The Singapore Grand Prix is a race in which McLaren can be competitive and, therefore, it is worth backing Fernando Alonso to pick up one or more Formula One championship points in the Lion City.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore is a world apart from Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix that Lewis Hamilton won from pole position two weeks ago. Power units rule in Italy whereas the chassis is the key component in Singapore so, if one is looking for a form guide, it is smarter to look back to the Hungarian Grand Prix that took place in July and, of course, previous Lion City races.
In this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix, Alonso was the eighth fastest driver in qualifying and he started the race from seventh place on the grid because Nico Hulkenberg received a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. Alonso’s McLaren teammmate, Stoffel Vandoorne, also made it through to the final Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session. On Sunday, Alonso finished sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix – helped by Daniel Ricciardo’s early retirement – and Vandoorne got amongst the points as well by filling 10th place.
A brake issue forced Jenson Button to retire his McLaren from last year’s Singapore Grand Prix but Alonso made it to the end of the 61-lap contest, finishing seventh behind Nico Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Alonso is a two-time Singapore Grand Prix champion having taken the chequered flag first in the Lion City in 2008 and 2010 – first driving a Renault and second behind the steering wheel of a Ferrari. Alonso and his McLaren colleague, Vandoorne, elected to take grid penalties in the Italian Grand Prix to ready themselves for the Singapore Grand Prix because their Honda-powered cars were compromised at Monza but they ought to be strong on the Marina Bay Street Circuit that is a low-speed layout.
With regards to winning the Singapore Grand Prix, qualifying in pole position is absolutely critical – seven of the nine editions contested since the race returned to the Formula One calendar in 2008 have gone the way of the respective pole sitter with the two exceptions being 2008 when Alonso won from 15th on the grid in a controversial event and 2012 when Vettel benefitted from the two drivers who qualified faster than him, Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado, retiring.
If this year’s Hungarian Grand Prix is the best form guide for this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix then Vettel is well within his rights to be the race favourite. Ferrari set the pace throughout the Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session and the Prancing Horse locked out the front row before running first and second in the race itself. Given the Formula One championship ladder it is inconceivable that Ferrari will allow Raikkonen to win the Singapore Grand Prix unless Vettel is more than one place behind him in running and, while most people love the Iceman because of his dry sense of humour and uncensored radio communications, even his most ardent admirer would concede that he is not as quick as his German teammate. Ferrari keeps putting new contracts in front of Raikkonen because he is the perfect wingman for Vettel, who is seeking his fifth Formula One championship and his first since joining Ferrari.
Vettel is trading at odds of +150 with several bookmakers, including 188Bet and William Hill, to add to his Singapore Grand Prix successes of 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 but perhaps it makes more sense simply to wait for markets to appear on a pole sitter winning the race, irrespective of his identity. Better still, back Alonso to make the top 10 at odds of -149 with William Hill.
Fernando Alonso to finish in the top ten
Singapore Grand Prix 2017
Sunday 17th September, 13:00 GMT