Singapore Grand Prix 2013: Biggest Threats to Another Sebastian Vettel Victory
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Can anyone stop Sebastian Vettel? A level of one-driver dominance isn't ideal for Formula One, but Vettel seems to be establishing just that with Red Bull.
The Singapore Grand Prix is one of the toughest races on the F1 calendar, but Vettel has established a level of control over the last few years that includes victory in the last two races at the Marina Bay street circuit.
Realistically—and barring any kind of Vettel accident or car trouble—there are only a few things that can challenge him in Singapore on Sunday. Three of these are outlined below.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton has some history with Singapore, having won the race in 2009. Hamilton was quoted by the Daily Record as saying that it's "first or nothing" for the championship this year, so a win in Marina Bay is vital to help to close the 81-point gap on Vettel.
Hamilton held pole position for the race last year, but failed to convert it into a victory due to a gearbox problem. Grid position has proven to be important in recent years, with three of the last four winners starting from pole.
Hamilton topped the first free practice, but Vettel came back strong and ended the final practice as the fastest man on the track. Hamilton will need a flawless drive to overcome the German driver, but he has done it before in the championship's only true night race, so don't count him out.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
Despite speculation about his future with Ferrari, Fernando Alonso remains with the Singapore-based team and has also won two of the last five races under the lights in Singapore. His victories in 2008 and 2010 ensure that he must be included as a contender for the race, despite Ferrari looking off-the-pace in practice.
Alonso was nearly two seconds back in sixth position after the third practice, but ESPN.com reported that he was still hopeful about his chances:
We can't say this was a good start, because we weren't competitive, but if we consider that last year, at the end of a difficult weekend we managed to get on the podium, we definitely aren't throwing in the towel yet.
Now, we have a lot of work to do to find the right set-up and the best strategy. Then we will need to put in a very good qualifying lap and attack from start to finish in the race.
Singapore is probably the toughest race on the calendar, with the combination of Marina Bay's 23 turns and punishing humidity pushing the drivers to their limits. The race regularly stretches the boundary of the two-hour limit, and any loss of concentration can be costly.
It's also a very difficult race for teams to call, with the constant threat of heavy rain to plan for, along with attempting to avoid the costly penalties associated with an extra pit stop.
If Vettel is to be overthrown, a team has to call the race perfectly, managing the tyres correctly and ensuring that the likely two-stop strategy remains in place.
The race also features a lot of stop-start action, which can increase fuel consumption. The temptation is then to load the cars with more fuel than usual to start the race, but the additional weight then increases the wear on the tyres.
It's a real balancing act, and one which must be planned out to the smallest detail. Nothing can be left to chance in Singapore, or Vettel will be celebrating three wins in three years at Marina Bay.
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