Singapore Grand Prix Preview

Date published: September 22 2011

Will Sebastian Vettel become the Prince of Darkness in Singapore as the F1 teams go back to black…?

The Singapore Grand Prix this weekend could see Sebastian Vettel crowned World Champion. And Singapore really ought to take its opportunity. With a 20-strong race calendar guaranteed for many years to come it will be some time before it becomes the deciding race of the season again.

F1’s only night race (if you discount a dusky finish in Abu Dhabi) it is always a grand prix full of drama, if not premium overtaking moves. In the short time we have been here we’ve witnessed F1’s first staged crash from Renault and Nelson Piquet Junior, lots of on-track tangles including a Mark Webber vs Lewis Hamilton bust up, the end of Nick Heidfeld’s world record finishing streak, a fiery end to Heikki Kovalainen’s grand prix, and of course the meltdown of Ferrari’s pitbox traffic light system which allowed Felipe Massa to go off down the pitlane towing a length of fuel hose.

Ferrari would dearly wish to be in that position again, but the news has come out since Monza that they will not develop the F150 Italia any further and start concentrating on 2012. That’s not to say Massa or Alonso aren’t still capable of picking up podiums in the remaining races, it’s just that now the circuits have got to suit the car – they’re not going to develop the car to suit the circuits. The fact that Fernando Alonso has won twice around the track before has got to help and in terms of Felipe Massa’s debit and credit account for good luck he is due one enormous piece of fortune.

Alonso pushed Vettel very hard in this year’s Monaco event and Singapore is the next slowest circuit after the Tax Dodgers’ GP. In fact it’s so slow that in three races it has yet to take less than 1 hour 56 minutes to finish. The delays have been brought on by periods behind the Safety Car and like Canada and Monaco, there is always the chance of one or more.

Martin Whitmarsh has promised that the McLaren duo of Button and Hamilton will be ‘electrifying’ around the Marina Bay circuit. They were supposed to be electrifying in Monza but paid the price for being slow out of the blocks. Although we have the DRS zone this year, it’s still going to be tricky to pass. At Monza Jenson and Lewis lost four places between them at the start. In Spa it wasn’t much better. They need to figure out how Ferrari are getting much better getaways than they are. Like Ferrari, they were strong in Monaco and should be in contention.

Will there be any ‘afters’ about the Schumacher vs Hamilton Monza moment? Probably not. The shift in theatre of operations, the novelty of the surroundings and the prospects for Vettel’s championship will make two weeks ago seem like ancient history. It’ll be interesting to see how driver-steward Heinz Harald-Frentzen handles any Michael incident. They had a few run-ins during their GP careers and if I remember correctly, Corinna Schumacher (or Lieblings Pudgie Wudgie Donut Face of Sekret Tageblog fame) was Heinz-Harald’s ex. Last year Michael was engaged in a bit of bashology with Kamui Kobayashi during the race and we’re due for some more.

Nico Rosberg has often run well in Singapore in the past and he will be looking to re-establish an edge over Michael Schumacher in the intra-Mercedes battle. Last race he didn’t have a chance to get started, ths race the track isn’t going to suit his car so well

This race the DRS detection zone will be placed at Turn 4, with the activation zone after Turn 5 and ahead of the longest straight of the Marina Bay circuit, the kink through 6 running down to Turn 7.

It’s going to be no surprise to see Red Bull lock out the front row of the grid. Mark Webber is good on street circuits, but the fact that Sebastian was able to stay ahead of the pack with failing tyres in Monaco shows that his skill between the barriers is increasing. It was rumoured in German newspaper Das Bild that Red Bull have ordered 80 celebratory World Champion caps for Singapore and put a provisional booking on a venue for Sunday night. Preparing in advance tends to put the kybosh on results in F1, but Vettel has done so little wrong this year that you wouldn’t bet against it.

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