress causing them to lose as much as 3kg over the course of a race.
The circuit also boasts some of the most unique features of any track on the F1 calendar, including Turn 18, which actually sees the drivers pass underneath a grandstand.
This Singapore GP marks the return of Pirelli’s softest compound in their range, the pink-walled hypersofts – which made an appearance in Canada and Monaco this season. The hypersoft will be joined in Singapore by the ultrasoft and soft, with the supersoft missing from the line-up as once again Pirelli skips a step.
Mario Isola, Pirelli's Head of Car Racing, explained: “We’ve chosen the hypersoft for Singapore, which should open up a number of different possibilities for strategy, depending on the tyres chosen by each driver.
“By factoring in a ‘step’ in the tyre nominations, we also hope to achieve evenly-spaced gaps between the performances of the different compounds. A number of different tactical permutations are possible, also influenced by safety cars and all the other unpredictable elements that come with a street circuit.
“From our point of view, although the lap is quite slow, the tyres have to cope with high ambient temperatures and humidity, a very high number of corners, and the usual hazards of a street circuit such as unforgiving barriers and variable grip. The fact that the race is run at night adds an extra variable to the usual calculations as well”.
Last year’s Singapore Grand Prix was wet for the first time in the history of the race, but drivers can expect drier conditions this weekend.
That doesn't mean the drivers are in for an easier race, though - the humidity of Singapore makes this nigh time-staged race a challenging one for the them. Highs of 31 degrees Celsius are expected on Saturday and Sunday, slightly cooler than it will be on Friday.
When does the Singapore Grand Prix start?
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