There’s always something special about the Singapore Grand Prix weekend. The beginning of the fly-away season sees the usual rumours about drivers’ futures as the title battle steps up a gear. With just seven race weekends remaining in 2017, the gap between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel could be cut down as Ferrari look to take advantage of a track that should suit them. Lights Out takes a look at the stories to watch this weekend!
All Eyes On Ferrari and Vettel
Sebastian Vettel is a master of the Singapore track. He has won four of the nine races held here, and has been on pole for three of them. Even when he started from the back last year, he managed to finish the race in a solid fifth place. Ferrari should have the pace advantage this weekend, as the track is likely to suit their car better than the Mercedes.
After having his championship lead taken away from him on Ferrari’s home-ground last time out, Vettel will be keen to re-grasp the top spot. Lewis Hamilton’s advantage is at just three points.
A Close Fight Up Front?
We could see a six way fight for the win this weekend. While Ferrari are likely to be on par with Mercedes, Red Bull could also be a threat to the championship rivals. Daniel Ricciardo came close to taking victory here last year thanks to a nimble looking car on fresh tyres. He’ll be aiming for his fourth consecutive Singapore podium on Sunday.
Saturday will be vital though – seven of the last eight Singapore Grands Prix have been won from pole.
Jolyon Palmer’s Last Grand Prix?
The engine merry-go-round looks set to come to a halt this weekend as McLaren’s split from Honda will finally be made official. This will then have a domino effect, as Toro Rosso will announce their new deal with Honda for 2018 onwards.
As part of their split with Red Bull’s junior team, Renault will be taking Carlos Sainz for 2018. Sainz will remain part of Red Bull family, and is likely to be on loan for one season to Renault, meaning that he could go back to Red Bull’s main team for 2019 if Daniel Ricciardo or Max Verstappen decide to leave.
All of this means that Pierre Gasly will join Toro Rosso and Jolyon Palmer will be out at Renault. Some suggest this race will be his last, with Renault keen to get Sainz on board as soon as possible to help their points tally for 2017.
McLaren themselves will take Renault engines in 2018 – a move that is likely to make Fernando Alonso stay at the team. Alonso’s new contract was due to be announced on Saturday after Qualifying, but that is now not the case.
Further to all of this, rumours suggest that Red Bull and Renault will end their partnership at the end of next season, with Red Bull likely to join sister team Toro Rosso using Honda engines. Elsewhere, Mercedes announced on Wednesday that Valtteri Bottas had resigned with the team for an extra year. It raises questions as to what they have planned for 2019.
With all of this movement, next year’s Silly Season will be intriguing.
A New Record for Hulkenberg?
Nico Hulkenberg will take an unwanted record if he fails to finish on the podium this weekend. He’ll start his 129th Grand Prix – which will be a record for the most competed in without scoring a podium. Adrian Sutil is the current record holder.
Hulkenberg will be looking to make it further into this year’s Singapore Grand Prix than he did in 2016…
A New Deal for the Singapore GP?
Expect to hear news of Singapore’s future in F1 this weekend. The Marina Bay circuit’s contract ends after this Grand Prix, but next year’s event is already penciled into the calendar. Chase Carey describes the Singapore as a ‘signature’ event on the F1 calendar and is keen to expand F1’s market in Asia – despite losing the Malaysian Grand Prix from 2018 onwards.