Singapore Grand Prix: Sebastian Vettel ready to take the fight to Lewis Hamilton
The German currently trails Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by a whopping 30 points in the overall standings, despite driving what is regarded as the fastest car on the grid, having thrown away crucial points through mistakes of his own
Sebastian Vettel heads into the Singapore Grand Prix determined to fire up his championship challenge and bounce back from a slew of mistakes that have made this weekend’s race a must-win event for the Ferrari driver.
The German currently trails Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton by a whopping 30 points in the overall standings, despite driving what is regarded as the fastest car on the grid, having thrown away crucial points through mistakes of his own. He made the latest of these at the last race in Monza, Ferrari’s home event, finishing fourth in a race he could have won after colliding with Hamilton and spinning on the opening lap.
With just seven races of the 21-round calendar to go, Vettel, who will have to mount a comeback of the ages just to pull himself within striking distance of Hamilton again, cannot afford to drop any more points to his rival. “Obviously we can’t change what’s behind, we can change what’s in front,” Vettel, who will continue to trail Hamilton even if he wins the next four races with the Briton second, told reporters at the Marina Bay circuit on Thursday.
“So full focus on the race here. Of course if we’re in a position to win, then I want to win.” The 5.063 kilometre-long track could be the perfect venue for Vettel to begin turning the tide. The circuit has tended to suit Ferrari in recent years while being one of Mercedes’ weakest tracks. Vettel is also the most successful driver ever in Singapore boasting a haul of four wins to Hamilton’s three.
But the events of last year’s race in Singapore will almost certainly be fresh on his mind. Vettel had lined up on pole in 2017 and looked set to capitalise on an off-colour weekend for Mercedes by delivering a resounding blow in the title battle to Hamilton. Instead, the German was wiped out in a first corner crash which ironically handed Hamilton, who had started fifth, the victory.
Past form has also counted for little this year with Mercedes and Ferrari evenly matched at most of the circuits the F1 circus has visited so far this season. “Singapore has features that we've struggled with in the past,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make the Marina Bay Street Circuit one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us. “On paper, the track should favour the Ferraris, but the championship fight is so close that predictions are almost meaningless. "The opening day of practice certainly hinted at a tight battle at the front.
Kimi Raikkonen, who will be leaving Ferrari for Sauber at the end of this season, set the pace yesterday, edging out Hamilton by just 0.011 seconds. Vettel, meanwhile, could manage only the ninth-fastest time as contact with the wall on his hot lap forced him back into the pits with a radiator leak, from where he had to watch the rest of the session. Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo ended the day third and fourth fastest. The former champions, who won at the similarly twisty Monaco circuit with Ricciardo earlier this year, are fancying their chances this weekend.
The Australian especially, who has finished second in Singapore for the last three years in a row, is keen to go one better. “I’ve had four podiums and three second places in a row there,” he said in the build up to the weekend. “So it’s about time I win the damn thing.”
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