x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Singapore vital for title contenders

Singapore has made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. The FIA, however, have dealt with the situation and the good thing is we can now move forward to the race.

Singapore has made headlines for all the wrong reasons this week. The FIA (International Automobile Federation), however, have dealt with the situation and the good thing is we can now move forward to the race. The championship is reaching a climax, it is unbelievably tight and I think we are all set for a compelling race. I'm glad the race-fixing mess was ironed out. Renault held their own internal investigation, discovered the culprits and dealt with the problem in-house. What they did unquestionably helped with the FIA's decision.

The team's suspended sentance was appropriate. It looks a bit mixed when you consider McLaren's heavy fine last year, but I believe Renault have put money towards the FIA's safety campaign. It must have been a lot! The Piquet Jr situation is a tough one. It's unfortunate, but crashing was still his decision. It will be difficult for him to get another F1 drive now - teams simply will not want that type of incident hanging over their driver or team.

Back to the race, and I'm expecting a mixed bag. There are title contenders, title wannabes and then there's Lewis Hamilton. Singapore suits his driving style and the McLaren. Red Bull need a miracle. If they don't close the gap this weekend, I think that will be it for them. Anything outside the top five and they are done. If their domination was starting now, it may be a different story. The gaps just looks too big.

Neither Mark Webber nor Sebastien Vettel have performed in the last few races; I just can't see them recovering in time to mount a strong world-title bid. Although you can't rule Vettel out - he is young and not short on fighting spirit - Webber's the stronger of the two. Singapore is similar to Hungary and the Australian is generally quick on tight circuits. Still, both Red Bull drivers must win and hope the Brawns have a bad weekend to stay in contention. It could happen, but I doubt it.

The Brawn cars look reliable and their drivers are aware of the championship situation. They'll seek to avoid on-track incidents and are in pole position to move their respective championship aspirations forward. I'm certain the Brawns and Hamilton will fight out the night race. Confidence is also Rubens Barrichello's closest ally. He is on a high and has to go for the win; nothing else will suffice. It's coming together for the Brazilian.

He looks comfortable, is in a good position and is probably the favourite to win. Kimi Raikkonen's recent consistency could come into it, but he's not quick enough to trouble the podium chasers. The Ferrari has improved and the Finn's driving like the Iceman of the old. But I will be surprised if Jenson Button doesn't repeat his Monza performance and get a result. He needs podium finishes - it has to happen.

Another bad week for the Briton and the championship will go to the wire. That's when the pressure really mounts. After seeing his lead halved in the last four races, Button needs to carry it through. Help may come from Hamilton and Raikkonen. They can take points off Barrichello, but, worringly for Button, they can also take points off him. Button needs to stay positive. He beat his teammate earlier this season and can do it again. He needs to fight Barrichello off, dominate the race and not relinquish control in the title race.

Having seen off the Red Bulls, Button needs to stay at the sharp end of the points. Ultimately, there's everything to play for. Make no mistake, Singapore will be a vital weekend for all involved. Victory will supply invaluable confidence for the run-in. sports@thenational.ae