Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Change of Guard Awaits Formula 1 in Singapore

Following a two-year absence from the calendar owing to circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the Marina Bay Circuit will once again host the Formula 1 circus for the 13th running of the Singapore Grand Prix. Two years of wrong will be made right when the lights go out on Sunday (Oct. 2).

Sunday will mark the final appearance for the Lion of Singapore, Sebastian Vettel, in the city-state as the most successful driver in Singapore to date will step away from F1 at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Alex Albon will return to the cockpit for Williams Racing after sitting out the Italian Grand Prix out of medical necessity; where Nick de Vries made a stellar Grand Prix debut in Albon’s place.

Further up the field, and further away from serious competition, is Max Verstappen who could claim his second driver’s title under the lights this weekend should fortune overlook Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. With Verstappen currently on a streak of five consecutive wins, fortune better remember the Monegasque’s name sooner than later.

While the title is unlikely to change hands at this point, control of the streets of Singapore almost certainly will.

Only three previous winners of the Singapore Grand Prix will line up on the grid this weekend. Vettel with Aston Martin, Lewis Hamilton with Mercedes and Fernando Alonso with Alpine. We all know it’s never wise to dismiss Hamilton, however none of these drivers are in what could be considered winning machinery at the moment.

Verstappen, in his eighth season in F1, has two podiums to his name in Singapore: a second place in 2018 and third place in 2019.

Leclerc, the universe’s last hope of stopping Verstappen in 2022, has managed results of ninth (2018) and second (2019) in the tiny city-state.

Perez, after nine starts in Singapore, holds a best finish of fifth in the 2017 running of the event.

Carlos Sainz can claim a best finish of fourth in 2017; something close to an upset result as he drove for what was then Toro Rosso at the time. While we’re here, George Russell retired from his only Marina Bay outing in 2019, driving for Williams.

See also
F1 Review: Max Verstappen Nearing Ridiculousness, Ferrari Unable to Keep Up

All this said, let’s not rely on the statistics too heavily here. Allow this next statistic to discredit the other statistics.

Every Singapore Grand Prix has featured at least one safety car, with a grand total of 21 safety car periods over the course of 12 races to date. In a soaked 2017 race, a string of accidents through the first three corners of the race eliminated front row starters Vettel and Verstappen, along with Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, allowing Hamilton to sneak into the lead from fifth on the grid before the halfway point of the first lap.

Further, don’t give up on Ferrari, not yet at least. The prancing horses paced the grid during the second Friday practice session while champion-elect Verstappen struggled to find satisfaction in his performances throughout practice. Ferrari currently holds three wins (2010, 2015, 2019) in Singapore, second only to Mercedes with four wins.

Throw in a safety car or two with some less than convenient timing and Ferrari could gain or lose it all come Sunday evening. Oh, there’s also rain in the forecast for most of the weekend, in case the absurd heat and humidity that Singapore is known for doesn’t provide a sufficiently visceral challenge.

While all of this could add up to a series of shocking retirements and a podium of Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel coming to form when the checkered flag falls, the odds are heavily skewed toward a new winner being crowned on Sunday, the fifth different winner in the race’s short history.

Following Singapore will be the Japanese Grand Prix at the legendary Suzuka Circuit, also absent from the calendar since 2019, for the Japanese Grand Prix on Oct. 9, another track where a new winner is very likely to be crowned.

The Singapore Grand Prix will air on Sunday, Oct. 2, at 8:00 a.m. ET with coverage on ESPN.

About the author

Alex is the IndyCar Content Director at Frontstretch, having initially joined as an entry-level contributor in 2021. He also serves as Managing Director of The Asia Cable, a publication focused on the international affairs and politics of the Asia-Pacific region which he co-founded in 2023. With previous experience in China, Japan and Poland, Alex is particularly passionate about the international realm of motorsport and the politics that make the wheels turn - literally - behind the scenes.

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