Will Mercedes be the third team behind Ferrari and Red Bull in Singapore this weekend? Here’s five talking points for round 14 of the championship.
Mercedes the third team?
Mercedes play a savvy PR game and are always quick to play down expectations. But there’s good reason to believe this will be their most difficult of the seven remaining races.
This is the third high-downforce track F1 has visited this year. At the other two, Monaco and Hungary, Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid and finished first and second in the race.
The threat from Red Bull can’t be discounted either. They’ve raised their game since the season began and an anticipated fuel upgrade in Singapore will strengthen their hand at a track which has historically suited their chassis.
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The last two Singapore Grands Prix have been notable for unexpected intruders on the circuit. The Safety Car had to be deployed during the 2015 race after a drunken spectator walked onto the track.
Following a Safety Car period during last year’s race the field was released before all the marshals had returned to their posts. One terrified course worker had to run back while the field was baring down on him.
During practice Max Verstappen had a surprising run-in with a track invader of the non-human kind: A large lizard which crossed the circuit by turn four. Hopefully the track action is restricted to cars this weekend.
New deal for F1’s ‘Eastern jewel’
At the time of writing this year’s race is the final one on Singapore’s current grand prix contract. However the sport’s owners have already indicated the race will remain on the 2018 F1 calendar.
The last time Singapore announced an extension it did so shortly before the last race on its deal. It would be a surprise if a new contract isn’t confirmed imminently.
Sainz to star?
Carlos Sainz Jnr qualified an excellent sixth in Singapore 12 months ago. But his race was compromised by first-lap contact with Nico Hulkenberg.
Toro Rosso should again see this as a race where they will be strong. In Hungary, Sainz and Fernando Alonso led the scrap to be ‘best of the rest’ behind the big three teams. Expect to see them in a similar situation this weekend while off-track gossip about their futures buzzes.
Sauber’s last chance for a result?
Belgium and Italy were always going to be painful races for a team slogging away with year-old, undeveloped power units. Singapore may offer Sauber a chance for some respite.
For all McLaren’s troubles, Sauber’s hopes of getting ahead of them in the constructors’ championship and being spared a last-place finish seem remote. But if the cards fall their way this weekend they could yet pull it off.
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