Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2019

Hamilton ready for hard racing

Mercedes' championship-leading driver Lewis Hamilton is seeking a hat-trick at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. He has won the last two Singapore Grands Prix, besides taking the chequered flag in 2009 and 2014. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Mercedes' championship-leading driver Lewis Hamilton is seeking a hat-trick at the Marina Bay Street Circuit. He has won the last two Singapore Grands Prix, besides taking the chequered flag in 2009 and 2014. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Briton seeks to reassert control of title race but wary of threats from Ferrari and Red Bull

Alarm bells are not going off even if Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton is in a mini slump, with the Mercedes driver his usual cool self during a press conference at the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix last night.

He is eyeing a hat-trick at the Marina Bay Street Circuit this weekend after wins in 2017 and 2018, a feat achieved only by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, then with Red Bull, from 2011 to 2013.

Hamilton has a healthy lead in the drivers' standings, having won six of his first eight races this season, but then claiming the chequered flag in just two of the next six.

While he was second in Belgium and third in Italy in the last two races, it marked the first time this season the 34-year-old Briton went successive races without a win.

Hamilton, noting the threat from Ferrari and Red Bull, is hopeful he can bounce back and reassert his dominance, although he still has a 63-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas (221 points).

"We are just focusing on ourselves, trying to make sure we extract the most we can," he said.

"We haven't really performed that well (in Singapore), particularly over the last couple of years but came out with not such bad results due to other circumstances. So I hope that we fare well."

The five-time F1 champion, who also won here in 2009 and 2014, is tied with Vettel for most wins - four - in Singapore.

Hamilton's cool deserted him only briefly at the press conference yesterday. He bristled when asked about the way the stewards dealt with the "hard driving" of eventual winner Charles Leclerc at Monza two weeks ago.

The two engaged in a thrilling battle for the lead for much of the race, running wheel-to-wheel on a number of occasions.

Leclerc forced Hamilton into the run-off area once and later appeared to under-brake, but did not receive a penalty because their cars did not make contact, according to the explanation from the governing body, International Automobile Federation.

Hamilton, who went on to finish third behind Bottas, declined to talk about the episode but, when probed, he said tersely: "I look forward, there's nothing I can do about the past. I'm down for hard racing."

Renault's Daniel Ricciardo is another driver hoping to turn his flagging fortunes around at the Singapore race.

The Australian has struggled since moving from Red Bull at the start of the year and has yet to step on the podium after 14 races. His only season without a top-three finish was 2013, when he drove for Toro Rosso.

Thankfully, Singapore has been a happy hunting ground for the 30-year-old, who clinched four straight podium finishes from 2014.

Describing the Marina Bay circuit as fun, he said the course was "physical, hot, bumpy" but was confident his car could do the job.

"Going back to Monaco, which is the most similar (circuit) to here, we did quite well," said Ricciardo, who finished ninth in the glamour race in May.

"So I think we do have the potential to be good (in Singapore). I definitely think we can put it together. The basis is ultimately there."


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SINGAPORE GP

Practice 1/2: Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 4.15pm/8.15pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2019, with the headline 'Hamilton ready for hard racing'. Print Edition | Subscribe