It’s time for some night racing! Formula One heads to sweltering Singapore where the action is bound to be as electric as the atmosphere at the Marina Bay Circuit for the fifteenth round of the 2018 season. Here are your reasons to watch this weekend!
The championship gets serious
As Formula One lands in Asia, the Singapore Grand Prix always seems to mark the beginning of the closing stages of the championship. With seven races to go, every round of the championship takes on more importance. Any mistakes from either title rival from here on in will have major implications on the title hunt, with fewer rounds to rectify any points lost.
After his win in Monza, Lewis Hamilton now holds a thirty point lead over title rival Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton could theoretically afford a DNF here, Vettel could win and Lewis would still lead the way – albeit by an uncomfortably small five point margin. Meanwhile, if Vettel repeats his Singapore DNF from last year, he could sit up to 55 points behind Hamilton, with a huge mountain to climb in the final six races.
Will the championship battle have another twist on Sunday?
Who will be on pole?
From the high speeds of Monza, we head to the very different Marina Bay Circuit, which swaps characteristics of outright pace for precise skill and cornering speeds. In the past, the conditions have suited Ferrari better – they took a surprise pole in 2015 while Mercedes faltered, while last season Ferrari had the pace but threw the race away on the first lap. We know that hotter conditions suit the Italian team’s car better than the Mercedes.
Red Bull could be in for a points haul this weekend too. Red Bull short-listed this race as one of three which they expected to excel at this season. With less reliance on engine power, and more focus on cornering speed, this track is very much suited to the RB14’s skill-set. Can they do anything to get between the two leading forces on Saturday?
Whichever way it goes, Qualifying here is bound to be exciting as the drivers push the cars to the limits between the tight walls of the Marina Bay Circuit.
Five in a row for Ricciardo?
Daniel Ricciardo has appeared on the Singapore podium in every season where he’s been with Red Bull. After finishing third in 2014, he’s finished as runner-up in all of the last three seasons. The closest he’s come to winning here was in 2016, when a late race pit-call put him right on the tail of Nico Rosberg in the final laps. The Australian couldn’t quite pass the Mercedes on that day. If Ricciardo does finish in the top three again on Sunday, he’ll join Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel with a record-equalling five podiums at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Will Ricciardo make it five out of five podiums at the Marina Bay Circuit during his Red Bull career? Or could he go one better and take the top step of the podium for the third time this season?
Safety Cars and chaos
In ten races at the Marina Bay Circuit, the Safety Car has been called out seventeen times. There has never been a race here without Bernd Maylander making an appearance at the front of the field, and in both of the last two seasons the Safety Car has been called out due to first lap incidents. In 2016, Nico Hulkenberg was eliminated after being squeezed by the two Toro Rosso cars before even passing the pit exit on the run to the first turn, while in 2017 Max Verstappen was sandwiched by the two Ferrari drivers leading to all sorts of chaos behind.
With the high chance of a Safety Car, pit strategies to cater for any event will be on everyone’s mind on Sunday afternoon. Who’ll get it right this weekend?
And we could, and theoretically should, see strategy come into play with more pit-stops this weekend, as Pirelli bringing the pink-walled Hypersoft tyres to the Singapore track for the first time. Soft and Ultrasoft tyres will also be on offer as the cars cope with the unusual night-time conditions. With 23 corners, the tyres will have plenty of work to do on Sunday afternoon – but will it be enough to force a two-stop strategy?
With the softer tyres, we may also see the track record – a 1:39.491, Sebastian Vettel’s pole time from last season – be beaten on Saturday.
Whether it’s a fan on the track, a lizard on the track or a rogue marshal on the track, Singapore always serves up something interesting over the course of the weekend, and it always happens with the scenery of the stunning Singapore skyline as its backdrop. Watching the practice sessions on Friday and Saturday as the sky gets progressively darker is always fun, while the threat of a storm is never too far away in Singapore. As the cars prepare to dance their way through the night under the floodlights, we have all the ingredients for an electrifying race weekend!
The 2018 Singapore Grand Prix gets underway at the slightly earlier than usual time of 1:10pm BST on Sunday. In the UK, coverage is live on both Channel 4 and Sky Sports F1.