Singapore GP: Is it Mercedes vs Red Bull or can Ferrari join fight?
Mercedes hoping for fourth straight win at Marina Bay but Red Bull pose genuine threat; Can Ferrari cure low-speed woes?
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 17/09/19 6:32am
Mercedes are ready for a fierce battle with Red Bull at the Singapore GP but are also not counting out Ferrari, even though the Scuderia believe they will "struggle" under the dazzling Marina Bay lights.
Formula 1 is heading to Singapore for its marquee night race this weekend, with every session live on Sky Sports F1, and Mercedes, following Ferrari's back-to-back victories at the power-friendly Spa and Monza, expect to be better suited to the iconic street circuit - having won at similar low-speed, high-downforce tracks this season.
But Red Bull are also perennial contenders at Singapore - finishing with at least one car in the top-two in every race there since 2009 - while they pushed Lewis Hamilton all the way in Monaco and Hungary 2019, with Max Verstappen on pole in Budapest.
Hamilton, who holds a 63-point lead in the championship heading into F1 2019's final seven races, has had great battles with Verstappen, as well as Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, in recent months and is relishing more of the same.
Did you know?
Singapore's Marina Bay circuit has more corners than any other track on the F1 calendar (23) and is often cited as the drivers' biggest physical challenge
"I am not looking forward to the next race thinking it will swing our way," said Hamilton, who lost out in wheel-to-wheel combat when racing Leclerc at the Italian GP.
"I hope that it is competitive between us - I want this battle to continue."
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is braced for Red Bull to be the Silver Arrows' main threat in Singapore - but says Ferrari will also be a rival, despite the Italian outfit's previous lack of pace at circuits without long straights.
"We knew that Spa and Monza would be difficult for us," Wolff stated. "On paper, we should be strong in Singapore - as should Red Bull be. Let's see if we are really demolishing them there.
"But I have no doubt that Ferrari will have learned and will have a good package there, better than Hungary."
Ferrari 'expect to struggle'
Ferrari finished a minute off the pace in Budapest, which was the last race before the summer break. Since then, Leclerc has claimed epic wins in Belgium and Italy, the latter making him an instant hero to Scuderia fans.
But Singapore is a very different proposition - regardless of Mercedes' thoughts about Ferrari's chances.
"We need to stay realistic," insisted Leclerc."I think we expected that Spa and Monza would be very good races for our car but we also know that the next few races will be a lot more difficult for our car.
"It's not going to be easy. especially Singapore. I think it will be a nice surprise if we are better than what we expect - but what we expect - is to struggle there."
Ferrari chief Mattia Binotto agreed: "We knew [Spa and Monza] were tracks where we may have been competitive. Of course it was not a given but certainly they were more power-sensitive with long straights and it was important for us not to miss any opportunities as we did in the first part of the season. Our car was happy.
"Whenever we may go to circuits where there are a lot of corners and where grip-limited is important or maximum downforce will be required to be fast, we are certainly showing our main weakness."