We’re into the final third of the Formula One season as the teams arrive in Singapore for the annual night race under the lights of Marina Bay.
Season-long championship leader Lewis Hamilton put in a dominant performance in the last race at Monza, qualifying on pole and leading away from the lights. He didn’t have to look over his shoulder for the entire race.
There was drama behind him, though, as Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg suffered an engine failure three laps from home and retired. That non-score strengthened Hamilton’s lead at the top of the championship standings, which now stands at 53 points. And Rosberg’s second place now comes under threat from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is 21 points adrift of his compatriot.
Mercedes’ advantage in Italy was at least in part due to an upgraded power unit. Both cars ran it in practice, but an issue was found on Rosberg’s and he switched to an elderly example of the old version which, it turned out, couldn’t take the strain. Ferrari also brought a revised engine, but was left scratching its head over its German rival’s advantage.
Engines will a hot topic in Singapore, but the discussion won’t be around who has the best one – everyone agrees that’s Mercedes. No, Red Bull is facing a crisis over over who will supply its engines next season. The Milton Keynes squad has frequently criticised its under-performing Renault power units for the past two seasons, and it seems both parties have had enough.
Renault is known to be in advanced talks to take over the embattled Lotus team, which was previously the factory Renault outfit from 2002 to 2009. Red Bull (and the Toro Rosso junior team) had a contract with Renault for 2016 but has served notice on it. And Renault boss Carlos Ghosn said earlier this week that the French giant would not act as an engine supplier next year anyway. A deal with Mercedes was mooted but vetoed by Mercedes Motorsport head Toto Wolff, which only leaves Ferrari. In an interview with Autosport, Red Bull team principle Christian Horner suggested that if it can’t secure a competitive engine, the team would be forced to withdraw.
Back on track, Alexander Rossi will become the first American to race in F1 since Scott Speed was dropped by Toro Rosso part-way through the 2007 season. The 23-year old will contest five the remaining seven races for Manor, in place of Roberto Merhi. Rossi drove in three practice sessions for Caterham during 2013 and ’14, before joining Manor – then Marussia – towards the end of last year. He has been competing in the GP2 Series this year and currently lies second in the championship.
Hamilton won in Singapore last year, the start of a run of six wins from seven races that helped him secure the championship. It’s almost a cliche at this point, but the two-time champion does seem to be operating on an entirely different level to everyone else this year. Should he stumble, other drivers will be there to pick up the pieces. But if everything goes his way, it would be a brave bet against Hamilton picking up his eighth win of the year.
The Singapore Grand Prix takes place on Sunday 20 September.
Drivers’ Championship standings after 12 races
- Lewis Hamilton — Mercedes — 252 points
- Nico Rosberg — Mercedes — 199
- Sebastian Vettel — Ferrari — 178
- Felipe Massa — Williams-Mercedes — 97
- Kimi Raikkonen — Ferrari — 92
- Valtteri Bottas — Williams-Mercedes — 91
- Daniil Kvyat — Red Bull-Renault — 58
- Daniel Ricciardo — Red Bull-Renault — 55
- Romain Grosjean — Lotus-Mercedes — 38
- Sergio Perez — Force India-Mercedes — 33
- Nico Hulkenberg — Force India-Mercedes — 30
- Max Verstappen — Toro Rosso-Renault — 26
- Felipe Nasr — Sauber-Ferrari — 16
- Pastor Maldonado — Lotus-Mercedes — 12
- Fernando Alonso — McLaren-Honda — 11
- Carlos Sainz Jr. — Toro Rosso-Renault — 9
- Marcus Ericsson — Sauber-Ferrari — 9
- Jenson Button — McLaren-Honda — 6
- Roberto Merhi — Marussia-Ferrari — 0
- Will Stevens — Marussia-Ferrari — 0
Manufacturers’ Championship standings after 12 races
- Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team — 451 points
- Scuderia Ferrari — 270
- Williams Martini Racing — 188
- Infiniti Red Bull Racing — 113
- Sahara Force India F1 Team — 63
- Lotus F1 Team — 50
- Scuderia Toro Rosso — 35
- Sauber F1 Team — 25
- McLaren Honda — 17
- Manor Marussia F1 Team — 0
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By Only Motors