Red Bulls defending champ keen to halt Mercedes’ charge at Marina Bay Street Circuit
Singapore: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to steal the limelight from Mercedes and race to his first win of the season this weekend, as Formula One heads to Singapore for the only night race on the calendar.
The reigning world champion has endured a trying season and has failed to stand on the top step of the podium so far this year, a far cry from the dominant form that saw him race to a record-equaling 13 victories on his way to a fourth-straight title last year.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel speaks with his personal trainer Antii Kontsas prior to the Italian Grand Prix on September 7. PIC/Getty Images
But, he has been the man in form around the streets of Singapore and, having won the last three races held here, has the best record of any of the current crop of drivers at the Marina Bay circuit.
“I think on paper it could be a better race for us,” Vettel told reporters in the Singapore paddock.
“Naturally here there are more corners than straights and historically we’ve been quite competitive here so could be a better chance, but then again I’m not a crystal ball, so as I said it could be a good weekend but we have to wait and see.”
A spectacular and glamorous event held under dazzlingly bright floodlights against a backdrop of skyscrapers alive with twinkling lights, the race is run around a tight and twisty track made up of public roads that run through the heart of the coastal city-state.
The layout with its narrow streets, tight corners and an absence of straights should negate at least some of the advantage of the formidable Mercedes power unit and allow Red Bull to at least get within striking distance of the two Silver Arrows, giving Vettel a shot at the win.
Red Bull have already won three races so far this year, usually when the feuding Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg has tripped up, and are the only outfit to have beaten the German marque in a season dominated by the Silver Arrows.
But all those wins have come courtesy of new boy Daniel Ricciardo, who has firmly put Vettel in the shade in his first season at the energy drinks company’s senior team.
As a result, despite his team-mate’s past form, the ever-smiling Aussie cannot be ruled out of contention for his fourth win of the season if Red Bull are in the mix.
“If I’m to make a prediction I think we’ll be the second best team out of the box tomorrow,” said Ricciardo, an outside contender for the title who will match Rosberg’s haul of victories so far this season if he wins on Sunday.
“The question is how close we can get to Mercedes. If we can be within a couple of tenths, I think that will be a good result.
“That will mean we can race with them on Sunday. That’s my prediction, so all going well we should be on the podium.”
While Red Bull could get in among the Mercedes this weekend, the silver cars remain the ones to beat and the title battle between Rosberg and Hamilton will continue to rage in Singapore.
Rosberg leads Hamilton by 22 points in the overall standings but the psychological balance in the championship fight has shifted in the Briton’s favour who won the last race in Monza after forcing his team-mate to crack under pressure.
Hamilton is one of only three drivers to have won in Singapore and, with just five rounds to go after this weekend’s race and the season fast approaching its conclusion, knows he needs to gather further momentum in his bid for his second world title starting Sunday.
“It was a good feeling to finally get back on the top step at Monza - especially after another tough start to the race,” Hamilton, whose win in the Italian Grand Prix was his sixth victory of the season, said.
“Obviously, with Nico coming second I haven't been able to close the gap too much - but there's still plenty of points to be won and I'm glad to have taken a step forwards.
“Despite the highs and lows, I'm still well and truly in the hunt for the championship and that is something that gives me huge motivation for the final six races - starting in Singapore.”