Another piece of the 2019 Formula 1 driver line-ups was put into place last week with news that teenaged newcomer, Britain’s Lando Norris, will be joining McLaren to replace Stoffel Vandoorne.
The move means nine of the 20 seats available for next season have now been confirmed. Despite dropping the Belgian, Zak Brown, McLaren’s CEO, has suggested the likes of Toro Rosso should consider employing the former GP2 champion. An ironic, honest or condescending recommendation?
In truth, it is unlikely Vandoorne will be in the sport next year while it is marginal odds-on Norris will be the only rookie on the 2019 starting grid. Williams look the only door newcomers should consider knocking on – whist waving a cheque-book.
Calamity is Singapore’s key characteristic
To matters more pressing, who is going to win this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix and will we see more calamitous action necessitating a Safety Car for an eleventh consecutive year?
If you are a Ferrari fan you will have found the 2017 rendition of the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix truly catastrophic as both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were out of the race by the opening corner. To rub a tub of Saxa (salt) into the team’s fans, it was Lewis Hamilton driving a car which was the clear third fastest behind the Red Bull and Ferrari teams, who landed the race from fifth on the grid.
On all known form, most pertinently the final sector of Barcelona and the entire giant-sized 50p-piece which is Monaco, this circuit will belong to Red Bull. But reliability continues to blight the team from Milton Keynes and Daniel Ricciardo suffered his fourth retirement from his last six races last time in Italy. Resultantly he will probably start Sunday’s race with a B-spec engine giving his teammate, Max Verstappen, a performance edge as the Dutchman has the very latest power unit.
If the short straights, the slow, tight corners and bumpy surface will suit Red Bull it should not upset the Ferraris too much either. And this is a race Sebastian Vettel really needs to win with Lewis Hamilton to finish no better than a predicted fifth meaning he would half his current 30-point World Drivers Championship points deficit.
If the formbook does hold up – which means a Red Bull 1-2, a Ferrari 2-3 headed by Vettel and a Mercedes 4-5 with Hamilton faring best – the British driver’s championship lead will be cut by just five points and he will still hold sway by 25 points heading to Russia for the 15th race of the 21 race season.
In an enthralling season Hamilton is once again favourite with the bookies to lift the title. His odds of 8/15 represent a percentage chance of 65.5 percent probable. If Hamilton were to keep any potential points losses to just five points in Singapore, it will be interesting to see how those bookies react. One suspects they would shorten his odds yet further.
Russia, Japan, USA, Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi are the five races that remain on the 2018 calendar, a mixed bag where it is hard to predict which car/driver will accumulate most points in ‘clean race’ scenarios.