It’s been a while since Formula 1 raced in Singapore. A lot has changed. When the series was last at the Marina Bay Street Circuit Ferrari had a 1-2 with Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc. Alex Albon, driving for Red Bull, finished 6th. Nico Hülkenberg was the top driver on the day for Renault (now Alpine) ahead of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Antonio Giovinazzi was in the points and we had yet to meet Esteban Ocon, Mick Schumacher, Yuki Tsunado, Nicholas Latifi, or Zhou Guanyu.
The Singapore Grand Prix is a spectacle. Under the lights, sparks fly as the F1 cars flash over a bumpy circuit, it even features a portion of the circuit that will go under a grandstand. Even if both titles look all but confirmed, the excitement of being back at the Marina Bay Street Circuit and the intrigue throughout the rest of the grid will carry the weight this weekend.
A lot has happened since we left the Italian Grand Prix. F1 announced a 24-race schedule for 2023, AlphaTauri and Alfa Romeo confirmed that Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu will return next season, and Williams announced the departure of Nicholas Latifi. ESPN continues to break F1 TV rating records and IndyCar’s Colton Herta was denied an exemption on his Super License to drive for AlphaTauri next season. Alex Albon is expected to make his return this weekend (more on that later), but first a look at both Championships heading into the weekend.
Where Things Stand
For the first time this season F1 could leave a Grand Prix weekend with the championship decided. Max Verstappen's (335) consistency on track and in the most dominant car on the grid have lifted him to a 116-point lead over Charles Leclerc (219). Verstappen would need to win on Sunday to have a chance at securing the title. If he wins and has the fastest lap, he wins the title if Leclerc finishes 8th or lower and Sergio Perez (210) finishes 4th or lower. If Verstappen wins but does not have the fastest lap, he can win the title if Leclerc finishes 9th or lower and Perez finishes 4th or lower. Regardless, Verstappen knows he simply needs to score points over the next two weekends to clinch his second title.
The far more interesting battle to watch is from second (Leclerc) back to fifth where Lewis Hamilton is only 51 points behind.
Red Bull (545) enter the Asian double-header with a 139-point advantage. While there are far more points at play when considering both cars, Ferrari (406) would need an incredible end to the season in order to overtake Red Bull. Mercedes (371) is just 35 points behind the Italians.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit debuted in 2008 as the first Formula 1 night race. While there are three DRS zones, the lack of long straights limits its effectiveness compared to other tracks on the calendar. Instead, the 23 turns, tight corners, close walls, and bright lights will dominate the action and likely claim a few cars in caution before the night ends. Watch for late lunges and drivers attempting to under break as they look for moments to overtake.
How To Watch (all times ET)
- Practice 1 - Friday 9/30 - 5:55 am - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
- Practice 2 - Friday 9/30 - 9:00 am - ESPNU/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
- Singapore GP Preview Show: Friday 9/30 - 10:15 am - ESPN3/WatchESPN
- Practice 3 - Saturday 10/1 - 5:55 am - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
- Qualifying - Saturday 10/1 - 8:55 am - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
- Grand Prix Sunday (Pre-race Show) - Sunday 10/2 - 6:30 am - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
- Grand Prix Race - Sunday 10/2 - 7:55 am - ESPN2/ESPN Deportes/WatchESPN
DraftKings Sportsbook is offering odds on the race. Max Verstappen (-190) remains the favorite despite having never won in Singapore before. He is followed by Charles Leclerc (+450) and Lewis Hamilton (+850), in what would be Hamilton’s first win of the season. Given the unpredictable nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, there are some great odds for surprise podium finishes including Lando Norris (+850), Fernando Alonso (+2200), and Esteban Ocon (+3500). After finishing in the points (top ten) twice in the last four rounds, both Pierre Gasly (+130) and Sebastian Vettel (+125) have favorable odds to continue that form.
What to Watch For
- There was a point in the season where, even if for a moment, Sergio Perez appeared to be in the battle for the World Championship. The win in Monaco lifted him into contention and the conversation. Since then he has had three second-place finishes and is over 100 points behind his teammate, Max Verstappen. With Singapore sometimes referred to as ‘two Monacos put together’ or a slightly faster Monaco, can Perez recapture some of that form we saw in the opening half of the season?
- Despite visiting several circuits deemed ‘Ferrari tracks’, the Italian team has only had a single one-two finish - Bahrain, the opening round. Singapore once again should be a track that favors Ferrari. Even if both titles seem out of reach can they deliver a flawless weekend?
- Monaco was exactly what Mercedes needed to avoid in the early part of the season and their car struggled to keep pace. Finishing fifth and eighth, Hamilton ended the day behind both an Alpine and a McLaren. Since then the car has shown signs of improvement, even in track specific, and Mercedes claims they’ve learned a lot since Monaco. This weekend will be a good test to evaluate that progress on a circuit that has been to their detriment so far this season.
- The Driver Market. Three seats remain confirmed (at the time of writing) - Alpine, Haas, and Williams. Daniel Ricciardo and Mick Schumacher are the two current drivers still without a seat next season. Add in the debut of Nyck de Vries last time out, rumors of Pierre Gasly exiting AlphaTauri for Alpine, and a handful of talented Formula 2 drivers, and there is plenty of intrigue as the season winds down. Who lands a spot in F1’s version of musical chairs?
- Before the Italian Grand Prix, Alex Albon was rushed to the hospital with appendicitis. Following the procedure, he suffered respiratory failure. Now just two weeks later he has flown to Singapore with the intention of driving. Singapore is notoriously a difficult track on the body, both from the heat and the abuse it takes going over the bumps at high speeds. With Albon’s seat secured for next season, is it worth rushing back? It should be noted that both Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargent are on hand in Singapore.