Only champs win at Marina Bay
With all the challenges the Marina Bay circuit throws up, it is no coincidence that only world champs have won in Singapore
Whether it is talent or coincidence, only Formula 1 champions have conquered the Marina Bay street circuit since the inaugural night race in 2008.
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton twice, and Sebastian Vettel four times.
Among the drivers tipped to win the 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix today, Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari are in the mix.
PEDIGREE: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton (above) and Fernando Alonso will each hope he can continue the streak of only world champions winning the Singapore Grand Prix. PHOTO: ST
Mercedes' championship leader Nico Rosberg is hot favourite, with Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen also in contention. They are primed to break tradition.
Ferrari's Vettel was among the front-runners, but he has his work cut out after breaking the roll bar on his car.
He will start the race at the back of the grid.
The Marina Bay circuit has earned a reputation for being one of the toughest tracks to race on, and Pirelli have included their P Zero Purple ultrasoft tyres - specifically produced for street tracks - for the night race.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli's motorsport director, told The New Paper that the tyres have more grip and give teams a wide range of race strategies.
But he believes it will be a two-stop strategy for most teams, though they could gamble on one.
On a track where it is difficult to overtake, he added that although the driver in pole position starts with an advantage, equally, if not more important, is the dash to Turn 1.
"We've seen many races where the pole sitter loses the advantage once the lights go out," said the Englishman.
"So I won't pay too much attention to who starts on pole until we know who gets ahead after the first corner scramble."
From their choices of tyres for each race, Hembery has an intimate knowledge of how the 22 drivers lining up the grid think and manage their strategies.
And the 61-lap race around the 23 turns at Marina Bay boils down to tyre management.
"There is always a problem of overheating because there is a lot of traction on the smooth surface of the track," said Hembery.
"So managing overheating in the rear right tyre, in particular, and getting the stint in the race long enough to keep to the two-stop strategy are the biggest challenges for everybody."
With all the challenges the Marina Bay circuit throws, Hembery said it is probably not a coincidence that only world champions have won in Singapore.
PEDIGREE: Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso (above) will each hope he can continue the streak of only world champions winning the Singapore Grand Prix. BH FILE PHOTO
He explained: "This is a very tough circuit that takes a lot out of a driver and only those who have the ability to be consistent under extreme pressure will take the chequered flag in Singapore.
"Nico, Daniel and Max are not world champions, but are configured to win the title and are amply qualified for tomorrow's race."
By virtue of his credentials of three world championships, Hamilton starts as favourite, but troubling practice runs with his Mercedes have cast some doubts if he can last the distance.
While that may sound like good news for Rosberg, Hembery will be keeping a close watch on the Red Bull drivers.
"They have a good car, obviously, but both of them are exceptional talents," he said.
"They've proven they can get on the podium and also win.
"They also know how to manage a race weekend and have the ability to be consistent in very extreme circumstances.
"Neither of them is a world champion yet, but anybody in the paddock will tell you they won't be one day."
Teams must use two of the three dry-weather tyres during the race, if it does not rain.
But the Singapore Grand Prix will be raced mostly on the ultrasoft tyres, and the Ferrari pair will be fighting at the front, said Hembery.
Said the 50-year-old: "Ferrari have been focusing their work all weekend on the ultrasoft and have more sets than everybody else.
"If they are not troubled by any wear issues, they will be very strong in the race."
"This is a very tough circuit that takes a lot out of a driver and only those who have the ability to be consistent under extreme pressure will take the chequered flag in Singapore."
— Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery
"It’s pretty simple actually, more money for the teams, lower prices and bigger distribution of cash for all. But that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon."
— Red Bull team principal Christian Horner on his hopes for Liberty Media