Preview Round 14 of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Singapore Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton holds the championship lead for the very first time in 2017, as Formula One flies away from Europe once more and the calendar edges towards the Abu Dhabi closer. Still to go, though, are trips to Asia and the Americas with Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit the first to welcome the mechanical circus that brings drama both on and off the track.
Singapore first hit the F1 calendar nine-years ago and splashed into the sport with its first night race. Now, the race is known to be the second best place on the F1 calendar to complete deals, only behind Monaco, and there are deals to be done this weekend.
One deal already done is Mercedes’ announcing its retention of Valtteri Bottas for 2018. Keeping the two-time race-winning Finn at the Silver Arrows after impressing the bosses back in Stuttgart during his debut season.
But, in only giving Bottas another year of security, the Silver Arrows keep its options open like Ferrari for 2019, when Red Bull’s potent pair of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen may potentially hit the market.
Another deal expected to be announced this weekend is McLaren officially completing its long-expected divorce from Honda. Bringing an end to the reunion of the British and Japanese manufacturers after three-seasons back together, filled with engine failures and grid penalties that have left both regularly mocked by fans.
Once formally separated, McLaren will lose the financial backing having Honda as a partner provided. But the penalties and lack of performance from Honda’s side left the relationship unsolvable and divorce was inevitable. Making the loss of money less of a consideration as the team search for a way back towards the podium positions.
The expected route now is a tie-up with Renault after Mercedes and Ferrari both refused to supply a potential title-rival. Meaning the jump in performance from Honda to Renault is less than elsewhere, but a chance to start fresh without a thwart marriage being carried around the world.
A tie-up with Renault is also expected to ensure Fernando Alonso remains with McLaren for the immediate future. Having been a key player in bringing about the divorce with Honda, whose engine he regularly criticised.
Further aspects of any McLaren-Renault combination also lay elsewhere, with Renault needing to break from their supply to Toro Rosso. Although Toro Rosso is expected to tie up with Honda, with Red Bull using its sister team to monitor the Japanese power unit provider’s progress in case it becomes competitive enough for the main team to use.
In the meantime, though, both McLaren and Red Bull running Renault power units would make Red Bull a direct comparison to McLaren. Putting the Woking outfits supposedly great chassis into the spot light and taking away the curtain of the Honda unit’s failings.
Finally, Carlos Sainz is also expected to form a part of the deal. With the Spaniard, who does not wish to enter a fourth season with Toro Rosso, expected to join Renault as part of the early end of contract agreement between Red Bull/Toro Rosso and Renault. Taking the seat at the French manufacturer away from Britain’s Jolyon Palmer (or the unlikely return of Robert Kubica). As well as opening the door at Toro Rosso for either the Red Bull backed 2016 GP2 champion, Pierre Gasly, or the F2 race winning Japanese driver Nobuharu Matsushita.
With next season in one eye, the other remains firmly on the current season. Where Lewis Hamilton sits atop the drivers’ standings for the first time in 2017 following victory at the Italian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s time in first place as he jousts with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has come just once before this season when he pulled level out of Round 2 with victory at the Chinese Grand Prix.
Lewis then immediately fell back behind the German and had only moved to within a point of the Ferrari once, with victory at the British Grand Prix. Falling back away straight away as Vettel bounced back in Hungary, securing a Ferrari one-two with the win.
Now, Hamilton heads to Singapore with a three-point lead over his German adversary. But the city street circuit around Marina Bay is expected to favour the car driven by the German and not the Britain.
That’s because the characteristics of the circuit means the more compact package Ferrari designed should shine under the lights. With the narrow wheelbase allowing Vettel and Raikkonen to better negotiate the tight left-right 90 degree corners than the Mercedes will offer Hamilton or Bottas. While the short straights will keep the Mercedes’ advantages down.
Mercedes, however, can now boast that its hybrid power unit runs with an electronic conversion efficiency of more than 50% after hitting the high figure during dyno testing. Meaning the power unit built in Brixworth produces 109 horsepower more than when the hybrid units were first introduced in 2014 while using the same amount of fuel.
Short straights they may be, but the Marina Bay Street Circuit is one of the longest laps of the season. Pushing the race right up to the 2-hour limit, with the race distance set at 61 laps and the fastest race lap last year taking Daniel Ricciardo 1minute 47seconds.
As previously noted, the Singapore Grand Prix has been a Formula One race on nine prior occasions – making the 2017 event the 10th F1 night race in Marina Bay.
Back in 2008, ground was broken in mixed fashion as Fernando Alonso clinched the win during a subpar season at Renault. Particularly with thanks to his team-mate, Nelson Piquet Jr, whose intentional spin brought out the safety car after Fernando had pitted.
The race was also a poor day for then title-hopeful Felipe Massa as the Brazilian exited his pit box while the fuel hose was still attached. Killing his race as he was forced to pull aside and await his team’s rescue.
Should you wish to watch the 10th Formula One Singapore Grand Prix in the UK, coverage can come via either Channel 4 or Sky Sports F1 as both broadcasters will be covering the event live and free-of-charge.
Sky Sports F1
13/09 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Preview
14/09 – 11:00 – Driver Press Conference
14/09 – 23:45 – Paddock Uncut
15/09 – 09:15 – Practice 1
15/09 – 13:15 – Practice 2
15/09 – 15:30 – Team Press Conference
15/09 – 16:30 – The F1 Show
16/09 – 10:45 – Practice 3
16/09 – 13:00 – Qualifying
17/09 – 11:30 – Race (also Sky Sports Mix)
=> 11:30 – Track Parade
=> 12:00 – Pit Lane Live
=> 12:30 – Race
=> 15:30 – Paddock Live
20/09 – 20:30 – F1 Report: Review
Channel 4 F1
15/09 – 09:25 – Practice 1
15/09 – 13:25 – Practice 2
16/09 – 10:55 – Practice 3
16/09 – 12:25 – F1 Meets… Jackie Stewart
16/09 – 12:55 – Qualifying
17/09 – 12:00 – Race
=> 12:00 – Build–Up
=> 12:35 – Race
=> 15:10 – Reaction
17/09 – 20:00 – Speed with Guy Martin: F1 Challenge
BBC Radio F1
14/09 – 21:00 – Preview (BBC Radio 5 Live)
15/09 – 09:25 – Practice 1 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
15/09 – 13:25 – Practice 2 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/09 – 10:55 – Practice 3 (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
16/09 – 13:55 – Qualifying (BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra)
17/09 – 13:00 – Race (BBC Radio 5 Live)