Our resident guest F1 writer Justin Johns brings you a Singapore F1 Grand Prix Preview.
Well, the day has come, Kimi Raikkonen is out of Ferrari, which surprised no one, really. What was a surprise, was the announcement from Kimi about his move to the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team for the next two seasons. This is a straight swap with Charles Leclerc. Sad news he will be out of a good car, but the great news he will still be in Formula 1. I must admit, I was confused and not too thrilled about having Kimi going backward on the grid, but have since warmed up to it.
Raikkonen came out as a hero from the Italian GP, which gave me a sense of him owning the title of one of our current forgotten gladiators. Kimi was racing for the lead, defending against Seb and even making a pass back on Lewis Hamilton. I was filled with nostalgia, and the emotions of seeing him racing as the champion, was overwhelming for me. I wish that race was his swansong victory and I have been emotionally deflated for a while with that loss.
But alas, the future is not as bad as it seems, and Kimi still has a chance to earn a victory this season. I will eventually do a full story on the Iceman, especially after a getting a glimpse into his book, The Unknown Kimi Raikkonen. I won’t reveal anything about it here, but Kimi is clearly misunderstood and I’m happy that he will stay on for a while. The rumor mill has churned out theories Kimi has bought a stake in the team, which will make sense for him to stay. He is really good at guiding development and setting up a car. He wants that team to climb the ladder, and if by some chance Alfa Romeo becomes race winners in the future, that for me will be the swansong for the hero I believe Kimi Raikkonen to be.
Up and coming
Accompanying Kimi on the news radar is another fascinating story, Charles Leclerc has signed for Ferrari at 20 years of age. This is an epic moment in the narrative of Ferrari. The Scuderia does not sign rookies, it does not sign young guns and this is why this story stands out as much as it does.
Charles’ rise to the top has been a remarkable journey and given Jules Bianchi is Charles’ godfather, I can’t help but feel this is only fitting, not just for Ferrari and Charles, but for the legacy of Jules. We all know Bianchi would have been wearing scarlet red by now if he did not sadly pass away. Bianchi was easily one of the best drivers to ever race a Formula 1 car and without taking anything from Leclerc, this is an ode to Jules. I feel that Ferrari finally has a driver it can back and who is the ethos of Ferrari, if that makes sense. Kimi and Fernando were Ferrari drivers in my eyes, but for whatever reason, those relationships didn’t really click. I bet money on Charles winning a championship with Ferrari before Sebastian Vettel.
The only thing left for Vettel to do in the upcoming races is put in performances to, not only claw back the championship deficit but to earn the right to be champion. If a champion is determined by who did the best job then, for me, it’s Lewis Hamilton. My mind was made up in Germany and it will take a lot of convincing by Sebastian to change it. Luckily for him, my opinion doesn’t matter and he can do his talking on the track.
I feel Sebastian’s mistakes rob us of an epic championship battle at the season finale. The way it stands right now, the championship may end with two races to spare; that will suck. There’s a lot of pressure being a Ferrari driver, more than any other team in motorsport. Ferrari will always do what’s best for the team. Signing Charles is a clear indication of mitigating the risk of depending on Sebastian. Ferrari needs a proper strategist to assist its driver, because it is also to blame for losing grip on this championship, and last year’s as well.
I’m not giving up hope on an epic season showdown, but my lack of faith in Sebastian and Ferrari is preparing me to look forward to next season. Next year looks promising as I have never seen such a big shake-up in driver-team movements in all my time watching this sport. I think it’s only Mercedes who are retaining their line-up, everyone else has someone new coming into their team. But, this year is not over, with many drivers having a lot to prove and leave this season with some dignity.
Formula 1 can be cruel, and if you ask Damon Hill, it doesn’t matter if you drive at your best, deliver the results and win a championship, your job might not be safe, regardless. Damon was sacked from Williams as the Formula 1 champion in 1996, which has left a thread for drivers like Kimi Raikkonen, Pascal Wehrlein and now Esteban Ocon to relate to. Losing Esteban will be sad for the sport, in my opinion. Another cruel aspect is the system F1 leverages off for new talent.
We have Lando Norris in a McLaren next season, but he is only second in the F2 championship. The leader, who is thoroughly trouncing everyone, George Russell, has nowhere to go next year. This is just testament of how F1, just like life, can be unfair at times.
Take it to the streets
Going into this weekend, Mercedes can focus on damage limitation and run defensive strategies to cover off Ferrari. For once again, Ferrari is still favored at going well in Singapore over the Mercedes. As in the past, the Singapore Grand Prix has proven a bit tough for the Silver Arrows to extract the full performance from their car. They got lucky last year with a mistake from Vettel. Red Bull are also fancy a chance of going well here, but let’s see, I’m sure Ferrari will still have an edge.
Click here to see the disastrous race start for Ferrari in Singapore last year.
Singapore may not always produce the best racing spectacle, but the race itself is a real test for the drivers. It’s hot and humid, with temperatures soaring to 60 degrees Celsius in the cockpit. We generally always reach the two-hour mark, so the drivers really show their worth by overcoming, first of all, the long, tough technical 23 turn layout, then the extreme heat and finally the dehydration which will increase fatigue. You need to be strong physically and mentally to beat this circuit.
The circuit is surrounded by a beautiful city; I mean you can’t help but be in awe of how beautiful everything looks. The glowing track against the night sky, highlighted with spectacularly lit up, gorgeous buildings. The F1 Rocks concerts also plays out here with high profile celebrities and performers in an amongst the energy of the F1 circus. It’s basically the Monaco GP for the East. Can Sebastian Vettel mount a proper attack on Lewis Hamilton to keep the #FightForFive battle up from this race on? Well, we will find out when the lights go out this weekend in Singapore.
Here’s to a great race.