It’s time for Singapore and the first night race of the season.
It’s still nip and tuck at the top of the table with Webber leading Hamilton 187 to 182 points, Alonso on a charge up to third and 16 points behind Hamilton on 166 points. Button did his chances no end of good with last weeks 2nd place and is only one point behind Alonso on 165 points. Vettel can still take the spoils with 163 points two points behind Button.
So 24 points cover the top five places. That’s just one win in new money and means none of the contenders can afford anymore slip ups.
For weeks now the feeling has been that Webber was the man with the momentum to carry him past the winning post. He’s the favourite for a lot of people. But Alonso is coming up on the inside rails fast. Ferrari would seem to have got the blown diffuser, wobbly wings and f-duck to work together and on top of a grunty engine that takes some beating in a straight line. Which means the pressure is on Webber to deliver a good result at a track expected to deliver a Redbull result, because if he doesn’t you can bet that Ferrari will have Alonso there to pick up the pieces.
Meanwhile Hamilton needs to put a frighteningly bad performance in Monza behind him and go and drive the cahonas off the car. Street circuits seem to be Hamiltons natural habitat. Both Monaco and Valencia have been happy hunting grounds over the years for Lewis and Singapore is no exception. Given a good run he has to be a podium contender this weekend.
Button showed in Monza that he’s not beaten yet. He went with a radical setup and almost kept the Tifosi quite, well those that hadn’t fallen asleep anyway. He was beaten in Italy by cold tires on an out lap and Alonso just nailing it when it counted. The feeling is that McLaren had talked themselves into loosing before the pits stop and where the first to blink. When the car is really working for him Button can be unbeatable, but the street circuits are not normally a place he excels. His smooth driving style never quite beats the aggressive drivers. Top five this weekend, if the others have trouble.
Vettel is having a tough time of it at the moment. He’s not really delivering, with two 3rd places a 15th and a 4th he’s getting results but not the podiums you need for a championship. A mistake at Spa earned him the nickname of the crash kid from McLarens boss. Then despite an engine glitch in Monza he still beat Webber. He’s 24 points off the lead, so not down and out by any means. But, well you just don’t feel he’s got it in him to win this year. Though he did do well in Valencia and Monaca, like Hamilton he really likes a street circuit, so this could be the race he turns things around. But ... well.... can he ?
There are some other drivers to watch this weekend. As ever the ever present Kubica was 8th in Monza after the podium at Spa. Further back and a 5th at Valencia and 3rd in Monaco would suggest a top 5 could be on the cards here. Renault have been talking this weekend up and have just signed some Russian ship yard or other up as a main sponsor for the rest of the season. So they’re riding high. The more adventurous pundits have been talking of a Renault win this weekend. But i have my doubts.
If Kubica can’t deliver than Rosberg will. He should have got a podium here last year but cocked up the pit exit and lost a hat full of points. He’s not shown well on the street circuits in the Merc thus far, but he has always gone well here were aggression and passion can get you a result. He’s comfortably beaten Schumacher so well that the word is the insufferably smug German seven times world champions is going to pack his toys away and hang up his helmet yet again at the end of the year. Whilst Rosberg will be given the head boy badge and told to get on with it. I like Rosberg and would love to see him get a result here. However, and it’s a big However, Ross and the boys have been talking about how much they’re looking forward to their 2011 car this week, which is usually code for, “they’ll be no more racing from us, don’t crash the car lads”
Other names to watch; Barrichello if the eye sight is up to it, this old lag knows a thing or two about street circuits. Petrov has almost done enough to keep his seat for another year, with Kimi asking for a fat pay check, Petrov’s Russian rubbles should see him safe. Kobayashi is joined by Nick Heidfeld from the rest of the season at Sauber after Pedro finally got the old heave ho for being slow and old and rubbish. I doubt Heidfeld will be on the pace here, but Krazy Koby could battle his way into the top ten.
At the back of the grid and it’s just a matter of time before HRT shut up shop and start selling the family silver off to the highest bidder, two rubbish drivers and a piss poor car to boot. What could Prodrive have delivered you wonder.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Branson is going to walk away any day now, just when Virgin are moving ahead of Lotus. This might be because Lotus has ditched the Cosworth engine for next year and are busy developing that car rather than patching this dog up. Virgin still feel there’s a reason to go racing for last place this year so are continuing to develop this years car, which means is might well beat the Lotus this time put.
But this is a street circuit people, at night and with lots of nasty walls and stuff, anything could happen.