The Formula One governing body’s cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix (GP) due to the Russia-Ukraine war has carved a hole in the very tightly packed racing calendar, giving the sport an involuntary three-week break following Dutch driver Max Verstappen’s fifth consecutive win at the Italian GP.
Next on the racing roster is the return to the brightly-lit straits of Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit after a previous cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Singapore GP is possibly the most strenuous of F1 races, so drivers have used the break to acclimatize to the heavy humidity levels they will endure throughout the race weekend.
What to expect from the Singapore GP
With 11 wins outshining his runner up Charles Leclerc’s three, Verstappen’s 116-point lead sees the Red Bull driver poised to win his second Drivers’ World Championship possibly much sooner than we expected. To win the Championship title in Singapore, the Dutch driver would have to outscore Leclerc by 22 points, his teammate Sergio Perez by 13, and Mercedes’ George Russell by six points.
Although this is a very specific criteria, Verstappen would still be able to make his second championship title stick at the Japanese Grand Prix should this points display not happen.
“The Championships are looking healthy, but it’s never done until it’s done,” said Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner to Formula One News at the close of the Italian GP. “Singapore’s a completely different challenge, Ferrari are going to be strong there,” he explained.
“Mercedes are sorting themselves out, and you’ve gotta keep looking forward. All the lessons we learn now have to apply to next year as well,” Horner continued.
As he inches closer to a second title, Verstappen also gets closer to breaking the 13-race record of most wins in a single Formula One season, which both Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel currently hold.
The battle for second
The considerable gap in points that separates the leading Red Bull from the Ferrari has relegated Leclerc to fighting for a P2 finish in the Championship. However, with just nine points separating Charles Leclerc from Sergio Perez — who is currently in P3 and is closely followed by George Russell, who is seven points away in fourth — Leclerc’s chances at holding onto second are waning.
The gruelling conditions of the Singapore GP could be extremely telling as to which of the three drivers could emerge as the strongest contender for the position in the drivers’ standings.
A possible Mercedes win
With the races on the 2022 calendar dwindling as the season sees its end soon, both Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell keep clawing for a race win after standing on the bottom two steps of the podium a shared total of 13 times. Singapore carries the opportunity for a return to the top step of the podium for the eight-time Constructors’ Champions and four-time Singapore GP winner Lewis Hamilton.
The Mercedes W13 has dealt with multiple challenges following the introduction of the rule-changing Technical Directive by the Federation Internationale l’Automobile. However, Mercedes has made considerable gains to revitalize their car concept, which proved useful through Hamilton’s rise through the grid from P19 to fifth, and Russell’s top-three finish in Monza.
Mercedes Technical Director Mike Elliot spoke about the team looking ahead to a strong weekend in Singapore during the Italian GP debrief: “I think when you look back at the learning we’ve gathered over the season, we can expect Singapore to be a bit more like we’ve seen in Budapest and Zandvoort. It’s a bumpy circuit, which is going to provide its challenges, but in terms of the nature of the corners, we think it will be a bit better for our car, so hopefully, we’ll have a good result there.”
Five-time Singapore GP winner Sebastian Vettel does however have grey skies ahead after being pulled out of race-winning standing in the Aston Martin in his last year before retirement; Vettel could only focus on seeing the chequered flag after three disqualifications.
Nyck de Vries for Nicholas Latifi
Williams Racing saw a reshuffling in their driver lineup during the Monza race weekend after Alex Albon suffered an appendicitis flare up, which pulled him out of the race. Formula E and Formula Two Champion Nyck de Vries stood in for Albon for the remainder of the weekend, after Free Practice 1, for which he sat in Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin. The Mercedes reserve driver scored two points in his Formula One debut after finishing ninth, outscoring Canadian driver Nicholas Latifi after just one race, and thus rendering Latifi out of his Williams seat for the next season.
The pressure on De Vries is mounting, however; if Albon is not well enough to start, expectations to uphold the stellar performance he displayed earlier this year for his return in the Singapore Grand Prix could shatter because of the high demands the race places on him and his Williams in the toughest race on the calendar.