Formula 1's Latest Rumours and Talk: Lewis Hamilton, Daniil Kvyat and More
The 15th round of the 2016 Formula One season, the Singapore Grand Prix, will be the big test for Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
The Silver Arrows have dominated F1 for the last three seasons, but the team and drivers were utterly humiliated at the Marina Bay street circuit in 2015, when Hamilton was 1.5 seconds adrift of pole position as Mercedes were ambushed by Ferrari and Red Bull.
Even now, nobody knows exactly why Mercedes were so anonymous last year, but Hamilton is convinced the team will be back to their best upon their return to Singapore this weekend.
Someone who is slowly but surely getting back to his best is Daniil Kvyat, who is only just beginning to recover from the shock of being discarded by Red Bull earlier this season.
The Russian's struggles have continued with Toro Rosso, but after enjoying a much-needed summer break, Kvyat has revealed he is beginning to work more effectively within the Red Bull B-team.
Another driver who feels he is working well inside a team environment is Jolyon Palmer, even if the results may suggest otherwise.
The British driver, who remains without a point in 2016, has outlined how difficult it can be to impress in an uncompetitive car and has explained why Renault represent his best chance of remaining in F1 next season.
We already know Jenson Button will not be on the grid next year, having announced he will enter semi-retirement at the end of 2016.
Button may yet return to a McLaren-Honda seat in 2018, and his former Honda and Brawn GP team-mate Rubens Barrichello has suggested the 2009 world champion could come back better than ever.
Closing our pre-Singapore GP roundup are Williams, who have explained why one more podium finish could be enough for them to beat Force India to fourth place in the constructors' championship.
Lewis Hamilton Certain Mercedes Will Be 'In a Stronger Position' at Singapore GP
Hamilton is convinced the issues that plagued Mercedes at the 2015 Singapore GP will not resurface in this weekend's race at the Marina Bay circuit.
Hamilton was 1.5 seconds adrift of pole position in last year's Singapore GP, where Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel dominated as Mercedes endured a bizarre off-weekend, with Hamilton retiring and Rosberg finishing a distant fourth.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff recently told the team's official website that while the Silver Arrows "believe [they] now understand why" they performed so poorly in the 2015 race, they will return to Singapore facing "a big challenge."
Hamilton, who won at Marina Bay in 2009 and 2014, is certain Mercedes will be much stronger in this year's Singapore race, telling Mercedes' official YouTube channel:
When you go to all the races it's anyone's to lose, and it's not until you get there when you realise the pace of one car to another.
Last year we had a big difference between us and them [Red Bull and Ferrari], but we've understood it—which we didn't last year—so I think this year we should be in a stronger position.
But who knows? Maybe they'll be closer this time.
I can't imagine they will be, but we couldn't imagine what happened last year.
So we're just going to prepare as best we can.
We already know where we should be set-up-wise in order to stop what happened last year, so hopefully we'll be in a better position.
Meanwhile, German publication Auto Motor und Sport (h/t F1i.com's Phillip van Osten) has claimed to have uncovered one of the secrets to Mercedes' success in 2016.
The Silver Arrows are thought to be using "a hydraulic roll and height control system very similar to an active suspension concept" and "not unlike" the Front-to-Rear Interconnected Suspension system (FRIC) that was banned during the 2014 campaign.
The same source suggested Mercedes' rivals are applying pressure on governing body the FIA to close a loophole in the technical regulations that permits the use of the system, although any ban "would require unanimous consent from all the teams, including Mercedes, to change the regulations for 2017."
However, technical expert Craig Scarborough has argued Mercedes' system is not unusual on the current grid.
Via his personal Twitter account, he explained: "Lots of talk of clever FRIC-like hydraulic suspension. It never went away, most teams run clever remote hydraulically operated springs."
Daniil Kvyat Feeling More at Home at Toro Rosso After Red Bull Demotion
Kvyat believes he is beginning to get back on track at Toro Rosso after being dropped by Red Bull earlier this season.
After a difficult start to 2016, Kvyat registered the second podium finish of his career in April's Chinese GP, but he became the first driver to be demoted by Red Bull after hitting Vettel twice on the opening lap of his home race in Russia.
The 22-year-old has been regularly outperformed by team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. since rejoining Toro Rosso—with the Russian scoring just two points—and his loss of form has raised major doubts over Kvyat's F1 future.
Despite failing to finish higher than 14th in the two races since the midseason break, at Spa and Monza, Kvyat feels he is beginning to work more effectively with the Toro Rosso engineers after resetting during the summer shutdown.
And with the demands of this weekend's Singapore GP set to disguise the team's fundamental lack of straight-line speed, Kvyat is confident of securing a strong result at the Marina Bay track.
According to Autosport (h/t Eurosport), he explained:
I really needed the shut down to be honest.
There was a lot of accumulated stress, thoughts, pressure building up.
It just built up too much, a bit over the edge, but I was able to free my mind.
It was unfortunate for the team the last two races were completely unsuitable for our car.
I was able to work in the shadows and optimise things, and I can see my engineer is a lot calmer now, which is nice to see.
There are three or four races ahead of us where we can show better potential because the tracks should suit us better.
It's still not going to be easy, we will need to get it right, but we're going to go out there and have fun.
Obviously Red Bull has a lot of influence on me.
Formula 1 is a sport where anything can happen, and in the last five years there have been a lot of ups and downs, with the last six months quite different—not very comfortable for working.
I still believe I'm reaching my potential, so for me it's all quite fine. I'm enjoying every time I'm on track.
I'm able to stay focused, I'm able to work well with my engineers, and we believe we're able to get closer and closer to the limit of the car.
So far my best race weekends have been in Baku and Monaco, and hopefully that will be the case again [on another street track] in Singapore.
Per Autosport (h/t Eurosport), Sainz has suggested the Singapore GP could represent Toro Rosso's "last clear chance of scoring points this season" given the disadvantages of their year-old Ferrari power unit and their uncertainty over a recent aerodynamic upgrade package.
Jolyon Palmer Struggling to 'Make an Impression' with Troubled Renault Car
Palmer has admitted Renault's lack of competitiveness has made it difficult for him to make a serious impression in F1 this season.
The 2014 GP2 champion secured one of the most attractive seats on the grid at the end of 2015, shortly before Renault's takeover of the Lotus team, but he has struggled behind the wheel of the underpowered and undeveloped R.S.16 car.
While team-mate Kevin Magnussen scored Renault's only points of the season in Russia, Palmer has finished no higher than 11th and missed out on a top-10 finish in July's Hungarian GP following a spin.
Both drivers are facing uncertain futures, with team principal Frederic Vasseur recently telling Motorsport.com's Roberto Chinchero, via Jonathan Noble, how Renault have delayed a decision on their 2017 lineup as they search for the most suitable candidates to take the team forward.
Palmer believes the team's lack of competitiveness means he has not received the credit he deserves. However, he is convinced Renault represent his best chance of remaining in F1 next season, as the team are able to accurately judge the level of his performances.
He told Motorsport.com's Pablo Elizalde and Oleg Karpov:
It is harder in a car that normally can't make it out of Q1. And certainly is very, very [difficult] fighting for points.
It's a shame because I feel sometimes I do a really, really good race and no one knows, because your race is outside of top 10. It can be even down to 15th if there is a lot of people in the race so...
It's understandable, but it's just harder to make an impression.
If we were in the top 10 doing this then I think a lot of times people would say, 'Wow that's a great move,' or, 'What a great race.' But it's just how it goes.
I think it's easier to impress the team you're driving for, because they are analysing all of your data, they are looking your race through the microscope, so if you're doing something well, they will see it.
The other teams won't see that so much, they will see a result. I've got a team mate, who is well rated. If I can do well against him then I think more what other teams will see really.
Despite his lack of results, Palmer said he has still "got every chance" of earning a contract extension with Renault, suggesting his on-track displays will determine his future:
There's been no decision yet. I'm in contention for the seat. So if I go out and do a good job this weekend and next weekend for as long there is no decision made then if I can prove why I should be in I'm sure I'll be in.
So I know I can do it. It's just about piecing everything together, making no mistakes. And showing them what I can do.
Rubens Barrichello Backs Jenson Button to 'Come Back Stronger' in 2018
Barrichello believes Button could perform better than ever if the 2009 world champion returns to F1 in 2018.
At the recent Italian GP, Button confirmed he will take a break from F1 next season, with McLaren-Honda promoting reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne to a race seat alongside Fernando Alonso as part of an "innovative three-driver strategy."
Button will hold an ambassadorial role with McLaren in 2017 with a view to returning to the grid the following season, by which time he will be 38.
Barrichello spent four seasons as Button's team-mate between 2006 and '09, and the Brazilian—who retired from F1 at the age of 39 in 2011—has suggested a much-needed break could allow the British driver to come back even stronger in 2018.
He told Motorsport.com's Charles Bradley and Erick Gabriel:
I think only he can talk about it. I think when you spend a long time in Formula 1, you are very limited in your day-after-day [life], to always do the same things.
If you want a time to get together with family you have to travel to commitments with sponsors, to travel to the factory, to the simulator, etc.
Button reaches 300 races soon and have no doubt that it is mentally tiring. With a sabbatical year and having the chance to come back, he may come back stronger.
Barrichello told the same source he was shocked to learn of Felipe Massa's retirement ahead of the Italian GP weekend, suggesting his fellow Brazilian still had plenty to offer to F1:
Massa’s retirement made me very surprised, I did not expect this kind of news,. I did not think it was time, but only the driver knows when it's time to go to do another thing.
As I wrote on social media: 'happiness is worth more than anything else we have in life'—then he needs to be happy. Today, I'm happier than in my Formula 1 time.
Barrichello, who also ended his career with Williams, has invited Massa to join him in the Brazilian Stock Car Championship, where he has competed since 2012.
As reported by Reuters' Christophe Van Der Perre, Button has hinted he may compete in Rallycross—a category in which his late father John achieved success in the 1970s—or the Japanese Super GT series in 2017.
Williams Fear Big Teams Could Decide Battle for 4th in Constructors' Standings
Claire Williams believes a single mistake by Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari could be enough to decide the battle for fourth in the constructors' championship between Williams and Force India.
Having finished third in the standings in 2014 and '15, Williams' loss of form has left them clinging onto fourth this season, with the team holding a three-point lead over their fellow Mercedes customers ahead of this weekend's Singapore GP.
Williams have been restricted to just one podium appearance this season, with Valtteri Bottas finishing third in Canada, while Force India already have two top-three finishes to their name after Sergio Perez's strong performances in Monaco and Azerbaijan.
Deputy team principal Williams believes just one more podium finish could be enough to secure fourth place for either team, telling Autosport (h/t Eurosport):
You've Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull taking those top positions, and we're scrapping around for the other points here and there, so it is going to be a case of a bit of backwards and forwards between us.
But then you've the possibility of someone making a mistake at the top end and one of us being on the podium.
If that's the case then it could be all over. I just hope it's us that gets that.
Per the same source, Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley explained his team had expected a "hard" weekend at the Italian GP, where Perez and team-mate Nico Hulkenberg finished eighth and 10th, respectively, as the team ran a Monza-specific, low-downforce aerodynamic package.
Having excelled at other street circuits this season, Fernley added Force India "should be fine again" at Marina Bay.
Meanwhile, Hulkenberg has told Motorsport.com's Elizalde and Karpov how Force India's success in recent years is down to the fact they have never "been spoiled" with considerable financial backing from a major car manufacturer.
The German suggested that lack of financial support has taught them to be "very efficient" at "steadily operating at a lower budget."