F1: Singapore Grand Prix preview & fact-file

By Online Editorial

Formula 1

As the action arrives at the scene of the great controversy, Tom Cowie is backing the Singapore Grand Prix to put F1 back in the news for the right reasons.

Brawn GP’s 1-2 finish in Italy a fortnight ago confirmed what many believed after the season opener in Melbourne – namely that despite a mid-season challenge from Red Bull, this year’s champion will be a Brawn driver. With four races to go, the only question remaining is which one?

Despite having racked up 27 seasons of F1 between them, Jenson Button and rubens Barrachello are both enjoying their first, and potentially last shot at the ultimate prize. Button’s story has been one of wrong place wrong time, culminating in a couple of dismal years at the back of the grid in the hopelessly uncompetitive Honda.

Barrachello had no problem finding a good car – he had access to the best car -but unfortunately he gained this access by signing a contract that consigned him to the role of Ferrari support driver to Michael Schumacher during the German’s five years of total domination.

Unfortunately, F1 returns to Singapore under yet another cloud of controversy. Renault’s two year suspended ban for conspiring to manufacture Fernando Alonso’s win here in last year’s inaugural race is undoubtedly one of the most shocking breaches of the rules in the sport’s history.

In the end it was circumstance that made the ban a suspended one. With Honda gone and BMW going, F1 could not afford to lose another manufacturer – and with Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds falling on their swords, it seems that a compromise was reached. Whether Renault decide to remain in the sport long term without their star driver, flamboyant team principal, and experienced technical director remains to be seen.

As ever, the best tonic to this unpleasant business is great racing action, and Singapore could be the perfect place to start. Last year’s inaugural race was a huge success, with no issues with the lighting, and in contrast to other new venues like Bahrain, packed grandstands.

The lighting system is one of the most advanced ever designed. Four times as powerful as the lighting at standard sports stadia, the 1,600 lights project differing levels of brightness depending on the part of the track, and are connected to 12 generators by over 100,000 metres of cable. Ever the perfectionist, Bernie has probably brought a bag of 50p’s – just in case.

Looking back at last season, one could argue that this is where Ferrari really lost the driver’s title. A barren race for the Scuderia saw Felipe Massa drive down the pit lane with the fuel hose still attached, whilst a disinterested Kimi Raikkonen got up close and personal with the concrete wall after getting greedy with the curbs at turn 10.

Lewis Hamilton finished third last year, and finds himself favourite for the win this year at 3.8. Mclaren’s two stop strategy at Monza compared to Brawn’s one stop confirmed their lack of outright speed, but the street circuit will definitely suit the Briton, who is clearly enjoying being able to drive without the pressure of a championship hanging over him.

The challenge for Red Bull is to pick themselves up after the disappointment of Monza. Like Hamilton, Mark Webber 13.5 and Vettel (11.0) now have nothing to lose and will be hoping to capitalize on any late season nerves from the Brawn boys.

Locked together at 6.2 for the win, Button and Barrachello effectively have a four race shootout for the title, with Button benefiting from a 14 point head start. Barrachello has the advantage of being the hunter rather than the hunted, and he will be confident of getting in to his friend’s head, especially given Button’s mid-season wobble when Vettel and Webber kept him off the podium for a few weeks.

We are in for a thrilling season finale, one which will produce a hugely popular and deserving champion whatever the result. This coupled with the fact that Brawn GP will win the Constructor’s Championship in their debut season should ensure that F1 will soon be back in the news for all the right reasons.

Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. © The Sporting Exchange Limited

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