Lewis Hamilton has insisted he is ready to end his recent Singapore curse and retain the lead in his championship battle with Sebastian Vettel.
Hamilton arrives in the Far East with a three-point advantage after his triumph at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
The Englishman’s dominant victory at Monza ensured his first visit to the summit of the title race this season, but his Mercedes team are cautious that the twisty nature of the Marina Bay street circuit will be more suited to Vettel and his Ferrari car this weekend.
Red Bull, whose long-term future in Formula One has been cast in doubt after it emerged that Renault are set to pull the plug on their engine contract beyond next season, are also expected to be contenders here, too.
Hamilton has won under the lights on two occasions, but he failed to reach the chequered flag in 2014 before finishing a distant third last term. On that evening, Hamilton lost the championship lead to Nico Rosberg, and it was a deficit from which he would never recover. Hamilton also retired from the lead of the 2012 race, his last in Singapore for McLaren.
“Red Bull will be fast and it is known that it is not going to be the easiest of weekends for us,” Hamilton, 32, said yesterday. “But I am coming here with positivity, and I plan on winning this race.
“We have worked as hard as we can to understand the car and we come here in full attack. You can’t overtake on this track, and the cars are wider so positioning is definitely very important. Getting the car set up right so you can execute qualifying is going to be key.”
Vettel had led the championship since he won the opening round of the season in Australia, but Hamilton, who sandwiched various Mercedes commitments with a trip to America for New York Fashion Week, has been in sparkling form since the summer break.
He matched, and then surpassed Michael Schumacher’s pole record in Belgium and then Italy, while leading virtually every lap of both races.
The slow-speed Singapore track however, could provide Vettel, who finished an eye-watering 36 seconds behind Hamilton in Monza, with an immediate chance to move back ahead of the Briton in the championship race.
“In theory it should be better here than in Monza,” Vettel said. “But I think it is more important to have the lead of the championship on Sunday night at the final race in Abu Dhabi.
“The target is clear. We have a lot of races, and a lot of time to get points. We will count them at the end.”
Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso has said he is yet to determine his future with his McLaren contract due to expire at the end of the year.
It is almost certain that the Spaniard will sign a one-year extension with the British team, who are set to switch from Honda to Renault power in 2018. Their new engine deal is likely to be announced after opening practice today.
“Whatever I do next year is because I want to win,” Alonso, 36, said. “There are options everywhere, and they are all very good. You just need to be patient and wait a couple of weeks.”