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

Are you going to the Singapore Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Singapore for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you.

We’ve got a dedicated group and forum for people going to the race.

You can embed your pictures from the race via Flickr and videos via YouTube and other major video-sharing accounts. Join in here:

Over to you

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Singapore Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2013 Singapore Grand Prix

Browse all 2013 Singapore Grand Prix articles

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

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

  1. Essentially, Vettel just needs to keep finishing on the podium and he will win the championship. The theoretical earliest he can win it (winning all his races and Alonso not scoring and any others not overtaking Alonso) with 175 points still up for grabs and a 53 point lead is in three races (he’d be on 128 points with 100 available).

    Assuming Alonso wins all remaining races, it will be taken down to the wire if Vettel finishes in second every race (in the last round, Vettel would have an 11 point lead).

    Both are highly unlikely to materialise however. I’m going to hedge my bets that Vettel will have the championship won going into the US GP (hence assuming he’ll maintain a 51-74 point lead going into that event).

  2. kbdavies (@kbdavies) said on 18th September 2013, 17:50

    Fat chance any of this happening. The truth is that Red Bull is the most consistent team in F1; and has been for the past 4 yrs. As the season progresses, Red Bull show that their updates work right out of the box and the points simply rack up. Contrast that to the others in the “Big 4″ – Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes. It is always a case of one step forwards, 2 steps backwards. McLaren and Mercedes are particulary fond of talking up their chances for upcoming races, only to perform even more dismally than before (see Ross Brawn’s comments before Spa and Monza). Red Bull? The simply get on with the job. This season’s championship is done and dusted. No point in deluding ourselves otherwise. When fans and fellow competitors are hoing for miracles, then it is time to accept the inevitable.

    • Akshay (@hamilfan) said on 18th September 2013, 18:55

      @kbdavies

      Ross Brawn never talked up Mercedes’ chances in Spa and Monza . He said we will take a look at Spa and Monza and decide on future updates. Lewis has been saying something about Singapore updates. Let us see if that works . But then as you say Red Bull are unstoppable silent killers . Maybe they don’t say anything because they don’t have to explain away .

      • kbdavies (@kbdavies) said on 19th September 2013, 0:56

        He did. Please watch the post race Spa interview for Sky; whilst rueing the dissapointment of Spa, he specifically said they have “some good things in the pipeline” for Monza with a sly smile on his face. He also talked about the updates for Spa after Hungary, and how they will be taking a step forward. Both his drivers also did the same – especially Lewis.
        If that is not talking up your chances, then i don’t know what is. McLaren do the samething, though not so much this year. Point is RBR’s updates work most, if not all the time straight out of the box. Ferrari, Mclaren and Mercedes obviously do not.

    • @kbdavies You bet Ross Brawn was itching to say ‘Top Job Lewis’ in Monza…

  3. Chad (@chaddy) said on 18th September 2013, 18:57

    Why does everyone think Vettel DNFing would be the most exciting happening for the race?

    If Massa crashed into Alonso, THAT would make for a busy week on these message boards.

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 18th September 2013, 21:02

    I watched the Monza-debrief episode of The Racer’s edge, and it surprised me that experienced journalists Peter Windsor and Anthony Rowlinson were so open about how depressing they felt it was the way Vettel is running away with the championship. I don’t disagree with them, though. Vettel has been consistently excellent this season, and the safest best for this weekend is that he will be right at the sharp end of it. It will be a tall order for anyone to outscore Vettel in the last seven races, let alone beat him to the championship.

    I see Mercedes as the team that might have the beating of Red Bull this weekend – if they get everything right. The track should suit their car, and Hamilton and Rosberg are very strong at Singapore too. Mercedes have often struggled with setup or race pace issues, though, whereas Red Bull has been consistently quick.

    I don’t expect anyone else to challenge Vettel this weekend. Alonso has a way of sneaking onto the podium at most races, but I doubt Ferrari will be really quick here, especially not in qualifying. It feels like a long time since Lotus was competitive, even though the Hungarian Grand Prix is actually not that long ago in terms of number of races past.

    I will be interested to see how Webber goes in his final Singapore Grand Prix. Traditionally he’s been comparatively poor on this track, but last time out he had a good race at Monza, so maybe he can turn his form around here too.

    • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 18th September 2013, 23:34

      @adrianmorse

      Yes, Seems like Mercedes are the only ones with a package great enough to take the fight to Red Bull. Think it mainly depends on Lewis or Nico sticking it on pole and the matter of controlling the race (tyre wear is not an issue for Mercedes anymore frankly) like in Monaco. Singapore is the most likely one of the four upcoming races where Red Bull can probably be beaten.

  5. Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 18th September 2013, 23:24

    Monza was a low (probably the lowest) ebb for Vettel’s rivals as a whole psychologically: Alonso rampant on the team radio in qualifying, Hamilton being self-critical having missed out in Q3 and Kimi not scoring points for a second consecutive race, whilst Vettel was in the all clear, no problems, just setting new records whilst the active records of his rivals perish. 53 points before his closest rival appears.

    Instead of hoping for gearboxes to give up and DNFs to bring the championship back to life, let us hope for a good race regardless of how difficult it is to overtake: the Top 3 drivers on the grid in Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel are mighty around Singapore, Massa has declared his desire to race for himself and himself only, Kimi would want to remind Alonso of what’s in store for him next season. I want to see the drivers deliver and halt Vettel’s charge or push him to a mistake (rare but possible) or press him to extract more performance out of that Red Bull – and not depend on extrinsic factors (weather, mechanical issues etc), we’ve hoped for that in the previous two races and we all know what happened. *Disappointed face*

    • @younger-hamii That was Alonso’s “logic” for a long while now: Red Bull and Vettel will hit bad luck and we then will seize the opportunity. And all he seized was hot air. Completely agree with what you said, let’s hope a a real Fight, only then the trailers have a chance of catching the Seb :)

  6. mnmracer (@mnmracer) said on 19th September 2013, 10:22

    If Vettel wins either the Singapore Grand Prix, the Indian Grand Prix, or the Korean Grand Prix, he will be only the 8th driver in history to achieve a cross-season hat-trick: winning the same Grand Prix three years in a row. If he wins two of three, he is one of four to do so (Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher) in one year. If he wins all three, he will be only the second driver in history (with Jim Clark) to complete a hat-trick of hat-tricks in one year.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.