Lewis Hamilton broke Ferrari hearts with a win in their backyard last time out, and Valtteri Bottas made it a Mercedes 1-2 to add insult to injury – helping Lewis take the lead of the championship in the process.
The tight streets of Singapore though should suit Ferrari better – and Sebastian Vettel usually manages to find another level of performance from Singapore to the end of the season, so it looks like the battle for the driver’s title will go down to the wire this year. Ahead of the crucial Singapore Grand Prix then we take a look at the form of the leading contenders on this track, and it makes good reading for fans of Ferrari!
Lewis Hamilton – Starts 9, Pole Positions 3, Wins 2
Lewis can now claim to be officially the fastest man in F1 history as he surpassed Michael Schumacher’s pole position record in Monza, but he has only managed to take 3 pole positions in Singapore in his nine attempts. He may have the upper hand on his team-mates 6-3 here in qualifying, but his poor performance last year, when in the thick of a title battle with team-mate Nico Rosberg, will worry, as he was bafflingly off Rosberg’s pace all weekend. While Lewis has come out on top on Saturdays, points are awarded on Sunday, and Lewis has managed to finish ahead of his team-mate here on just 3 occasions! Finish being the key – Lewis has suffered some bad luck here, retiring from the lead in 2012 after taking pole for McLaren, while he also retired with engine failure on what was an uncharacteristicly poor weekend for Mercedes in 2015. Being a street circuit Singapore is a track that will penalize poor starts and driver error, and Lewis has had his share – he lost multiple places at the start in 2011 and 2013, while a collision with Webber while attempting to pass the Red Bull for 3rd in 2010 ended in Lewis retirement (Lewis squeezing Webber after trying to go around the outside, not leaving room and paying the price), while his 2011 race was further compromised by damage and a penalty picked up for driving into the back of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari. His two wins here, in 2009 and 2014, have come after clean starts from pole position, on both occasions Lewis getting the better of Sebastian Vettel, with Lewis resisting pressure from Vettel in 2009 before Vettel picked up a penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, and coming through to pass Vettel on track to take the win in 2014 after pit strategy saw Vettel gain track position. So the mission for Lewis is clear this weekend – take pole position number 70, and the rest should take care of itself!
Valtteri Bottas – Starts 4, Best Grid Position 7th, Best Result 5th
Another track where Williams have not shone in recent years and as such Bottas has not been able to achieve much. He’s gotten the better of his Williams team-mates 3-1 in qualifying, but hasn’t actually finished ahead of his team-mate when both cars made the finish. So don’t be expecting too much from Valtteri this weekend, finishing behind his team-mate would seem to be his target! His best year here came in 2015, when he managed to bring his Williams home in an impressive 5th place, whereas last year’s race was a total disaster, a first lap puncture courtesy of Jenson Button’s front wing causing him to drop to the back of the pack, with any hope of a recovery thwarted by having to take an extra pit stop due to his seat-belt coming loose!
Sebastian Vettel – Starts 9, Pole Positions 3, Wins 4
Sebastian Vettel has been the true star of Singapore ever since its arrival on the F1 calendar. He holds a 7-2 record in qualifying against his teammates (with only Daniel Ricciardo in 2014 really beating him, as last year Seb was last after his Ferrari struck trouble), and in the races he is 9-1, avenging his grid loss to Ricciardo on Sunday when it mattered, and even his one loss to a team-mate, in last year’s race, showed his quality, as starting from the back of the grid he hauled himself up to finish in fifth, just one place behind team-mate Raikkonen. From his first outing here for Toro Rosso, a superb fifth place in the crash affected race, he has simply looked at home on the streets. He has converted all 3 of his pole positions here to wins (not even being put off by a spectator on the track in 2015!), and also took a win from third on the grid with a good start getting him up to second place and then taking full advantage of mechanical trouble for Lewis Hamilton to grab the win. He has two solid second places here, finishing on the gearbox of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari in 2010 and putting in a wonderful long stint in 2014 to grab his best result of his down season. Last year’s mechanical woes and the pit lane speeding penalty in 2009 that cost him a chance to fight for victory only served to show what Seb is capable of around the streets of Singapore – Lewis will certainly have his hands full on Sunday if he is to prevent Seb from retaking the lead in the driver’s championship.
Kimi Raikkonen – Starts 7, Best Grid Position 3rd, Best Result 3rd
Another track where Kimi has yet to win. His qualifying performances here have not helped – he has been outqualified by his teammates 5-2 (in which time Vettel and Massa both took pole position while his Ferrari team-mate). But, as is often the case with Kimi, his race performances are better (he leads 4-3 over his team-mates in the races). His first Singapore Grand Prixi n 2008 didn’t end well – he crashed out while in fifth place, burying his Ferrari in the wall near the end of the race – but his race pace underlined as he took fastest lap of the race. 2009 was best forgotten, a disaster with Ferrari hopefully off the pace. After a two year break Kimi returned to F1 in 2011, being beaten by Romain Grosjean on Saturday but getting ahead of him when it counted on Sunday, coming home 6th for Lotus. A poor qualifying the following year was transformed into a great 3rd place for Kimi in the race. 2014 was another down year for Ferrari, with Kimi back on the podium in 2015 as Vettel won the race for the Scuderia. Last year was a disappointment for Kimi, only coming home fourth as Ferrari squandered a podium for Kimi after he had passed the Mercedes of Leiws Hamilton on track, Ferrari gifted the place back to Mercedes as they scrambled to react to Mercedes bringing in Lewis Hamilton for fresh tyres. But as his performance in getting ahead of Lewis on track showed, If Ferrari can keep their cool, Kimi should be able to be a factor in this race, and if he can get his act together in qualifying (a big if), then the battle for the title could get very interesting indeed on Sunday.
Daniel Ricciardo – Starts 6, Best Grid Position 2nd, Best Result 2nd
Traditionally this track stands out as a Red Bull track, and Ricciardo has been agonizingly close to victory over the last two seasons, coming home a close second place both times after securing a front row start on each occasion. Ricciardo will definitely be a dark horse for the race this weekend, and could well cause a split between the championship contenders, although he will have to be regarded as a genuine threat for outright victory. In six visits here Ricciardo has an impressive 6-0 record against his team-mates in qualifying, and although that falls to 4-2 in the races, in detail he is always impressive here, only losing out to Vettel in 2014 by the slimmest of margins after Seb got the jump on him at the start, with his only poor result here being in 2013 when he brought out the safety car after pushing too hard and sliding into the barriers under the grandstand.
Max Verstappen – Starts 2, Best Grid Position 4th, Best Result 6th
The races have not gone Max’s way so far in Singapore, and after his race was ruined by contact with Massa last time out it will be interesting to see if he shows a bit more caution around the streets of Singapore. He qualified an excellent 8th place for Toro Rosso in 2015, but his race was undone before it began as his Toro Rosso stalled on the grid, with Max quickly pushed to the pits but losing a lap. A safety car helped Max pull the lap back, and he then showed all his fighting quality as he hauled his car back into the points, coming in an amazing 8th place at the end, just ahead of team-mate Sainz – ignoring a team order to let Sainz through along the way! Last year he was just not able to match Ricciardo’s qualifying effort (maybe put off by the appearance of Godzilla on the track in FP3!), and paid the price for a slow start in the race after problems with the Red Bull clutch, getting stuck behind the former occupant of his car Daniil Kvyat, who seemed to enjoy holding up his replacement, with Max struggling with his tyres behind Kvyat not once but twice, before eventually getting the better of Kvyat courtesy of a switch to a three stop strategy and bringing the car home in a disappointing sixth place.