Such has been the domination of Mercedes over the past two Formula 1 seasons that it would be hard to look beyond the Silver Arrows to lead the way again for the 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
Having said that, the Marina Bay Street Circuit has not been a happy hunting ground for the team. Lewis Hamilton has won once for Mercedes (in 2014 and once for McLaren in 2009), but the other six F1 races held there have been won by Fernando Alonso (twice) and Sebastian Vettel (four times). Vettel returns for Ferrari this year and could be the strongest challenger to Mercedes as he aims to repeat his 2015 success and make it five wins out of nine Singapore GPs.
Vettel won three races in 2015, the only driver to deny either Hamilton or team mate Nico Rosberg throughout the season. When Rosberg won the final three races of the 2015 season, the jury couldn’t decide if the German had found his mojo (after a year in which he had been roundly beaten by his team mate Hamilton), or whether Hamilton had both literally and metaphorically taken his foot off the gas, having secured back to back World Championships with those three races still to go.
But when Rosberg won the first four races of 2016 to open up a substantial 46 points over Hamilton, it really did seem that the momentum within the Mercedes team had swung his way. Of course, Hamilton could point to a frustrating set of reliability issues – and some unfortunate tactical decisions by the team – as reasons for his slump in form, but the points difference could not be denied.
However, Hamilton is nothing if not a fighter. When youngster Max Verstappen ended Rosberg’s run of success by winning the Spanish Grand Prix (and became the only non-Mercedes driver to win a race in the first half of the season), Hamilton then won five of the next six races to take the series lead for the first time in 2016 at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July. Rosberg, whose only success in that six-race period was at the new Azerbaijan race in Baku, had started to look vulnerable once more.
The Singapore race is round 15 of 21, the longest season in Formula 1 history. It also marks the point in the year where the teams leave European circuits behind and head further afield for the final denouement with Malaysia, Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi rounding out the year.
While it’s pretty certain Mercedes will claim its third consecutive Constructors’ title in 2016, the main question remains whether Hamilton will also take his third successive crown (also his fourth title, having won in 2008) or whether Rosberg will claim his first, 34 years after his father Keke was the title-winner.
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