Last roll of the dice for Vettel’s rivals as he aims for Singapore hat-trick

2013 Singapore Grand Prix preview

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Marina Bay, 2012Sebastian Vettel heads into the Singapore Grand Prix weekend looking for his third consecutive win in F1′s night race to tighten his grip on a fourth world championship crown.

His rivals’ increasingly slim hopes are invested in the possibility that moving from the low-downforce tracks where Red Bull have been unusually competitive this year (scoring a ‘clean sweep’ in Canada, Belgium and Italy) will re-energise their championship prospects.

That is particularly so for Mercedes, who were off the front row in Italy for the first time since Malaysia, and Lotus, whose leading points-scorer Kimi Raikkonen left Spa and Monza empty-handed.

But this phase in the season has previously been where Red Bull have flexed their muscles. Last year Singapore began a run of four consecutive wins for Vettel. The year before he won three of the four same events.

It’s also the beginning of the championship’s gruelling final stint of flyaway races. Seven grands prix in ten weekends will see the F1 cavalcade globe-hopping from Asia to the Americas.

Singapore circuit information

Lap length TBC
Distance 61 laps
Lap record* 1’47.976 (Fernando Alonso, 2010)
Fastest lap 1’44.381 (Sebastian Vettel, 2011)
Tyres Medium and Super-soft

*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix

Singapore track data in full

If Red Bull have one potential weakness, it’s reliability. Vettel lost a win at Silverstone due to a gearbox failure and both RB9s suffered transmission problems at Monza. What’s more, they will have to use the same gearboxes from Monza this weekend or face a grid penalty for changing them.

If any track is going to expose a car’s reliability problems it is likely to be Singapore. Just ask Lewis Hamilton, who was on course for victory last year until his McLaren failed. The bumpy track surface and ambient temperatures which remain high even after night falls make this an especially punishing venue.

After the previous race at the fastest track on the calendar, Singapore could not be a much greater contrast. This is a maximum downforce track with frequent braking zones.

The track has had one significant tweak for this year’s race: the turn ten chicane, dubbed the Singapore Sling, has been replaced with a simple left-handed corner. According to Fernando Alonso it will reduce lap times by around a second, which suggests the corner might be tighter and slower than images of it which have appeared on Twitter indicate. But the awkward bodge job that existed before is gone, and it’s hard to see how its replacement could fail to be an improvement.

As last year Pirelli have brought their super-soft tyre but this time they have paired it with the medium compound instead of the soft. “We?ll likely use the super-soft for qualifying and the medium for the race,” said Lotus trackside operations director Alan Permane.

“But with the stiffness of this year?s medium tyre being relatively similar to last year?s soft, plus the additional knowledge the teams now have in terms of managing degradation, we would expect overtaking to be difficult at best.”

That will make Saturday’s qualifying session all the more important. Vettel’s rivals know their best chance is if at least one of them can keep him from pole position. Failing to do so, and allowing him to increase his points lead yet further, could make it a matter of when, not if, he will clinch the title.

Singapore Grand Prix team-by-team preview

Red Bull

Vettel has usually been very quick around Singapore – in addition to his 2011 and 2012 victories a 2010 win slipped through his fingers after a slip-up in qualifying allowed Fernando Alonso to get the better of him.

Ferrari

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Singapore, 2012An interesting consequence of Kimi Raikkonen’s impending arrival at Maranello is that Felipe Massa has vowed to stop propping up Alonso’s title bid. Luca di Montezemolo rebuffed such suggestions, so all eyes will be on the Ferrari pit wall should Alonso end up behind his team mate.

Ahead of this weekend the team said it would be a true test of how much they had closed the gap on Red Bull since their slump at the German and Hungarian races. Out-qualifying the RB9s may be too much to hope for, but they must put them under pressure in the race.

McLaren

Sergio Perez admits the team’s developments over the final races are “most with an eye to next year”.

“Obviously, the fight at the sharp end of the championship means that the top three or four teams are still pushing hard to develop their current cars, whereas some of the others are looking more towards 2014,” he added. “That means that it?s getting slightly harder to score good points in the remaining races.”

Lotus

Team principal Eric Boullier expects Lotus to be back to their best this weekemd. “There’s no reason to think that a podium will be out of reach,” he said.

“We’ve been quite competitive on twisty circuits this year and Singapore shares a lot of Monaco’s characteristics. Romain [Grosjean] loves that type of circuit, while Kimi has always been quick in Singapore.”

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, Marina Bay, 2012Likewise Mercedes believe they’ll be closer to Red Bull on this more typical track. “We expect the return to maximum downforce configuration to suit our car and we may see another shift in the competitive order between the teams,” said executive director Toto Wolff.

Sauber

After Nico Hulkenberg’s brilliant drive to fifth at Monza, the question inevitably arises whether Sauber simply found a good set-up for a unique track, or have they solved some of the C32′s problems?

They were pleasantly surprised by their pace in the slow corners at Monza and there’s plenty more of those in Singapore. it will be especially interesting to keep an eye on their progress this weekend.

Force India

Paul di Resta impressed with a career-best fourth place in last year’s race but is doubtful of his chances of doing it again.

“It would be great to try and repeat that, but it?s going to be tough given how competitive the grid is at the moment,” he said. “There?s no doubt that the tyre change had an impact on things. Plus, a lot of the teams have caught up with us for whatever reason, whether it?s updates or the nature of the tracks.”

Williams

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Singapore, 2012Third on the grid for Valtteri Bottas at the Canadian Grand Prix has been one of few high points for the team so far this year.

Last year Pastor Maldonado put his Williams on the front row, which was the prelude to a strong but unrewarded drive. “I had a very strong qualifying here last year, finishing in second place, so I feel like this layout suits my eye and I know how to squeeze every tenth out of the laptime,” he said.

Toro Rosso

Jean-Eric Vergne has had a luckless season so far with more mechanical retirements than any other driver. He was similarly unfortunate in Singapore last year, being taken out by Michael Schumacher. It’s time his luck changed.

Caterham

Charles Pic is expecting a busy weekend off the track at Caterham: “Tony Fernandes is going to be in town and we have lots of sponsor and team partner activities taking place on and off track, so one of the challenges throughout the week is finding the time to step back from everything going on around us and focus on the main priority which is having as strong a weekend as we can on track.”

Marussia

Max Chilton is yet to out-qualify or out-race Jules Bianchi on merit so far this year. But he won at Singapore in GP2 last year and has closed the gap on his team mate as the year has gone on. Will he finally put one over Bianchi this weekend?

2013 driver form

Driver G avg R avg R best R worst Classified Form guide
Sebastian Vettel 2.50 2.00 1 4 11/12 Form guide
Mark Webber 6.17 4.36 2 7 11/12 Form guide
Fernando Alonso 5.58 3.36 1 8 11/12 Form guide
Felipe Massa 8.33 6.60 3 15 10/12 Form guide
Jenson Button 9.92 9.08 5 17 12/12 Form guide
Sergio Perez 10.92 11.08 6 20 12/12 Form guide
Kimi Raikkonen 6.92 4.82 1 11 11/12 Form guide
Romain Grosjean 9.33 8.50 3 19 10/12 Form guide
Nico Rosberg 4.17 6.40 1 19 10/12 Form guide
Lewis Hamilton 3.25 4.75 1 12 12/12 Form guide
Nico Hulkenberg 11.00 10.50 5 15 10/11 Form guide
Esteban Gutierrez 17.42 14.20 11 20 10/12 Form guide
Paul di Resta 13.00 9.00 4 18 9/12 Form guide
Adrian Sutil 10.75 10.33 5 16 9/12 Form guide
Pastor Maldonado 15.75 13.56 10 17 9/12 Form guide
Valtteri Bottas 15.42 13.82 11 16 11/12 Form guide
Jean-Eric Vergne 13.33 10.29 6 12 7/12 Form guide
Daniel Ricciardo 10.50 11.60 7 18 10/12 Form guide
Charles Pic 19.92 16.20 14 18 10/12 Form guide
Giedo van der Garde 19.33 17.10 14 21 10/12 Form guide
Jules Bianchi 19.08 16.60 13 19 10/12 Form guide
Max Chilton 20.42 17.83 14 20 12/12 Form guide

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Images ?? Singapore GP/Sutton, Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Force India, Williams/LAT

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89 comments on Last roll of the dice for Vettel’s rivals as he aims for Singapore hat-trick

  1. Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 18th September 2013, 11:22

    I don’t think it will happen, RB are just too strong in the final part of the season.

  2. karter22 (@karter22) said on 18th September 2013, 11:24

    It´s going to be a tough race to watch but I sure hope ALO can work some magic!

    • Lucas Wilson (@full-throttle-f1) said on 18th September 2013, 11:26

      I gave up on 1st lap in Spa

    • Odinsthor said on 18th September 2013, 21:03

      Yeah “Magic”, “Alonso” and “Singapore”….I remember Fernando in 2008 after Quali “I need a miracle more than anything” he said and day after…few guys made some magic for him…

      • Broom (@brum55) said on 18th September 2013, 23:12

        If you want to see Alonso Singapore magic, check out Singapore 2010. Weak qualifier that he is, outqualified both Red-Bulls and kept Vettel behind for the whole race.

        • @brum55 that was a great performance for Alonso. However, keeping a car behind in those days wasn’t an arduous task (Vitaly Petrov managed to do it to Alonso in the same year at Abu Dhabi – an easier track to overtake on).

          • Broom (@brum55) said on 19th September 2013, 20:55

            You’re right. But still Alonso had no right to get a Grand Chelm in a race where he was in the 2nd best car that weekend, as well as being able to absorb all that pressure in a 2 hour marathon race. What was even more remarkable was that he got pole in the first place, considering what an ‘average’ qualifier many on here believe him to be.

  3. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 18th September 2013, 11:36

    Red Bull have one potential weakness, it’s reliability. Vettel lost a win at Silverstone due to a gearbox failure and both RB9s suffered transmission problems at Monza. What’s more, they will have to use the same gearboxes from Monza this weekend or face a grid penalty for changing them.

    The most crucial paragraph.

    • Totally agree.

      • I hope they get a 5 place grid penalty, that way the race will be livened up initially as they fight through the field

        • Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 18th September 2013, 12:47

          I’m not usually one to wish misfortune on someone. But, for the sake of the championship, I kind of hope they dont change Vettel’s gearbox thus avoiding the 5 place penalty, however leaving him much more highly prone to a DNF induced gearbox failure in the race. lol.

          • I don’t think they would do it if the risk of failure is high. At this point all that can threaten Vettel’s charge is DNFs. So even if he qualifies 2-3 and get a 5 place penalty he can salvage some good points (getting to 5th place will give him 10 points, assuming ALO, HAM, ROS and RAI finish ahead of him) and Alonso has brought the gap down back to it was in summer break).

          • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 14:40

            @tophercheese21 LOL at that . Consider what happened to Lewis after that slight touch of the wall in Q3 , it is possible . But because it is vettel and Red Bull whom we are dealing with here instead of the last year’s Mclaren , it is ‘remotely’ possible. Let us see what happens . I hope Merc come back to being quick in qualifying .

        • @abnash weirdly, I agree. Even though it’s not really the best track for overtaking (and hence the spectacle of someone coming through the field) I think it’d make the race more interesting – Italy and Belgium (although not bad) weren’t exactly classics…

    • WilliamB (@william-brierty) said on 18th September 2013, 13:12

      @tophercheese21 @makana Its crucial to some extent, but when you a) have a car that is the best part of 0.4 of a second faster than everyone else’s, b) are heading to tracks where you have historically dominated and c) you have a 53 point lead over everyone else, it’s hardly something to get hot under the collar about. In order for Vettel to be under any championship pressure at all, he needs to fail to score with Alonso winning twice in seven races, and Ferrari needs a car that is the equal of the RB9 in the other five races, and with Ferrari already fully focusing on 2014, that won’t happen.

      Keith is wrong. It is already a matter of when and not if Vettel becomes champion.

    • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 18th September 2013, 15:43

      @tophercheese21 doesn’t the rule say they have to use a gearbox for 4 races? Or it oblgates the teams to use the gearbox in 4 consecutive races?

  4. The last two races have typically been strong for Ferrari with low downforce, so I’m expecting them to not be so strong here, but a podium is possible. I hope to see Massa disobeying team orders for entertainment purposes! Mercedes and Lotus should return to typical form which could peg Ferrari back. Maybe Maldonado can get into the points if he shows his strong form from last year. And of course I’m expecting another Vettel win if the car allows.

  5. Does anyone else sometimes forget Williams exist?

    Thanks for reminding me Keith. Harsh it know, but seriously – what on earth?

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 14:42

      Maldonado reminds occasionally and of course the New flying Finn did so in Canada . But yes , another weak year.

    • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 18th September 2013, 23:05

      They’ve got a good track record in terms of car performance and results: Rosberg got on the podium in 2008 and could’ve the following year also without crossing the white line at the pit exit, plus Rubens and Maldonado have had exceptional qualifying results in 2010 and last year respectively. I see them being closer to the Top 10, hopefully fighting for points!

  6. “Kimi has always been quick in Singapore.”

    I don’t recall Raikkonen being a Singapore specialist. Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton yes. Glock yes. Rosberg yes. But Raikkonen, I don’t recall him doing anything special there. His best results are 15th 10th and 6th…so not exactly great. Not sure what Boullier is basing that statement on.

  7. Unless the car breaks, I can’t see Vettel losing at Singapore. From now on, he’s usually at his best. All the way till Austin, he loves those tracks and has done well consistently.

    With the Red Bull as good as ever, it’ll virtually be game over by Suzuka… no PR people will dare to force the driver against admitting his chances are over…

    • I agree with you. I’m wondering when Red Bulls domination will end. It doesn’t seem like there’s anybody who can consistently challenge them. http://youtu.be/vt-6Iv5Yhsk

    • Krichelle (@krichelle) said on 18th September 2013, 15:02

      Come on… Let’s be optimistic. We got:
      -Lewis Hamilton the fastest man on the grid who is strong at Singapore. Last year, he took pole by Half a second, and nearly 6 tenths faster than Vettel. He can win the race this year, unquestionably don’t write him off.
      -Fernando Alonso who can race Vettel from anywhere to start to finish. *Hope that Ferrari have some new gears to the car to help him*.
      -Kimi Raikkonen whose car is just impeccable on its tyres, and who is also blisteringly quick during the race, and considering that Singapore is High downforce track, it should help him.

      Problems:
      -Vettel on Pole position equals 70% race over.
      -Alonso and Kimi need to qualify higher than 6th at least to have a chance.
      -No Hamilton in Q3 equals Vettel’s Pole, unless someone else can pull a huge clutch lap. By the looks of it, Raikkonen and Alonso can’t qualify that high…
      -Rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday, but DRY during the race.

      • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 17:15

        Alonso and Kimi need to qualify higher than 6th at least to have a chance.

        That is what is lacking really . They really need to crank up the car for Quali

        Rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday, but DRY during the race.

        Saturday rain does not help Mercedes one bit . So, more chances of a vettel pole.
        :(

      • @krichelle Valid points but they all come from different drivers.

        Hamilton might be the fastest on Saturday, Alonso might chase Vettel all race long, and Kimi might look strong too, but Vettel’s at the top of his game and he doesn’t depend on what the car does to deliver.

        I still put him up there. Favourite to win, definetly. And he could even dominate the weekend from start to finish again…

    • @fer-no65 actually I think Lewis is the one to beat this time around, like it was last year until his car failed. Seb is a major threat in the GPs following Singapore like Korea, Japan…

  8. according to totto wolf, red bull’s momentum is about to end, because high downforce tracks are coming up, and Hamilton won at the last high downforce track…. wolf will probably be proved wrong

  9. What is amazing is that despite the fact that Mercs won the pole position in 10 out of 12 races, the average grid position of Vettel is 2.5 while those of Rosberg and Hamilton are 3.25 and 4.17 respectively. This shows how consistent this guy is, as there is no question that Mercs are the fastest car over one lap this season (although I think this average has been a bit skewed by failing to reach Q3 in Monza for both Merc drivers).

    • f12007v (@f1fan-2000) said on 18th September 2013, 14:27

      You can’t say that merc are more inconsistent in quali than red bull, as big mistakes in monza for Ham, and nurburgring for Ros really pulled their average down. Before monza, Hamilton has qualified no worst than 4th, and started no worst than 9th, and Rosberg has been in the top 6 throughout, except for Germany.

      • Krichelle (@krichelle) said on 18th September 2013, 15:12

        I would like to highlight the fact, and I am sure everyone knows this:
        -Hamilton has been in Q3 for 66 consecutive races. *Malaysia 2010-Monza 2013*
        -Vettel already missed q3 last year.
        -Pole position isn’t really factor these days. Although, it makes it easier to win as you start from the front, clean air, clear track.

        Vettel’s consistency is just like what Alonso had last year. Alonso kept on finishing in the points, while Hamilton kept on having DNF’s, pit stop issues and Vettel didn’t really had a car to compete until the second half of the season last year.
        As long as Vettel keeps on scoring points, he won’t be denied of a 4th title. This means, everyone has to step up. Lewis, Fernando, Kimi, Webber, Rosberg have to take points off him by finishing ahead of him, but by the look of it, it seems unlikely to happen

      • @f1fan-2000
        Well I mentioned the caveat of not getting to Q3. But honestly, at least in the case of Hamilton you can’t discount it because that was his fault indeed. But even if you did it will bring Hamilton”s average to ~2.25, which considering that he had 5 poles compared to Vettel’s 2 still shows how consistent Vettel has been.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 18th September 2013, 15:50

        Actually, I think he’s right. And of course, those are simply examples that show that the drivers have been less consistent, since Hamilton was on pole at the Nurburgring when Nico was eliminated in Q2, while Rosberg was easily in Q3 where Lewis missed out.

    • @ifelix I thought 2013 was a transition year for Mercedes, as they were fully concentrating on their efforts for 2014.

      Why are they still developing their 2013 car and not concentrating on the next year. This will seriously impact their 2014 car.

      • iFelix (@ifelix) said on 19th September 2013, 9:47

        @noob

        You are right in the sense that with the drastic regulation changes next year which would then have minor changes for a couple of years, no resources should be spared unless there is a good reason.

        I speculate the reasons that Merc hasn’t given up on 2013 development yet:

        1. They are in close contention with Ferrari on 2nd place in WCC. While millions that come with that 2nd place are not insignificant even for Mercedes, the moral victory is more important. Workers and shareholders are not so thrilled that Daimler is throwing money at something that is not so successful so far, esp. After Schumacher exit. Beating Ferrari to the 2nd place in one or maybe 2 championship will do nicely.

        2. F1 teams use Game Theory a lot in the race, but it also trickle downs to their overall strategy. At the moment the only big team that has switched to 2014 is McLaren. Mercedes has a good engine and has already the advantage to McLaren that the car can be developed to suit their Merc engine, whereas McLaren even if they wanted to can’t do it to the same level since they need to make it sure the car would be adaptable to Honda engine in 2015.

        3. Singapore is first of 4 high downforce tracks. So the cost of extending the development to Singapore could pay dividends in a couple of races. So even if they switch after Singapore, Their car would be good enough for the next races at least to a level that Ferrari can’t run away.

        So in a nutshell I think they would see how this weekend will pan out and will have an eye on when Ferrari and Red Bull will switch. Mercedes has the luxury of having many senior people that can divide between the two cars. On the other hand they should be careful that Rory Byrne and James Alison are almost exclusively working on F 2014 (or whatever they end up calling it).

        Anyway, sorry for the essay long reply. It was long train ride ;-)

  10. Prof Kirk (@prof-kirk) said on 18th September 2013, 13:40

    Interesting how Mercedes GP are the only team to have both drivers win a race.

  11. Funkyf1 (@funkyf1) said on 18th September 2013, 14:40

    Mercedes Ferrari RedBull top 3 in that order

  12. Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 14:47

    “Max Chilton is yet to out-qualify or out-race Jules Bianchi on merit so far this year.”

    It a’int happenin buddy !

  13. I particularly like this comment from Eric Boullier “We’ve been quite competitive on twisty circuits this year and Singapore shares a lot of Monaco’s characteristics. Romain [Grosjean] loves that type of circuit” – didn’t Grosjean crash 4 times during the Monaco weekend? ;)

  14. Kingshark (@kingshark) said on 18th September 2013, 15:51

    Back to usual business.

    A Mercedes will take pole, but Vettel will probably win.

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 16:26

      @kingshark . Please use these things in predictions . Let us be positive here as a fan of the champioinship ;-) .

      Let any of the others win ( Kimi, Alonso,Lewis….whomever you support) . It’s F1 not Vettel1 ( oops user pun, sorry mate ).

      • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 18th September 2013, 17:19

        @hamilfan another pun, checking yours, you would want next year to be hamilton1 :P

        • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 17:23

          @omarr-pepper Yep ;-) . I live in hope .

          • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 18th September 2013, 17:55

            @hamilfan you know, given how many years Vettel has to keep going on, it would be great to have Hamilton or Raikkonen getting their second championships next 2 years, and THAT would be great cause it would confirm Alonso is A great driver, but not THE great driver, if you know what I mean.

          • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 18:29

            @omar-pepper I get you . Massively unlucky in 2012 for Hamilton with the car . This year has been a pleasant surprise though . BTW Alonso has only a couple more competitive years I believe , max 4 years . Then his reactions might be less optimal compared to his previous self . But Vettel , can only get better . Would actually love to see him in another competitive team in the future actually .

          • marsianwalrus (@einariliyev) said on 19th September 2013, 1:15

            @omarr-pepper I hear you, I’m sick of hearing all the legends about Alonso being heads-and-shoulders better than any other driver, better than Schumacher, and so good that he will apparently leave Kimi in the dirt next year. Soon they’ll be saying Senna himself would be languishing 6 tenths behind that Alonso apparently adds to any car.

            The guy who can win championships in 4th-best car, blah blah, except he doesn’t and his car is not 4th best. Time for the legend to be dispensed with.

  15. Colossal Squid (@colossal-squid) said on 18th September 2013, 16:00

    Hamilton is usually brilliant around this track. I can see him dominating the weekend with Vettel taking 2nd. Alonso might end up off the podium considering how crucial qualifying is. Such a result would be perfect for Vettel – Alonso loses more points, and even if Hamilton wins he’s too far back to be a championship contender unless some serious misfortune happens to Vettel over the next few races.

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 17:09

      @colossal-squid Lets hope the colossal squid is as precise as is colossal . I would prefer Alonso , Kimi and Nico to take points of Vettel too and keep him off the podium . That would be an ideal utopia . Let us wait and see if we can get something like that this weekend just to shake things up a bit.

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