Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso’s scrap for the lead in Monza only lasted a few laps before Vettel forced his way through.
But he wasn’t able to do that around 61 laps of Singapore’s Marina Bay circuit last year, as Alonso staved off the Red Bull driver’s attacks to claim victory.
Can the Ferrari driver claim a third victory in four years at Singapore and delay Vettel’s championship celebrations?
With little grip on offer around the street course, Pirelli are bringing their softest rubber available – the soft and super-soft tyres.
That is good news for Ferrari who have struggled on the harder tyres this year. But as Felipe Massa explains, the stickier compound isn’t a solution to all their problems: “Of course, if we were allowed to make our own tyre choice, this combination is what we would want.
“But tyres on their own cannot make all the difference.”
Alonso was in peerless form here last year, dominating the race from start to finish. With warm temperatures likely to further ease Ferrari’s problems, this could be his best chance to put one over Vettel in the final six races.
The McLaren drivers cannot be discounted either. Jenson Button’s superb touch on softer tyres is likely to serve him especially well here, while Lewis Hamilton is the only driver besides Alonso to have won at this track.
At Mercedes, Michael Schumacher has enjoyed a resurgence in form in recent races. But he had a bruising race in his first appearance in here last year.
Renault have also fared better in recent races since their Spa upgrade. But technical director James Allison is wary Singapore may not play to their strengths: “Monaco and Hungary were not good races for us and Singapore shares some characteristics of these two circuits.
“We feel we have improved things since then and we have a bit more to deliver for Singapore itself, but it is fair to say that I am apprehensive.”
|Lap length||5.073km (3.152 miles)|
|Distance||61 laps (309.3km/192.2 miles)|
|Lap record*||1’47.976 (Fernando Alonso, 2010)|
|Fastest lap||1’45.390 (Fernando Alonso, 2010)|
|Tyres||Soft and Super Soft|
*Fastest lap set during a Grand Prix
Singapore’s slow, stop-start layout tends to divide drivers. Hamilton is enthusiastic: “I love street circuits and I really enjoy this place.
“It?óÔé¼Ôäós almost two tracks in one: there are quite a few fast corners, which require good set-up and a bit of commitment, but there are also lots of tighter 90-degree bends, which are slower and more technical.
“You?óÔé¼Ôäóve got to keep it precise through these and just be patient, waiting for the tyres to bite before getting on the throttle. If you?óÔé¼Ôäóre impatient, then you end up losing time because you over-stress the tyres and you over-drive the car.”
Adrian Sutil, however, confesses he didn’t warm to it at first: “It is quite an interesting circuit. Perhaps not my favourite, but there are some challenging corners and over the years I?óÔé¼Ôäóve grown to like it more and more.”
But Virgin’s Timo Glock is a big fan. He briefly held off Sutil during last year’s race and was second here in 2009: “The Singapore Grand Prix is clearly one of the highlights of the year and my favourite track on the calendar.
“It really is an amazing experience and I just can?óÔé¼Ôäót wait to get in the car and drive through the streets of Singapore at night again. It?óÔé¼Ôäós great fun.”
Glock’s affinity for the track could present Virgin with an opportunity to finally get back in front of HRT, though they will need a few retirements to claim the 13th place they need.
Bumps and brakes
Despite its resurfacing last year, the track remains bumpy, particularly around turns 13 and 14.
With less than half the lap spent at full throttle, it is one of the toughest circuits for brakes, which are in near-constant use around the lap. The hot temperatures, even late at night, places a premium on cooling and demands large brake ducts.
The night-time running present few problems for drivers. They prefer to use dimmer dashboard displays to reduce dazzling.
However it remains to be seen how it would affect visibility in a wet race as Vitantonio Liuzzi points out: “With the lighting system at the Marina Bay Street Circuit it feels like you?óÔé¼Ôäóre driving at midday so the fact that it is held at night doesn?óÔé¼Ôäót affect the racing.
“It would make things different if it rained, with the reflection of the lights in the water, but for us it shouldn?óÔé¼Ôäót be a big difference.”
The usual Singapore thunderstorms are expected during the weekend, though they tend to dry up before the action begins on the track.
Street circuits punish the slightest errors and every previous race here has seen a safety car period, so Red Bull won’t be taking anything for granted. Even so, they have a party venue on standby should Vettel do what he needs to clinch the championship.
Who’s your tip for victory in Singapore? Have your say in the comments.
Driver form in 2011
2011 Singapore Grand Prix
- Vettel and Button take Driver of the Weekend wins
- Rate the race result: 2011 Singapore Grand Prix
- Ferrari deny Massa told to cause Hamilton crash
- From Kovalainen’s fire to fireworks: your Singapore videos
- 2011 Singapore Grand Prix: complete race weekend review
- Vote for your Singapore GP driver of the weekend
- Red Bull: Vettel supreme as championship beckons
- McLaren: Another collision, another penalty for Hamilton
- Ferrari: Alonso wants to focus on 2012 in last races
- Force India: Di Resta claims best result yet
Image ?é?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo