Lewis Hamilton’s win in Monza took him into the lead in the drivers Championship for the first time this season. With seven races to go he is three points ahead of Sebastian Vettel, having been 25 points behind six races ago
Having had successive wins at power tracks Spa and Monza the action shifts this weekend to the night race in Singapore, a very different circuit round the streets in the Far East. With an emphasis on downforce and handling, rather than outright engine power, this should be fertile territory for Ferrari (and Red Bull) and more difficult for Mercedes with a wider wheelbase and less effective when running in traffic.
In Monza, while Hamilton was producing one of his most convincing and impressive performances of the year, Ferrari came up with one of their weakest. They were slow on the long runs in Friday practice, nowhere in the wet in qualifying on Saturday and nearly 0.7 seconds a lap slower than Mercedes on average in the race. This was not a defeat, it was an annihilation. Red Bull starting from the back of the grid almost finishing third told us that it was not just Mercedes that had outright pace
Ferrari, though, insist that this was not unexpected. The Ferrari and Mercedes cars have very different characteristics and their fundamental characteristics mean there are tracks that suit one and not the other. Although Ferrari were closer to Mercedes than expected in Belgium, the general pattern is that high-speed tracks favour Mercedes, slower ones Ferrari, and on those in the middle they are neck and neck.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne said the team “screwed up” and got the car’s set-up wrong. But it’s also the case that their design philosophy meant that they always knew there would be races they had to sacrifice and ironically Monza was one of them.
Mercedes engineers agree with the general theory of car performance, and have been saying for a while that they expect Ferrari to be extremely strong at Singapore. Hamilton feels he and his team have made progress in the last two weeks and says: “I think we will be able to give them a good race.” But he added: “I think still Ferrari are going to be quick there. They are rapid through the medium and low-speed sections of circuits.
“I am going there with a positive approach expecting to fight for the win, but if we can’t, we take it at face value and damage limitation.”
Odds for the race win in Singapore are: Vettel 6/4 Hamilton 7/4 Ricciardo 8/1 Verstappen 8/1 Bottas 9/1 and Raikkonen 14/1.
Good value at the prices are the Red Bull pair, whose car shares many of the same characteristics of the Ferrari, without a touch of the pace but at 8/1 we are being paid for that. Verstappen has had terrible fortune this season, with a string of DNFs but on pace and ability there is little to choose between the two drivers. My slight preference is for the more consistent Ricciardo, at 8/1 for the race win with William Hill