Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: F1 Singapore Grand Prix Preview

It’s round 14 of the Formula One season, and with the European segment over, it’s time to move to other parts of the world.  This weekend: Singapore.  First begun in 1961, the country held races until 1973, and then fell from the schedule.  It resumed its place on the F1 calendar in 2008, with Fernando Alonso winning the first race, which was also the sport’s first under the lights.

Formula One
The rare night race in F1: Singapore Grand Prix (credit: Cnfle)

In 2014, the Singapore Grand Prix will showcase a battle between the two Mercedes drivers, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, who have been the class of the field.  They’ve been so dominant that even two-time race winner Daniel Ricciardo, who has the third position in points, is 50 points behind the second-place Hamilton.

The race is held on a temporary street circuit features 23 turns and is 3.14 miles in length (or 5.06 kilometers).  Sebastian Vettel, the four-time champion who is having a rough year (sits sixth in points) won the last three events, but his Red Bull team has not quite shown the speed to pace with the leaders.

Alonso also has earned two wins at the track, in both a Renault and a Ferrari, but it would be surprising to see the fabled pony be able to run with Mercedes, or the Williams team.  But to give a little bit of hope to the Scuderia faithful, Alonso did post the second-quickest time in the second practice.

The driver is favored, who began at 4/6 odds and now holds 4/5 odds, is Lewis Hamilton.  Not only is he a former winner at the track but he also seems to be handling the spotlight of battling his teammate better.  At times, Rosberg has appeared flummoxed, notably making a mistake that cost him the lead at the last race in Italy.

The battle between teammates is one of the more fascinating storylines in auto racing – it’s not like it happens in other sports – but it also has not seemed so frosty as what is playing out between Hamilton and Rosberg.  Of course, Hamilton and Alonso never played well together when they teamed at McLaren, ultimately causing Alonso to leave after just one year.

But the Hamilton-Rosberg duel seems to be taking teammate animosity to a new level, as seen by both their press quotes and the fact that Rosberg nicked his teammate and essentially took him out of a race.

Is it possible that these two could ultimately cost themselves the championship?  It’s not out of the realm of possibility, even with Ricciardo sitting as far back as he is.  The Singapore Grand Prix then, looms large as a place to determine how these two will race each other, especially as they leave Europe, and some of its press, behind.

Some News & Notes:

– Recently, Luca di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari stepped down, continuing a shake-up trend with the motorsports giant that began in April when Stefano Domenicali, the team principal, resigned.   The changes, one with the overall company and one with the race teams, show that Ferrari has a long way to go before returning the success it has known.

The issue, however, will become even more complicated.  Fiat-Chrysler, which owns a 90% stake in the company, plans to take Ferrari public in the near future – meaning that the organization’s business structure will be set to change as well.  No longer will the company be able to focus on privatized accounting and profiteering, but instead will have to answer to shareholders.

There is concern that shareholders may not find value in running a race team.  While this view is somewhat laughable, considering Ferrari’s place in the sport, it is still something that over time may come to pass.  But maybe of greater importance is that the budget to the team may be lessened in order to bring about larger profit margins.  The whole mess strikes of being an enormous soap opera – just one played out with millions of dollars and at speeds of 200mph.

– One other topic that needs to be mentioned is the governing body’s attempts to control radio communication between the engineers and the drivers.  That’s right, there is now a list stating what can and cannot be said on the radio.  And any coded language will earn scrutiny and possible sanctions.

This kind of move is a strange one as it limits the information exchange and the ability of the driver to maximize the information gleaned from the pits, as much of that kind of exchange is now prohibited.  While F1 has certainly endured controversy over things like team orders and other aspects, this decision seems like a problematic one.  Is the goal to put more emphasis on the driver?  How will this aspect be policed?  How will it make the racing better?

Enjoy the race, NBCSN has coverage beginning at 7:30 EST on Sunday morning.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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