Sebastian Vettel is on pole position for the 11th time this season.
With his closest championship rival, Fernando Alonso, down in fifth, Vettel has a decent chance of clinching the title in this race.
In the three previous Singapore Grand Prix the pole sitter has never been beaten to the first corner.
The reasons are simple – there’s only a short, 200m run to turn one, and it’s often very dusty off-line on this temporary circuit.
Alonso, fifth on the grid, has made some explosive starts this year. He’s picked up six places on the first lap in his last two starts.
From fourth on the grid at Monza he was leading by the first corner. But while he has the considerable advantage of starting on the racing line on a dusty track, the brief dash to the first corner limit his chances of repeating the flying start he made in the last race.
Mark Webber, on the other hand, has had difficulty getting the RB7 away at the start. He’s lost 20 places on the opening lap this year, more than anyone else.
Starting off-line in second will likely only compound the problems he’s faces at the starts this year. Jenson Button must fancy his chance of nabbing second at turn one.
The Red Bulls looked good on long runs on the super soft tyres on Friday, more so than their immediate rivals.
Two days of running will have increased the grip available on the track surface since then, which could alter the picture.
Ferrari have tended to run better in the races than in qualifying, and Alonso showed good pace of Friday.
Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, is set to start at a disadvantage having lost a tyre due to a puncture during qualifying yesterday. A request from McLaren to allow him to use a replacement tyre was refused by the stewards.
As ever it’s hard to find a reason to pick anyone than the pole sitter for victory on a street circuit not noted for overtaking opportunities.
The last two Singapore Grands Prix have been won from pole and the pole sitter was leading until the contrived appearance of the safety car in the first race here.
A hard night’s race
This is a long, punishing race. Even without a safety car period it will be one of the longest of the year due to the low average speeds around the long circuit.
And we’re yet to see a Singapore Grand Prix without a safety car interruption.
The sun will go down before the race starts but temperatures remain high in the mid-20s and up. That and the high humidity make tough conditions for the cars.
It remains to be seen whether any of Singapore’s characteristic thunderstorms will break before or even during the race. There has been little wet running at this track under artificial lights and questions remain over visibility in such conditions.
The circuit dishes out a pounding to the cars and drivers. Earlier this week Jenson Button suggested the length of the race should be reduced.
Despite efforts to ease some of the bumps a street track is never going to be as smooth as a purpose-built course. Frequent braking zones dish out a hammering to the brake discs, intensified by the high temperatures. Gearboxes take a pounding too as the drivers change gears 70 times or more per lap.
If Vettel overcomes the demands of Singapore and is first across the finishing line, he can clinch the title depending on where his closest rivals finish. See how the championship can be won here:
Will Vettel win the race – and the championship – today? Have your say in the comments.
2011 Singapore Grand Prix
Image © Red Bull/Getty images