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Preview: Vettel, Ferrari set to shine under special Singapore lights

Written by  Sep 14, 2017

In the blink of an eye, the 2017 Formula 1 season enters its final stretch with the first of seven flyaway races to round off a gripping year, under the lights in Singapore.

It barely feels like yesterday when the cars were taking to the grid in Melbourne back in March but now for Mercedes and Ferrari the fight gets serious with every moment between now and Abu Dhabi potentially decisive in their quest for the championship.

The last race at Monza saw the Silver Arrow land a stinging blow in the Scuderia's back yard, claiming a commanding 1-2 and even replicating the famous side-by-side in lap the Tifosi became used to seeing during the glory years of the early 2000's.

That sight no doubt left a bitter taste in the mouth at Maranello but this weekend the streets of Marina Bay will provide the perfect place to avenge what happened. Tight, twisty and incredibly hot, Singapore provides everything Ferrari love and everything Mercedes hates.

Therefore, as Sebastian Vettel heads to the Far East as the chaser rather than the chased in the championship for the first time this year, the German, who made this race his own during the Red Bull years, is expected to hit straight back.

A failure to do so would be catastrophic but then Singapore has become known as the race where anything can happen. Safety Cars are the norm, reliability is often wobbly and the increased challenge of the 2017 machines means one of F1's toughest weekends only got harder.

Can we rule Mercedes out? The answer is certainly no. Their history may be varied but you don't win twice in three years around a non-power circuit without doing something right and Lewis Hamilton will be keen to continue the huge wave of momentum gathered post-Monza.

But with the gap the closest it has been at any point in the hybrid era, they do face a mighty stern challenge to overcome the Prancing Horse and likely the raging Bulls that will also make their presence felt.

Vettel may be gone, but Singapore remains a Red Bull track and their incredible development over the year, plus more to come this weekend, means Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen will be right in the hunt come Sunday night.

For the Australian, he has two near misses in two years to put right and for the Dutchman, he has a year of frustration he needs to let out with this race the best chance to do so.

Also, at the last race on a similar track back in Hungary, Red Bull dominated Friday and were arguably quicker in the race so they have the potential to cause a major shift in title battle should one or two get between Vettel and Hamilton.

In the midfield, all the attention both on and off the track will likely be on McLaren. Today (Thursday) they are anticipated to announce their Honda split and a deal linking up with Renault, but then on the track, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne could well be 'best of the rest'.

Another party in the engine saga, Toro Rosso, who are set to pick up the Honda units from 2018, could also enjoy a stronger weekend on a chassis track, particularly through Carlos Sainz. The usual parties can't be ruled out, however, with Force India, Renault and Haas all likely to be covered by mere fractions around one of the longest circuits of the year in terms of time.

Williams typically struggles on street circuits and, Monza performance aside, recent results do suggest they will have little more success this year. Given the unpredictable nature of the race, however, even Sauber can't rule out a points result which proves why Singapore is always a must watch.

There's some uncertainty over the future of the Grand Prix and the races are typically slow burners, but now in its 10th year, the city-state has become one of the leading races anywhere for the show and spectacle it puts on.

To lose Singapore would be a major blow for F1 and their new owners as the sport seeks to grow in Asia, from a sporting perspective too, it has become worthy of the title of a modern Monaco and it will be fascinating to see what twist and turns it will offer in 2017.

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