Sebastian Vettel has had 32 wins and 55 podium finishes from 113 Formula 1 starts so far.
But the German three-time defending world champion rates his wins at the Sing- Tel Singapore Grand Prix over the last two years as the favourite victories of his career. Ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit this weekend, the 26-year-old said in an interview on the official F1 website: “My wins in 2011 and 2012 were the best because I think it’s one of the toughest races of the year, to be honest.
“So to win is an amazing moment and you feel you deserve the champagne!” The race here is the only Grand Prix held at night, but the heat and humidity, and the bumpy, twisty circuit around downtown Singapore once drew loud criticism from the German.
But Vettel has clearly exorcised his demons and will be the favourite to take the chequered flag on Sunday, after storming to victories in the past two Grands Prix in Belgium and Italy.
The drivers’ championship leader dominated the field at Spa-Francorchamps, with second-placed Fernando Alonso of Ferrari almost 17 seconds behind.
After Vettel’s win in Italy earlier this month, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton – third in the standings with 141 points – all but conceded the title.
The German is on 222 points, with Alonso in second place with 169. The Spaniard will be Vettel’s biggest challenger this weekend, after winning here in 2008 and 2010. Hamilton is the other pilot to have won in Singapore in 2009.
Hot and humid
Despite the comfortable lead, Vettel is wary of taking it easy in the notoriously hot and humid street circuit.
This will be the sixth edition of the race, and Vettel said: “It’s a very long race; the full two hours so the race just seems to go on forever. The circuit itself is a killer because there are so many bumps, there’s no room for mistakes.”
Adding to the drama of the high-downforce circuit is tyre manufacturers Pirelli’s decision to bring the super-soft and medium compound tyres to the Republic. The two softest compounds were used in the previous races here.
Pirelli motorsports director Paul Hembery said: “The tyres are generally softer across the board this year in order to maximise performance and grip.
“Singapore is quite bumpy, with lots of street furniture such as painted white lines and manholes that compromise grip and traction.
“The night race presents unique parameters for the tyres to deal with when it comes to the evolution of track and ambient temperatures.
“The cars also carry the heaviest fuel load of the year, which again has a direct effect on tyre wear and degradation. “The long race gives the teams plenty of scope to come up with some interesting strategies at what is a truly spectacular event in every sense.”
Xevi Pujolar, Williams chief race engineer, believes the tyres could make this year’s race in Singapore different. “Singapore has the highest pit lane speed loss of the season and a high chance of a safety car – there hasn’t been a race in the modern era without at least one safety car being deployed... added with how difficult it is to overtake, all hamper strategic capability and for the last couple of years it has typically been a three-stop race.
“However, Pirelli have gone one step harder on the prime tyre bringing the medium compound so this may change this season,” he said.
Both Mercedes racers Nico Rosberg and Hamilton feel that the Marina Bay circuit will suit their car.
The Mercedes team seemed to have found their mojo before struggling over the last couple of races, but Nico Rosberg, who enjoyed a slightly smoother Italian Grand Prix weekend en route to a sixthplace finish, said: “The track should suit our car so I hope we can have a good weekend. My best finish in Singapore has been second place back in 2008 and, of course, I would love to improve on that.”
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