SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel isn’t expecting the Singapore Grand Prix to be a Sunday evening cruise through the city-state’s floodlit streets, despite being tipped as favourite for victory at the Marina Bay circuit.
The German heads into the weekend smarting from a crushing defeat at the hands of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, who led team-mate Valtteri Bottas in a dominant one-two at Ferrari’s home Italian Grand Prix.
The result, a disappointing display for Ferrari in front of their passionate tifosi, also cost Vettel the overall championship lead he had enjoyed all year, handing Hamilton a three-point advantage instead.
But Singapore’s tight turns are expected to play to the strengths of Vettel’s Ferrari, with the team dominant at similar layouts in Monaco and Hungary, and the German is expected to add an unprecedented fifth victory to his already unmatched tally of Singapore wins.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, though, the four-time champion was refusing to buy into the hype.
“In theory it should be a bit better here than at Monza but I think it will be close,” said Vettel.
“We have seen that it’s very close no matter where we go, also on the tracks that definitely suit Mercedes or definitely suit Ferrari.”
The 30-year-old cited two examples.
At Monaco Kimi Raikkonen led a Ferrari front-row lockout in qualifying but third-placed Bottas set a time within a tenth of the Finn’s benchmark.
Meanwhile, at Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps, Mercedes were expected to dominate but Vettel remained in hot pursuit of Hamilton all the way through the race.
“I go with what we have, what I will feel tomorrow at the track and the car that I have then under me,” said Vettel.
Mercedes have a chequered history at the Singapore track, winning last year with retired champion Nico Rosberg, but failing to even finish on the podium in 2015.
Nevertheless, Hamilton - who became the season’s first back-to-back winner following his triumph in Monza - is up for a fight.
“It’s not going to be the easiest of weekends, but man I’m coming with positivity and with the plan of winning this race,” said the Briton, who has won in Singapore twice.
“We have worked as hard as we can to understand the car and we come here with a full attack.”
Editing by Toby Chopra