Friday, 24 November, 2017

Singapore GP: Mercedes expect a 'big challenge' to beat Ferrari

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates his third place after completing the Italian Formula One Grand Prix at the Monza racetrack Italy Sunday Sept. 3 2017 Red Bull and Renault set to split after 2018: Reports
Jeanne Townsend | 16 September, 2017, 00:49

However, Vettel, who is the most successful F1 driver at the Singapore GP with four wins, insists it will still be a close fight for the top of the podium, and refused to rule Mercedes out of the running for the chequered flag.

While he is committed to Red Bull until the end of 2018, the always-smiling Australian hinted Red Bull must prove its championship credentials if it wants to ensure he stays with the team beyond next year.

However, the championship leader's race pace was more competitive.

"But I still think Ferrari are going to be quick there". We are always looking for good results and it's not nice when we don't get them.

Without an all-conquering Red Bull, Vettel has struggled, but Hamilton has more often than not challenged for podiums and wins regardless of his vehicle.

"Red Bull seem like they're very strong. but nothing is out of reach".

The vexed collaboration with Honda came to a head this month in Italy as Alonso and Vandoorne both collected grid penalties and failed to finish.

With such onus being put on the red team to walk the weekend, there is the expectation for Vettel to regain the lead of the standings - if he is to be the victor for Ferrari.

"In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win past year".

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It's a mindset which has served Hamilton particularly well since the summer break, but it won't be until Friday practice that Mercedes truly begin to get a feel on whether the 2017 Singapore GP weekend is likely to be more about damage limitation or race-winning opportunity.

Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and was 0.4s off the pace, but both he and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas posted their best ultrasoft-shod times earlier in the session when conditions were even less representative after rain showers earlier in the day.

In P1, he was second to Ricciardo, Verstappen was third and Hamilton fourth.

"I don't know whether we're favourites or not.it's not in our minds, and we'll have the same discussions that we have in every race", said the 37-year-old. "We'll see what happens".

"I think it could be pivotal this year".

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates his third-place finish at the Belgium Grand Prix.

Just as Mercedes have learned to control and improve their "diva" of a W08, Brundle wrote in his latest Sky F1 column that "Ferrari have to hit back hard immediately with power and aero updates". "It's not easy to overtake here, but I like this track".

Verstappen also hinted his future at Red Bull may not be secure if his woes continue.

The venue's tight twists are expected to play to Ferrari and Red Bull's strengths but while the Milton Keynes-based squad shone on Friday, their Italian rivals were more inconspicuous.

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