Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix Predictions: Felipe Massa and More
And hopefully, the race organisers are trying to save electricity.
The Formula One Singapore Grand Prix is the only race of the year held wholly under floodlights at night, and the Marina Bay circuit features more corners than any other currently used in F1.
This never-ending string of corners coupled with the high humidity and slow speed makes Singapore one of the toughest races of the year for the drivers.
It's also the longest—the total race time usually comes in only a few minutes shy of the two-hour limit.
Precision is everything. The walls surrounding the circuit mean an error which could cost a few seconds elsewhere may result in retirement here.
When you factor in the ever-present threat of rain and the high probability of a Safety Car, you have one of the most unpredictable races on the calendar.
But there's no harm in trying, right?
The 2013 season has still had only three different polesitters—Lewis Hamilton (five), Sebastian Vettel (four) and Nico Rosberg (three).
Hamilton and Vettel in particular have really stamped their authority on Saturdays. Of the 24 front row starts available this year, between them they have claimed 16.
And in Singapore, it should come down to a fight between these two.
Mercedes weren't as competitive as they would have liked on the low-downforce circuits of Spa and Monza (though they had OK race pace in Italy). The Singapore track requires a high-downforce setup, so they should go much better here.
Red Bull? They're strong everywhere, especially so at circuits which require a grippy rear end—and Singapore does.
Hamilton said on Twitter earlier this week that the Marina Bay circuit suits his style:
So who's ready for Singapore? I really enjoy this GP. It's a testing circuit but one that suits my style. We're ready to bounce back! #LHF1— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 17, 2013
But it also suits the way Vettel drives. There's a strong case for each, but only one man can start on pole.
By his own admission to BBC Sport Formula 1 Hamilton got it horribly wrong in Italy, starting 12th after "driving like an idiot."
He'll be looking to put things right after that, so I'll back him to be on top this Saturday.
A Good Showing for Felipe Massa
Fernando Alonso always produces the goods, but his teammate Felipe Massa only shows up every once in a while.
Ferrari boss Luca Di Montezemolo revealed earlier in the week that it was this inconsistency which cost Massa his drive at the team next season, saying via BBC Sport Formula 1:
"The relationship [with Felipe] was clear. He needed results and so did we. He did get some, but he was inconsistent, having some good races but not on a regular basis. It will be good for him to have a change of scenery."
Without a drive for 2014, Massa is no longer fighting for his Ferrari job—he's fighting to save his F1 career.
For all the inconsistency and issues he's had, Massa has a habit of picking up his game when it really matters, such as in the latter half of 2012 when his future was also being debated.
So expect him to perform at the upper end of his potential bracket in Singapore.
Over the course of the season Valtteri Bottas has each the Rookie Cup (not a real thing, but it should be) six times, while Esteban Gutierrez has five wins and Giedo van der Garde one.
Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton form a Marussia-coloured double bagel at the foot of the standings.
Between them the five rookies have failed to score a point thus far, but this is a circuit which has historically (if five years can be considered history) seen a higher than average number of retirements.
Gutierrez's Sauber is the best car involved in this battle, and he's the form horse having come home ahead three times in the last five races.
He also drove well at Singapore in GP2 last year, so he has to be considered the favourite this weekend.
In the private battle on the last two rows of the grid, Caterham have established a clear pace advantage over Marussia.
The last time the Russian team got a car home first was way back in May, when the chaos at Monaco allowed Max Chilton to pass Giedo van der Garde with two laps to go.
But I think Jules Bianchi might take the golden wooden spoon this weekend.
Jules' destiny is in the hands of his big bosses at Ferrari, who may in the coming weeks facilitate a move up the grid (perhaps to Sauber) for the young Frenchman in 2014.
They can't need much more convincing that his talent deserves a chance in a better car, but he'll want to put in a good showing anyway.
He's also the best driver of the four involved. That makes him the least likely to crash and the most likely to pull a bit of luck out of the bag in the (highly probable) event of a Safety Car.
All common sense would say to just write "Sebastian Vettel" and be done with it, but there's no fun in picking the favourite.
Three men desperately need a win here—Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen. If any of them finish behind Vettel, their already wafer-thin championship hopes will all but evaporate.
Who has the best chance?
Hamilton's Mercedes should be strong. Alonso's Ferrari appear to have made significant strides in the last two races, but it remains to be seen if their pace at low-downforce Spa and Monza will transfer to high-downforce Marina Bay.
And despite finishing 11th, Raikkonen's Lotus had very good race pace in Monza (according to F1Fanatic's lap charts, he only lost one second to Vettel over the course of the race after his Lap 1 pit stop). They tend to be even better at high-downforce circuits.
Any one of them could win, but in the end I think qualifying will hurt Lotus and Ferrari won't have the raw pace to beat Vettel.
So I'll go with Hamilton to score his second win for Mercedes.