There might be seven races still to go, but this weekend Formula 1 heads off into the night as the flyaways begin under the lights at the Singapore Grand Prix.
10 years ago, the city-state made its debut on the calendar, becoming the first ever night race the sport had seen on a track made up around the twisting streets of Marina Bay. In that time, Singapore has built a reputation as very much the “Monaco of Asia” where the rich and famous mingle off the track while no shortage of controversial moments are seen on it.
About the race
Whether it be the infamous ‘crashgate’ saga involving Nelson Piquet, Fernando Alonso and Renault in 2008, to the coming together of both Ferraris and Max Verstappen at the start 12 months ago, anything can happen in Marina Bay – and likely will again this year.
The unique challenge of the circuit puts an emphasis on the chassis rather than engine, which means Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull are all in contention for victory with the three teams having dominated, winning 8 of the first 10 races.
Throw in the hot and humid tropical climate (which last year added rain for the first time ever) and a race that always runs close to the two-hour time limit and you begin to understand why Singapore is perhaps the ultimate test of both man and machine.
With a very tight fight expected, here are our choices to shine in the dark.
Top driver picks
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari ($28.5m)
If ever a race was designed for one driver, it’d be Vettel. The streets of Marina Bay have been a playground for him over the years.
With four wins in total – three with Red Bull and one with Ferrari – the German has been unbeatable when ahead. With a Ferrari car that should set the pace this weekend, providing he can keep out of trouble, very few will likely stop him again.
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull ($19.3m)
One man that could stop Vettel, however, is Ricciardo, another driver that has enjoyed strong success in Singapore – although he is still without a win.
The Red Bull driver has scored four consecutive podiums at the night race, finishing second in the previous three, and having managed to clinch victory at Monaco earlier in the year, perhaps this is the year the Australian goes one better.
Carlos Sainz, Renault ($9.8m)
Looking at the midfield, Renault would appear the most likely team to lead with a lack of emphasis on engine power and their man rivals, Haas and Force India, often less competitive on street circuits.
Either Nico Hulkenberg or Sainz are worthy picks but the Spaniard is $0.5m cheaper, has more points this season and scored his best ever finish in fourth in Singapore last year.
Worst driver picks
Fernando Alonso, McLaren ($10.0m)
Traditionally a circuit McLaren has gone well at, including a win in 2012, it may be tempting to add Alonso thinking this race will be a more competitive one for the British team. However, in a car that is lacking downforce and has struggled for reliability at times this season, there’s very little reason to expect a sudden boost in performance around Singapore.
Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes ($24.7m)
With the prospect of all three top teams fighting for the win and Mercedes potentially being the weakest of the trio, a tough weekend for Bottas is in store. I think a sixth place finish is likely.
Top team pick: Ferrari ($30.2m)
The fastest car on the grid right now and, with an engine advantage that should still put the Scuderia ahead of Red Bull’s chassis, Singapore might finally be the weekend the Italian team achieve that 1-2 finish. That is of course assuming 2017 doesn’t repeat itself.
That’s all for our picks and preview for the Singapore Grand Prix, now all you need to do is pick your team and play. Good luck!