SIX things to look for at Singapore Grand Prix

Hamilton heads to a happy hunting ground, Albon is back after a serious health scare and Verstappen can join exclusive club with early world title win – SIX things to look for at Singapore Grand Prix

  • After a brief hiatus, Formula One makes a return with action out in Singapore 
  • It is the first opportunity where Max Verstappen can clinch the world title 
  • Lewis Hamilton has never had a winless season in F1 but is running out of time
  • He is a four-time champion in Singapore and will see this as a real opportunity
  • Williams’ Alex Albon is back after respiratory failure left him on a ventilator
  • Sportsmail picks out six things to keep an eye on ahead of the weekend’s action 

Almost three weeks since the last race weekend in Monza, Formula One is back and the 2022 champion could be confirmed as early as this weekend. 

It speaks to the pure dominance of Max Verstappen that the title race was over before we even hit summer and even with six races remaining, it could be a moot point come Monday morning. 

But there are so many other sub-plots in the paddock as there always are. 

Can Daniel Ricciardo tap into his good fortune over the years at Singapore to make a compelling argument for one of the three remaining 2023 seats? How will Alex Albon get on in his first race back having been in intensive care following respiratory failure? And what about Mick Schumacher and his expected divorce from Haas?

Sportsmail picks out six things to keep an eye on as F1 heads to the Marina Bay Circuit… 

Max Verstappen can become the earliest F1 champion in 20 years if it plays out this weekend

Refreshed Lewis in happy hunting ground to end drought

Given his illustrious career, Lewis Hamilton is rarely far from a happy hunting ground – but the Marina Bay Circuit may be among the sweetest of them all. 

It is Hamilton’s iconic pole lap in qualifying in 2018 that has been debated as one of the greatest ever. He is a four-time champion in Singapore and it is a circuit that has served Mercedes well amid their dominant spell as the biggest fish on the grid.

Hamilton has had time to take stock after a 12th-placed finish in Holland and a 10th-placed finish in Monza. 

He won’t need reminding that he has never had a season in F1 without a single race win. And yet there is a sense that if it doesn’t arrive in Singapore, will it ever this season? 

Lewis Hamilton will look to end his season-long wait for a win in Singapore, a place where he is a four-time champion (Pictured: winning the Singapore Grand Prix in 2018 with Mercedes)

Mercedes have certainly turned a corner in recent months following crucial upgrades to the car.

George Russell has looked much more competitive since Mercedes got their porpoising woes under control and on paper, Singapore should suit the silver arrows down to the ground. 

Winner in 2009, 2014, 2017 and 2018, Hamilton will know if reliability is never questioned over the weekend, don’t rule him out, even with the form Red Bull find themselves in.

Not that everyone is convinced, though. Just ask Russell.

‘I think, on paper, Singapore should suit our car – but when we look back at the street circuits of Monaco and Azerbaijan, our car doesn’t fare too well over the bumps,’ he explained after Monza.

‘So, we’re not too sure how it will fall out. But we need to keep on pushing, keep on improving the car and I’m pleased that we’ve got a clear direction we need to go now.’

Singapore often delivers high drama and key moments and a cool head like Hamilton could be exactly what is needed amid the humidity and the heat.  

Hamilton’s rich success in Singapore started with victory in 2009 when he was with McLaren

Max’s championship window is now OPEN

Verstappen’s championship window is now open for business. 

His second world title has been a formality for some time but now he goes into a race weekend knowing he could come out the other side with his title signed, sealed and delivered. 

The Dutchman has been in a league of his own for months now and whether it is Singapore or Japan, a second world title is not far away. 

Sealing it in Singapore really would be something special. 

If Verstappen wins and takes fastest lap – and Charles Leclerc finishes P8 or lower – he will succeed the earliest finish to a season in 20 years.

He would be the earliest finisher since Michael Schumacher clinched the 2002 title with six races remaining. Factor in though that there were 17 races that year, instead of the 22 we have now. 

The Dutchman needs a favour from Ferrari but can mathematically clinch it out in Singapore

Verstappen (left) has been a class apart for much of the season and the finish line is in sight

Even if the predictions suggest this is a circuit that doesn’t necessarily lend itself to Red Bull, Verstappen looks unbeatable and it is proving harder and harder to make credible cases against him winning-out from here.  

‘The car was very overweight,’ he said after winning in Monza. ‘It was overweight in the wrong place of the car as well, so that’s why it was just understeering a lot more and prone to front [brake] locking.

‘I don’t think it will be a problem in Singapore but maybe we encounter different kinds of things. 

‘We haven’t been there in a while. It’s normally quite a bumpy track, so we just need to work on the set-up, see how these cars react to the bumps and try to go as fast as possible.’

When it comes to going as fast as possible, few can live with the Flying Dutchman.  

Ferrari need miracle to keep hopes alive 

At this point all Ferrari can do is try and delay the inevitable. 

Mathematically they can still win the title heading into Singapore but even the most optimistic Ferrari fan will concede that isn’t going to happen. 

The Scuderia head into the Singapore Grand Prix, the first race there since 2019, 139 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ standings. 

It is a track that, on paper at least, seems better suited to this Ferrari car than the Red Bull and if nothing else, a race win for Ferrari would make up for the disappointment of losing in Monza. 

Finishing strongly and insuring they don’t fall any lower than second in the Constructors’ standings is absolutely imperative. 

It was Ferrari’s pit wall that was celebrating the last time F1 rolled into Singapore; that was Sebastian Vettel’s swansong. 

But it is a circuit that has brought them some joy and while Verstappen will be eager to rewrite history, Ferrari will hope their miracle run to overthrow Red Bull gets a push on Sunday.  

Schumacher’s race looks run  

The installation of the Schumacher name brought a smile back to many F1 fans but it is now unavoidable that this marriage with Haas is approaching divorce. 

Heading to Singapore there remains no definitive statements from the Haas garage but Sportsmail understands that Hass boss Gunther Steiner has already decided that Schumacher, the 23-year-old son of legendary seven-time world champion Michael, is surplus to requirements.

The German’s contract expires in December and talks over an extension have gone nowhere since the last race in Italy.

Sentiment for the Schumacher name aside – Michael, a seven-time world champion, is at home recovering from a skiing accident in 2013 – his performances to this point have offered few olive branches. 

Schumacher Jnr has scored just twice – in Britain and Austria this year after a crash-strewn early season – since making his Formula One debut in 2021. 

Sportsmail understands Haas have decided to sack Mick Schumacher ahead of next season

Austria, when he took eight championship points, felt like a turning point but, alas, normal service has resumed with zero points from the five races that followed. 

This will be his first F1 experience in Singapore and given his error-strewn displays it is improbable to imagine he will pull out a career best finish. 

Haas have installed Nico Hulkenberg, Schumacher’s 35-year-old compatriot, as their No 1 target after he impressed as a Covid super-sub, scoring in two of his four appearances for Racing Point/Aston Martin when he filled in for corona-stricken drivers.

Hulkenberg brings the experience of 181 starts mostly racked up before he left Renault in 2019. He also enjoys a good relationship with Steiner.

If ever there was a time to produce the race of your life, make it Sunday, Mick.  

Ricciardo’s running out of auditions for 2023 

News of Zhou Guanyu sticking around at Alfa Romeo for another season came as no surprise. 

All that remains is a spare seat at Haas, one at Williams and one at Alpine, where Ricciardo used to be when it was under the name of Renault. 

And so time is quickly running out for Ricciardo to make an impression strong enough to make a seat on the 2023 imperative.

Ricciardo’s contract with McLaren was cut short by one year after the team, disappointed by the 33-year-old’s underwhelming performances, signed Aussie ace Oscar Piastri for next season. 

Schumacher looks finished at Haas, Nick De Vries looks in pole position – no pun intended – to take the Williams gig and the politics behind a return to Alpine will likely rumble on for weeks to come.

Daniel Ricciardo is running out of chances to put in a statement display to land a 2023 seat

Working in Ricciardo’s favour is that this is a favourable track for the likeable Aussie. 

He took fastest lap in both 2015 and 2016, came second in 2017 and sixth in 2018. 

Ricciardo’s future in F1 is the talk of the paddock and Christian Horner, his former boss at Red Bull, told the Beyond the Grid podcast that Alpine need to put their pride to the side and and sign Ricciardo up.

‘I think I probably would [sign him], to be honest with you,’ Horner said. ‘They obviously know him from a couple of seasons ago and he was very together during his last season there, scoring podiums, and I think he is the type of guy I think you could rebuild him.

‘It’s obviously been not a great experience for him [at McLaren] for whatever reason. You’ve just got to think back to some of the drives that he did for us, some of the wins that he had, the podiums, some of the stunning overtakes that he was capable of.

‘That’s still in there, I am sure, and it just needs a bit of a reset.’

One of the more intriguing avenues comes at Haas.

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says that he would be open to a conversation with Ricciardo

Team principal Steiner is a fan of Ricciardo and revealed to German news outlet, RTL, that while Schumacher has a ’50-50′ chance of remaining with the team, he hinted they still hold an interest in acquiring Ricciardo. 

‘In his situation, Daniel first has to decide for himself what he does,’ Steiner told RTL via News Corp.

‘It makes little sense to persuade him to do something, he has to decide for himself. If he feels like it, he will certainly call, otherwise he will probably say, ‘I’ll do a sabbatical or something else’.’

A podium in Singapore would go a huge way to forcing one the final three cards to fall in his favour. Over to you, Daniel…

Return of Alex Albon

He won’t be troubling the top order but one of the most anticipated drives of the weekend will be coming out of the Williams garage in the form of Alex Albon.

What a three weeks he has had. Hospitalised for surgery as he had appendicitis and then complications during the operation led to respiratory failure.

In turn that led to the 26-year-old being left on a ventilator and out of action as concern grew for him across the paddock.

But, fear not, Albon will take part in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Naturally given he has had a serious ordeal in hospital, there is an element of concern for Albon going straight back into the deep end, particularly given the humidity in Singapore makes it one of the most gruelling drives of the season.  

But he insists he is ready to return to his Williams cockpit and is ready to take any further adversity all in his stride.

‘My preparation for Singapore has been a little different than normal, but I’m feeling good and I’ve done everything possible to get ready for one of the most physical races on the calendar,’ Albon said.

Alex Albon has been putting himself through physical examinations to be ready for the race

Albon saw the funny side to having appendicitis, joking that he’ll weigh less for Singapore

‘I am not underestimating how big of a challenge this is going to be, but I am looking forward to hitting the track on Friday and getting back driving.

‘It’s a great street circuit and the closest race to home for me in Thailand, so I’m really excited to be here and to see the fans that have turned out.’

Physically it will take everything out of Albon, no matter how well he has trained.

Former Haas driver Roman Grosjean once explained that he lost four kilos of water in one installment of the race due to the heat. 

Estimates put the temperature around 60 degrees with humidity higher than 80 per cent for the drivers. 

Albon is back, which is the main thing, but he couldn’t be putting his body through a more rigorous test after three weeks on the sidelines.  

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