Mercedes drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, have both admitted they are fearful of the pace that rivals Red Bull Racing may have on the bumpy, downforce dominated streets of Singapore.
Nico Rosberg told media ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix that the Marina Bay circuit is “a Red Bull track” and he is well aware that “[Mercedes] weren’t so strong there last year.” Reflecting on his previous performances in the inaugural Formula One night race, Rosberg says it’s “a race that’s been up and down for me.”
Although Ferrari have failed to challenge Red Bull on the previous downforce demanding tracks, Lewis Hamilton has identified them as a threat this weekend, saying: “Ferrari and Red Bull will be on it I’m sure.” He also further confirmed that Mercedes are not 100% sure if they’ve fixed the issues that plagued their 2015 race, also stating: “hopefully we’re on top of [the issues] now. I guess we’ll find out in a few days’ time!” It’s certainly not the most confident response I’ve heard
Toto Wolff also shed some light on this perceived problem with about the same amount of confidence. “We believe we now understand why [we had the issues], only performance on the racetrack can prove our conclusions right,” he said ahead on Monday. “We are curious and excited to see how it goes.”
Wolff also acknowledged his fear of the enemy this weekend, following Lewis’s philosophy that Ferrari will also be in the hunt. “Ferrari were mighty around this circuit last year and it will suit the high downforce design philosophy followed by Red Bull, he claimed. More oddly, he went onto say a more shocking and unexpected set of words: “we must not make the mistake of thinking we are favorites this weekend.”
It’s interesting to see that Hamilton and Wolff identified Ferrari as a threat to them this weekend, whilst Rosberg was more optimistic, only mentioning Red Bull. I think this approach follows a distinct pattern. Given the tight, winding and bumpy characteristics of the Singapore track, it’s likely to favour Red Bull – who have the potential to prove a threat to the Mercedes throne whether or not they experience similar or the same issues as 2015. Ferrari have proved they aren’t as quick as the Red Bull in previous rounds and thus I believe they won’t be faster than the team from Milton-Keynes. Whether Mercedes is faster or slower than Ferrari will come down to fixing those issues they experienced in 2015. If they occur again, it’s likely Ferrari will jump Mercedes in the effective running order.
Mercedes will hit the track for FP1 in what will be one of the most important Friday’s on the calendar. It will be the first glimpse into the pace of everyone and it’ll likely be the beginning of one of the most hotly contested weekends of 2016.