Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2015

Nico's dream all but over?

Nico Rosberg has to deploy final new engine for rest of season.
Nico Rosberg has to deploy final new engine for rest of season. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Hamilton's closest challenger has to deploy final new engine for rest of season

Pole position, points and, for a special driver, a place in the history books are on offer on the streets of Singapore today. But while Lewis Hamilton chases history, the dream could be over for his closest rival and team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The Mercedes man, the one constant in the No. 2 spot in the Formula One drivers' standings this season, was dealt a blow when he was forced to deploy his fourth - and final - permitted engine for the rest of his campaign after Mercedes decided not to risk using the upgraded engine that was used in Italian Grand Prix practice after a problem was discovered.

With six races left after tomorrow's Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore GP and each engine averaging a life span of just five races, the German will receive a grid penalty if his power unit flares up further and he takes a fifth new engine this season. Hamilton, in contrast, still has one fresh unit in his arsenal.

The German lamented: "We have to put things right tomorrow. There's some work to do in our garage tonight. We didn't do a good job today and the others have been pretty quick today. I went the wrong way (in terms of car set-up). It looks like Ferrari, Red Bull and us in a battle for the podium."

And the 30-year-old felt the effects of Singapore's punishing circuit. He said: "The track is extremely hot. I just drank a litre of water (after practice). Tyre wear is quite high so it's difficult to do a two-stop (strategy), and that's going to be the key to the race."

Rosberg, on 199 points in the standings and trailing Hamilton by 53 points, was fastest in first practice (1min 47.995sec) but seventh in the second session (1:46.781), as Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat topped the pack (1:46.142).

The good thing about Singapore is that the conditions here - the heat, humidity, counter-clockwise track, long duration, 23 turns and bumpy roads that cause men to shudder and some machines to shatter - are a great equaliser.

Raw power is not an asset here but downforce, the ability to grip and slingshot around corners, is solid gold and it means that the slower cars from Red Bull, struggling in fourth place in the team standings, can mount a challenge.

This was proven by Kvyat's excellent flying lap and Daniel Ricciardo registering the third fastest time of the night (1:46.256).

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen was second (1:46.181) while Hamilton was fourth (1:46.479).

Lotus' Romain Grosjean, ninth in the standings on 38 points but with Force India duo Sergio Perez (33 points) and Nico Huelkenberg (30 points) on his tail, is under no illusions that the Singapore circuit is one of the toughest.

The Frenchman said: "It's quite hard to keep the rhythm in the car and braking in the right place and then taking the corner well.

"Here is more intense. The first sector is quite long and fine but then you get to Sector 3, where it's corner after corner, where you need to think about your rear tyres, your braking point, the throttle is a big issue and you slip and so on."

For the man who has slipped up the least this season, his place in history awaits. For Rosberg, the wish to emulate his father Keke as a world champion this season is now but a hazy dream.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 19, 2015, with the headline 'Nico's dream all but over?'. Print Edition | Subscribe