Mercedes driver Hamilton eyes Singapore hat-trick through the haze

Lewis Hamilton, Grand Prix, Marina Bay Circuit, Formula One, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Mercedes, Charles Leclerc, Valterri Bottas, National Environment Agency
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton remains wary of Chales Leclerc, who has outshone his error-prone Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel since joining the Italian team this season. File Photo: PTI

Five-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will be marching towards his clinching the sixth title in Singapore this week, not affected by the smoke from wildfires raging in neighbouring Indonesia.

For Sunday’s (September 22) race night, the National Environment Agency is forecasting pollution at the “low end of the unhealthy range” after a dense smog hat covered the area previous weekend.

According to a report in PTI, a contingency plan has been put in place to tackle the “highly changeable” air quality deteriorates by the Formula One bosses. However, the race this weekend is still scheduled to go ahead as planned.

Mercedes have raced top-notch at the Marina Bay Circuit earlier as well and the Mercedes start Hamilton, who leads by 63 points in the title race over teammate Valterri Bottas after winning eight grand prix this season would chase his sixth high.

But they could do little to prevent Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc from storming to consecutive victories on power-friendly layouts in Belgium and Italy in the two races since the summer break.

Four of the five Mercedes victories at the demanding 23-turn city-centre street circuit have been take by Hamilton and looks like he’ll want to hold the third consecutive triumph at the race which defying the smog threat is traditionally draining due to heat and high humidity.

But Hamilton remains wary of Leclerc, who has outshone his error-prone Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel since joining the Italian team at the start of the season.

“I am not looking forward to the next race thinking it will swing our way,” Hamilton said of the 21-year-old from Monaco. “I hope that it is competitive between us — I want this battle to continue.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff also expects Ferrari to be in the shake-up in Singapore, despite the Italian marque struggling on circuits lacking long straights this season.

“We knew that Spa and Monza would be difficult for us,” Wolff said of the previous two races.

“On paper, we should be strong in Singapore — as should Red Bull. Let’s see if we are really demolishing them there. But I have no doubt that Ferrari will have learned and will have a good package,” he said.

Red Bull have enjoyed 12 podium finishes in Singapore since 2008, including three wins, and the Milton Keynes-based outfit will be hoping Max Verstappen can improve on his second-place finish from a year ago to stay ahead of Leclerc in their battle for third in the overall standings.

Vettel knows his chances of recording a first victory since Belgium last year will have diminished due to the nature of the remaining circuits on the calendar, but the German four-times world champion will be looking to seize on any opportunities that may fall his way.

“I think we still have some races coming where we will be probably more competitive than others, but overall it’s just about getting a good weekend,” Vettel said.

“I think the speed is there, so I’m not worried, its honestly just a matter of putting things together. But we have a lot of races and a lot of time.”

(With inputs from agencies)

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