Singapore Grand Prix 2011: Preview


The Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore - Photo Credit: Ker Robertson/Getty Images
The Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore - Photo Credit: Ker Robertson/Getty Images

 

So far this season, Formula 1 has provided us with plenty of exciting races, a few that were merely technically intriguing, and one that was rather dull. The sport has been transformed in 2011, mainly thanks to the arrival of Pirelli, and it has generally been great to watch.

Many fans will (hopefully) agree with the view above, which is all the more remarkable considering that one man has dominated proceedings for virtually the entire season.

Sebastian Vettel, who did not lead the championship until the end of the finally race last season, has been top of the pile for the entirety of 2011. The 24-year-old has won eight of the thirteen races so far this season, finished on the podium in all but one of them, and has only been off the front row in qualifying once. Yet, although fans have been hoping that someone will step up and match the German, this dominance has not detracted too much from the great races that we have all witnessed this season.

Victory in Monza leaves Vettel tantalisingly close to his second F1 title - Photo Credit: Vladimir Rys/Getty Images
Victory in Monza leaves Vettel tantalisingly close to his second F1 title - Photo Credit: Vladimir Rys/Getty Images

Yet this weekend could see Vettel crowned champion and so, rightly, most of the focus will be on him in Singapore. But what sort of result will he need to take the title with five races to spare? Time for some simple mathematics:

To be champion in Singapore, Vettel needs to extend his lead in the driver's championship to 125 points, the number that will be available from the five remaining races in Japan, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi and Brazil. If Vettel does this in Singapore, then fails to score again this season, and Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Mark Webber were to win all of the remaining races and draw level on points, Vettel would still take the title by virtue of having won more races.

Vettel currently enjoys a lead of 112 points, and therefore needs to extend this margin by just 13 to become champion. Alonso is second, Button and Webber are a further five points behind in third, and Lewis Hamilton is a whopping 126 points behind Vettel in fourth place. Therefore, Vettel needs a swing of 13 points from Alonso, and a swing of eight points from Button and team-mate Webber, and to finish ahead of Hamilton to wrap up the championship.

Put simply then, these are the possible permutations. Vettel will be champion if:

  • He wins, Alonso does not finish on the podium, and neither Button nor Webber come second.
  • He comes second and Alonso finishes eighth or lower, Button and Webber finish fifth or lower and Hamilton does not win.
  • He finishes third, Alonso finishes ninth or lower, Button and Webber finish seventh or lower and Hamilton is not on the podium.

If Vettel finishes fourth or lower, he cannot be crowned champion in Singapore, even if all of his rivals fail to scores points – Alonso would still  be in with a mathematical chance of stealing the crown.

Sebastian Vettel pushed Alonso hard in last season's race, but could not deny the Ferrari man victory - Photo Credit: Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel pushed Alonso hard in last season's race, but could not deny the Ferrari man victory - Photo Credit: Ferrari

 

Clearly, the most likely way that Vettel can take the title this weekend is a victory for the German with Hamilton, or maybe even the likes of Nico RosbergMichael Schumacher or Felipe Massa, coming second. Vettel has been performing brilliantly since the summer break, winning in both Belgium and Italy, and would be the bookies favourite to take both pole and the victory this weekend. Added to this is the fact that he was very competitive in Singapore last season, pushing Alonso for much of the race and eventually finishing second, close behind the Spaniard.

Of course, even if Vettel does win, one of Alonso, Webber or Button could delay his championship celebrations by finishing second. They will only be delaying the inevitable though, and the title race will almost certainly come to an end at the next race in Japan.

Back to Singapore though, and Alonso is undoubtedly the king of this track, winning two out of the three races that have taken place here. The first, won with Renault, was particularly memorable for being soured by the infamous ‘Crashgate’ scandal. For those who are not familiar with the incident, a) where have you been? and b) read this entry on Wikipedia to re-live the whole sordid affair.

Fernando Alonso qualified fifteenth for the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix but went on to win the race. It eventually transpired that he had a bit of extra help from his team... Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/ LAT Photographic
Fernando Alonso qualified fifteenth for the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix but went on to win the race. It eventually transpired that he had a bit of extra help from his team... - Photo Credit: Steve Etherington/ LAT Photographic

 

Hamilton is the only other previous winner at Singapore, with the Brit taking the second victory of a relatively barren season here in 2009. Alonso was third in that race, in an uncompetitive Renault, further underlying the Spaniard’s great previous form here.

Over seven hundred words into this preview, there has not yet been a single mention of the unique feature of the race in Singapore: the grand prix, of course, takes place entirely at night. The 5.073 km street circuit, which snakes around the city’s magnificent Marina Bay area, is lit by 1500 specialist light projectors.

The result is a venue that looks absolutely fantastic. Television makes it look spectacular, but cannot really do it justice. Only when you are actually there can you appreciate the scale of the feat that the race organisers have pulled off, the stunning views, and the unique atmosphere. Football fans will know that attending evening matches under floodlights adds a whole new layer to the experience. For Formula 1, this effect is multiplied considerably. McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh described Singapore this week as ‘one of the sport's modern wonders and greatest success stories’, and it is hard not to agree with him.

Being a street-circuit, overtaking has naturally been quite difficult at Singapore in the past, as was ably demonstrated by Hamilton last year when an attempt to pass Webber ended in both cars colliding and his race coming to a premature end.

However, the Pirelli tyres should improve overtaking prospects this weekend, and DRS could help too, although it has failed to do much on other street circuits this season. However, in the past there have been plenty of crashes during the races in Singapore. and a safety car at every previous grand prix (for an average of 6.7 laps, according to the Mercedes stats people). so it is a definitely a circuit that can provide plenty of thrills and spills.

Heikki Kovalainen will agree that racing in Singapore is eventful - in 2010 he turned firefighter at the end of the race - Photo Credit: Lotus Racing
Heikki Kovalainen will agree that racing in Singapore is eventful - in 2010 he turned firefighter at the end of the race - Photo Credit: Lotus Racing

 

Like it or not, Sebastian Vettel could go on to be one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen, eclipsing even Michael Schumacher in the number of race wins and championships that he achieves. This weekend he could wrap up title number two, so be sure to watch and possibly witness some F1 history in the making.

Even those in the anti-Vettel camp should be hoping he does take the title this weekend – everyone will stop talking about it and we can enjoy some all-out racing for the remainder of 2011.

 

  • Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix will begin at 15:00 BST on Saturday with the race starting at the more traditional time of 13:00 BST on Sunday.
  • There will be full coverage of events from Singapore throughout the weekend here on thecheckeredflag.co.uk
  • For anyone who likes races that begin during the day, go through the night, and finish the following day, follow our comprehensive coverage of the Britcar 24 hour race from Silverstone on 30th September – 2nd October.