Vettel already has one hand on the world championship — having won six of the 12 races so far this season — and with just seven races left to run, leads the standings by 53 points from rival Fernando Alonso who in turn heads the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton by 28 points.
With 25 points handed out for a race win, Vettel’s margin is such that he would lead the championship even if he fails to finish two races and Alonso wins those races.
In contrast, Alonso has just two wins to his name, the last coming at the Spanish Grand Prix in May, while Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton each have just the one win.
Perhaps even more ominous for his rivals, Singapore marks the start of a run of ‘form races’ for Vettel as the Formula One circus swings through Korea, Japan and India as the season winds down to its conclusion.
In fact, it was at this very circuit last year that Vettel got his title challenge back on track, taking the first of four straight race wins to overhaul Alonso’s title lead and become only the third person since the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher to win three titles on the trot.
And even if rivals are refusing to write off their chances, there seems to be a certain sense of resignation and inevitability that seems to have set in. “I feel like I’m a realist so I don’t come here like everything is going to be good, everything is going to be great,” Hamilton, who comes to Singapore following two tough races in Belgium and Italy, told reporters yesterday. “What will be, will be.”
However, the 2008 World Champion is optimistic that he can take the fight to Vettel in Sunday’s race as the tight Singapore street circuit requires teams to run their cars with high downforce, similar to the configuration the cars ran in Hungary where Hamilton took a comfortable win.
Alonso, facing a barrage of questions over how he would cope with a World Champion teammate next year, too struck a positive note heading into Sunday’s race, even if the task of catching Vettel is a daunting one.
“It’s a very special race with no room for mistakes, but it’s a track I like and where I have usually gone quite well, getting four podiums from five starts, so again this year, I’m tackling the weekend in a positive frame of mind, with great confidence that I can do well again.”