Charles Leclerc and Ferrari have been victorious in each of the last two races, but that doesn’t make them favorites to triumph at this weekend’s 2019 F1 Singapore Grand Prix (Race: Sunday, 8:10am ET).
Ferrari’s superior engine grunt gave them a key advantage in both Belgium and again at their home Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago. Despite heavy pressure from Mercedes, particularly from Lewis Hamilton in Italy, Leclerc drove well to claim the first two wins of his Formula One career.
In Italy, it was Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas who came home second after conserving his tyres and then being allowed past his teammate after Hamilton had worn his down in his pursuit of Leclerc. Hamilton came home third. Leclerc’s teammate Sebastian Vettel was unable to match him in qualifying and then endured a mistake-ridden race to finish a lap down in 13th.
Any expectation of a third straight win for Leclerc in Singapore should, though, be tempered by the fact that the Marina Bay street circuit won’t provide Ferrari with the same opportunities to flex their power advantage. Indeed, it is just the sort of layout on which they have struggled this season, most recently in Hungary prior to the summer break, where they finished third and fourth, a full minute behind race winner Hamilton and over 40 seconds behind Max Verstappen’s Red Bull in second.
Those two drivers are the most likely to compete for victory on Sunday. Mercedes have won in Singapore in each of the last three years and four of the last five, with Hamilton taking three of those victories to add to his 2009 triumph in a (Mercedes-powered) McLaren. Red Bull have had at least one of their cars finish in the top two in each of the last nine races at Marina Bay. Verstappen qualified and finished second there last year.
It is sure to be a competitive battle for victory but it is Hamilton who looks the better bet with the trusted USA sportsbooks. Ferrari’s back-to-back wins have widened the odds on him winning Sunday’s race to a more attractive level than has usually been the case this season. Hamilton has a very good chance of securing his ninth victory of the year to further extend his advantage atop the drivers’ championship.
Renault achieved their best result of the season in finishing fourth and fifth from starting positions of fifth and sixth in Italy. Daniel Ricciardo led home teammate Nico Hulkenberg for a result that saw them close the gap to fourth-placed McLaren to 18 points in the constructors’ championship. The characteristics of their package do, though, mean that a repeat performance in Singapore is unlikely.
In fact, McLaren will have the race pencilled in as a good opportunity to extend that gap again. They lost ground in both Belgium and Italy, securing just one point to Renault’s 26, but have performed well at circuits with a similar profile to that of Singapore this season. Carlos Sainz came home sixth at Monaco and fifth in Hungary as part of a double points finish with his teammate Lando Norris, who finished ninth.
Sainz has always gone well in Singapore. He finished ninth there in his debut year at Toro Rosso in 2015, took a superb fourth in 2017, and then finished eighth at Renault last year. He might just be able to sneak himself into the top six again on Sunday.
The remaining points positions in Italy were filled by the Red Bulls of Alexander Albon (sixth) and Verstappen (eighth, after recovering from a back-of-the-grid start and a first-lap incident), the Racing Point of Sergio Perez (seventh), home driver Antonio Giovanazzi’s Alfa Romeo (ninth) and the McLaren of Norris.
It was a second consecutive top 10 finish for Perez following an eight-race pointless streak. He should again be in the running for points this weekend, not least because he always shows strongly in Singapore. Last year was the first time in his eight races there that he had failed to finish in the points, a run that included a highly-impressive fifth in 2017. Even then, he qualified well, only to get involved in a couple of incidents on race day that saw him finish down in 16th.
Racing Point were always expecting to go well in Belgium and Italy, but they have set themselves the ambitious target of being the fourth-quickest team between now and the end of the season. To that end, they will introduce another upgrade package in Singapore that they hope will consistently bring them into the range of McLaren and Renault.
In the hands of Perez, even a minor improvement should be enough to see them at least get a car home in the points on Sunday.