x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Lowdown: How Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari can still win the Singapore Grand Prix

The German may have struggled in qualifying but hope is not lost for his chances of victory in Sunday's race

Sebastian Vettell starts third on the grid for the Singapore Grand Prix. EPA
Sebastian Vettell starts third on the grid for the Singapore Grand Prix. EPA

Saturday was a pretty miserable day for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. They had been expected to dominate the Singapore Grand Prix to reignite the German's title chances but instead he was beaten to pole position by championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who he trails by 30 points.

Vettel was only third, with Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen also ahead of him, and on paper he faces a tall order to triumph in Sunday's race, which starts at 4.10pm UAE time.

But the four-time world champion should not give up hope and here are the ways he can prevail at the Marina Bay Circuit.

Gaining places at the start

The German has often made good starts this season and his British Grand Prix victory in July was set up by passing Hamilton on the run to the first corner.

Singapore's start-finish straight is fairly short, but if Vettel gets good traction from third he could at least be second by Turn 1, which would considerably improve his chances of a fifth win at the Marina Bay Circuit.

Clearing Verstappen's Red Bull, who starts second, is vital. Verstappen has struggled with engine issues over the weekend and his race pace is going to be questionable.

Verstappen, as Valtteri Bottas will attest, is notoriously difficult to pass, so going wheel-to-wheel with the feisty Dutchman will not be high on his list of priorities.

The dream scenario would be passing both Verstappen and Hamilton, but getting past the Red Bull is the bare minimum needed to keep his race chances intact.

____________

Read more

Lewis Hamilton has 'wow' factor in Singapore but hope not lost for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel

Explainer: Why Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel believes he has been his own 'biggest enemy' in F1 title fight

Sebastian Vettel: I can still win the 2018 F1 drivers' title

____________

Overtaking on track

Passing in Singapore is very difficult. Like a lot of tracks you need a significant performance advantage to be in a position to get by another car.

Ferrari may, on the basis of practice, have the most consistent car for the race in terms of pace, but Mercedes and Red Bull are close enough on speed that it will be very tough for Vettel to get by.

The run down the curved straight that leads to Turn 7 will be Vettel's best chance of making an overtaking move.

Pit strategy

This is Vettel's best chance. The race is like to be an one-stopper so what Vettel needs to do is be within two seconds of Hamilton when the pit window opens, which is expected to be around Lap 20 or slightly beyond.

If he can pit before Hamilton he can try and undercut the Briton by doing a fast outlap on fresh tyres which could allow him to get ahead when Mercedes do eventually pit his title rival.

The other option if Hamilton pits first, is to run a longer first stint. It would almost certainly give up hope of gaining track position at the time, but it would allow him a run at Hamilton on fresher tyres at the end of the race.

That is how Hamilton beat Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Italy and Ferrari will have learned from that.

Use Raikkonen as bait

Raikkonen is only fifth on the grid and so not in the most ideal spot to be a nuisance to Hamilton.

But if it gets to Lap 15-16 and he is within 10 seconds or so of the Briton it may be worth Ferrari pitting him early.

Putting Raikkonen on fresher tyres, potentially in clear air, and letting him set some fast laps could pressure Mercedes into pitting Hamilton earlier then they would.

All the top teams will want to just do one stop and so anything that could make Mercedes have to operate outside their comfort window could be a benefit to Vettel.