F1: McLaren to close gap on Red Bull at Singapore Grand Prix
PUBLISHED: 15:27 22 September 2010 | UPDATED: 23:08 24 September 2010
MCLAREN’S Formula 1 racers will be looking to compete with Red Bull on equal terms in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
The night race around the Marina Bay circuit is the first of the season-closing flyaway races – and the first at a low-speed, high-downforce track since the FIA tightened up its regulations on flexible bodywork.
McLaren Mercedes were beaten out of sight by the rampant Red Bull team in last month’s Hungarian Grand Prix, with F1 world champion Jenson Button finishing eighth and Lewis Hamilton retiring with gearbox trouble.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber took the chequered flag at the Hungaroring, with team-mate Sebastian Vettel third behind Ferrari man Fernando Alonso.
Despite Singapore’s circuit – like Budapest – appearing to suit Red Bull more than McLaren, the gap shouldn’t be so great on Sunday following amendments to the FIA’s rules.
Herts-born Hamilton won around the floodlight Marina Bay street circuit 12 months ago with a dominant drive from pole position.
Looking ahead to the 2010 race, the Tewin driver said: “It’s difficult to say accurately how competitive we’ll be in Singapore.
“If Monza most closely resembled a track like Canada, then Singapore is far closer to places like Monaco and Hungary, where we’ve struggled relative to the competition.
“But the engineers are positive that we’ve made some good progress, so I’m looking forward to getting out on track and sampling the changes for real.
"The race should give us a clearer indication of exactly where we stand as the championship closes down over the next five races, but I definitely want to score as many points as possible in this grand prix."
“So I think we head into the weekend with renewed confidence following some positive tests and some developments in the windtunnel.”
Having slipped to second in the championship after his DNF in Monza, Hamilton is determined to score highly on Sunday.
“The race should give us a clearer indication of exactly where we stand as the championship closes down over the next five races, but I definitely want to score as many points as possible in this grand prix,” said Lewis.
Defending world champion Button, who finished second in the Italian Grand Prix, also feels the rule changes, coupled with work carried out in the McLaren Technology Centre, could see the teams closer matched on Sunday.
2010 FIA Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship
Championship standings after Italian Grand Prix
1 Mark Webber (Red Bull) 187 points
2 Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes) 182
3 Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) 166
4 Jenson Button (McLaren Mercedes) 165
5 Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 163
6 Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 124
Button said: “The Singapore Grand Prix will be a very interesting weekend because I think it’ll give us a clearer idea of the destiny of the world championship.
“The last time we were at a low-speed, high-downforce track was in Hungary back at the start of August.
“Our car wasn’t particularly competitive there, and maybe we haven’t had a properly representative view of the top teams’ relative pace because we’ve just visited two high-speed circuits.
“But, equally, a lot has changed since that race in Budapest – not least, some quite hefty revisions to the rulebook regarding bodywork flexibility and, additionally, a lot of work by the engineers at the MTC to ensure our car is now better suited to slower circuits.”
Formula 1 Grand Prix
Here’s the remaining 2010 Formula 1 races of the season:
* Singapore Grand Prix (Marina Bay) – September 26
* Japanese Grand Prix (Suzuka) – October 10
* South Korean Grand Prix (Yeongam) – October 24
* Brazilian Grand Prix (Interlagos) – November 7
* Abu Dhabi Grand Prix (Yas Marina) – November 14
Button added: “Singapore will be interesting for all of us. We’ll not only get an idea of the speed of the Ferrari and Red Bull, but we’ll get to see for the first time whether all our efforts over the past two months have helped put us back in the ballpark at high-downforce tracks.”
That was the same message from Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team principal Martin Whitmarsh.
Of the Singapore round, he said: “It’s the first race at a low-speed, high-downforce track since the Hungaroring back in August.
“It’s also the first high-downforce track we’ve visited since the FIA tightened up its regulations on flexible bodywork, so it’s likely to give us a much clearer idea of the respective pace of the leading teams after two less-representative events in Belgium and Italy.
“This is a race the whole team looks forward to enormously, and we travel to Singapore with a number of new ideas to try out on our cars, feeling positive that we’ll once again be in a position to race at the front.”
First practice takes place on Friday, with qualifying on Saturday afternoon.
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