Will Vettel bounce back from his dire weekend at Monza? Can Mercedes cope with the heat? Here are the talking points for this weekend’s race.
Can Vettel rediscover his Singapore touch?
Since the summer break ended it’s been a tough couple of races for Vettel. It’s hard to avoid the impression he is firmly under the cosh from his junior team mate Charles Leclerc, who has won the last two races from pole position.
These things can change so easily, however. Had it not been for the silliness at the end of Q3 at Monza, Vettel could well have been the driver on pole position, and from there things might have been different.
Singapore may offer a chance for quick redemption. He has had a great touch around around the street course in the past, winning four out of five race from 2011 to 2015. But Vettel will have to keep his nose clean: Another three-penalty-point offence will force Ferrari to bench him for the next race, a threat which will hang over him for the next three races.
Advantage Red Bull?
The slow configuration of the Hungaroring makes it a good reference track for Singapore. Red Bull were in superb form there: Max Verstappen captured pole position but couldn’t hold off the charging Lewis Hamilton.
He might have stood a better chance if his team mate, Pierrae Gasly at the time, had been closer to the pace and able to delay Hamilton’s charge. That poses two questions for Red Bull this weekend.
First, will they be quick enough to contend for victory this weekend? Probably.
Second, will Alexander Albon be close enough to Verstappen’s pace to do the job Gasly failed to in Hungary? The jury’s out on that one.
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Have Mercedes solved their heat sensitivity?
This weekend’s race is likely to be one of the hottest of the season. Mercedes struggled badly with high temperatures in Austria, exacerbated by the altitude. Have they made enough progress with the problem since then?
The team has given a mixed picture. Hamilton indicated the car’s heat sensitivity was a fundamental characteristic which would be hard to change, but Valtteri Bottas believes they made progress with it in Germany. Either way, this is likely to be their toughest test since the Red Bull Ring, which was one of the team’s worst performances of the year.
- Hamilton doubts new Mercedes parts will fix cooling problem
- Mercedes has made clear progress with cooling problem – Bottas
A black and white matter?
The ‘reintroduction’ of the black-and-white flag since the summer break has provoked debate, created confusion and left some unanswered questions. The key one being: If a move earns a driver a black-and-white flag, and they repeat it, will they get a penalty?
The answer appears to be ‘no’, on the strength of the available evidence. As Singapore hasn’t produced much wheel-to-wheel racing in the past, we may not see the kind of incidents which triggered the flag’s use at Spa (for Gasly) and Monza (more controversially, for Leclerc).
But that may change this year…
Will the new DRS zone make a difference?
A new DRS zone has been added to the Marina Bay circuit this year, running across the Esplanade Bridge from turns 13 to 14. This brings the total number of zones on the track to three.
Will these allow drivers to run close enough to each other to overtake? As the zones are quite short, and do not follow after consecutive corners, the effect may be somewhat limited. But on a track where passing is so difficult, drivers will appreciate all the help they can get.
Will air quality prove a problem?
There have been concerns about pollution affecting the Singapore Grand Prix at the past. Besides the inevitable challenges of holding a race in a major city, agricultural fires in nearby Indonesia exacerbate the problem.
Tough this hasn’t affected the race in the past, the situation is clearly being taken seriously, and has led to school and airport closures in the area.
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