Hamilton vows no 2015 repeat

If Lewis Hamilton is a superstitious man, he might be worried ahead of this weekend's Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

 

Yesterday, in front of about 400 adoring fans, he watched his race car break down on the Marina Bay Street Circuit as other drivers zoomed gleefully by.

Thankfully for the three-time world champion, the technical fault occurred on a silver screen facing him.

Clad in his trademark get-up of a Mercedes team T-shirt, tattered jeans and a silver cap, the 31-year-old was taking part in a simulator challenge at The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, part of a sponsors' event and his first public appearance here this year.

Virtual breakdown aside, the Briton is confident ahead of qualifying on Saturday, even if the Silver Arrows have triumphed only once in eight Singapore races.

F1 drivers arrive for Singapore Grand Prix 2016

  • Nico Rosberg (in white), Mercedes Formula 1 driver, taking selfies with fans during a public appearance event organised by watch brand IWC Schaffhausen at ION Orchard.
  • Red Bull Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo (centre) pulling a face as his microphone is fitted during a press conference held at the F1 Pit Building on 15 September 2016.
  • Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari at the Shell Eco-Marathon event during the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 15, 2016 in Singapore.
  • Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo preparing to test the Ricciardo N35-RS kart at the KF1 Karting Circuit, where his own kart brand was launched on 14 September 2016.
  • Daniel Ricciardo at a filming session at launch of Ricciardo kart at the KF1 karting circuit.
  • Ricciardo races ahead on the KF1 circuit.
  • Daniel Ricciardo speaking to fans and signing autographs as he exits the stage at ION Orchard.
  • Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo (second from right) and G.E.M (third from right) making an appearance at a TAG Heuer event, playing drums together followed by launching a special edition F1 watch.
  • Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton of Britain attends a publicity event ahead of the Singapore F1 Grand Prix Night Race
  • At the invitation of IWC Schaffhausen, Mercedes-Benz and HUGO BOSS, MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ driver and official IWC Schaffhausen brand ambassador Lewis Hamilton made a public appearance at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, delighting over 400 fans and guests.
  • Jenson Button meets Esso Synergy Supreme+ suprise winner Muhammad Yasser Bin Abdul Razak, 32, on 14 September, 2016
  • McLaren F1 driver Jenson Button giving Esso’s social media competition winner Yasser Abdul Razak an exclusive gift pack at an event hosted by McLaren-Honda sponsor Esso on 14 September 2016.
  • Haas Ferrari driver Romain Grosjean in a F1 simulator driving around the Singapore Grand Prix circuit.
  • The Frenchman is enjoying life at his new team who he signed for last year from Lotus (now renamed Renault), where he spent five years at.
  • Mercedes AMG driver Nico Rosberg patting NAO the robot after winning in a game segment titled Man vs Machine, during a meet and greet event at UBS on Sep 14, 2016.
  • Formula 1 cargo arrive at the Marina Bay Street Circuit .
  • Formula 1 cargo started to arrive at the Marina Bay Street Circuit with much work going on at the paddock, ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix from 16 to 18 September 2016.

Tellingly, Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg fizzled out in fourth place last year, while Hamilton called it quits after 32 laps - his only retirement of the 2015 season. Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel won the Singapore race for the fourth time.

Addressing the crowd, which occupied two levels, Hamilton said: "I definitely think we're not going to have as (many) problems as we had last year... but if we do, I think we've got the tools to get it correct."

The odds are certainly not in Mercedes' favour as they rev their engines for Formula One's only full night race.

Some have called the Marina Bay track, notorious for the tremendous downforce needed to negotiate the 23 turns, a Red Bull circuit as it favours the Austrian team's high-downforce design.

Mercedes' superior engine favours long straights. But the longest one in Singapore is 520m, the third shortest of all 21 races.

The road is also bumpy and the high heat and humidity wears tyres out faster.

Yet, while Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said this week that the Singapore GP represents a "big challenge", Hamilton remains confident he can score an upset.

"Last year we were blown away by the fact that we somehow got it wrong. (But) a lot of work went into understanding that," he said.

"It's about getting as close to the walls as possible, about braking points, remembering the track layout... you need to get every corner perfect.

"When you do 200 miles per hour (322kmh) it comes by very quickly... that's why sometimes I surprise myself when I hit brake where I need to brake, hit the bends the way I do, I don't know how I do it but I just do it."

Hamilton's record here may be far from stellar, with three retirements in the last five years despite two wins in total, but his star power is as bright as ever.

He has won six times this season and leads the driver standings with 250 points, two ahead of team-mate Rosberg.

His arrival sparked mayhem in the crowd, as shouts of "Lewis, Lewis" pierced the quiet mall.

Emcee Claire Jedrek, Singapore's only woman race driver, nearly sparked a frenzy when she gave the cue for Hamilton to sign autographs, with fans jostling for a spot.

Looking unperturbed by the pandemonium around him, Hamilton also shared his favourite jaunts when in town, including Marina Bay Sands' infinity pool, and his preferred mode of transport outside the circuit.

For the record and surely pleasing to his sponsors, Hamilton, who is third on the all-time win list with 49 victories, chose a Mercedes Maybach.

Hamilton played the convivial star yesterday, but as he climbs into his actual F1 W05 Hybrid tomorrow, all that will be swopped for laser-like focus as both driver and team will hope he fares better on the real tarmac.

siangyee@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on September 15, 2016.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.