F1 Raceweek: In-form Leclerc prepared for 'more difficult' Singapore challenge

By Sports Desk September 17, 2019

After tasting back-to-back victories, Charles Leclerc is preparing for a tougher challenge at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Leclerc claimed his first Formula One success at Spa and followed it up with a gutsy triumph at Ferrari's home circuit in Monza, holding off relentless pressure from Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

The Scuderia consequently have a 100 per cent record since the mid-season break, though the high-speed tracks in Belgium and Italy provided them with favourable conditions.

However, the only night race of the season at Marina Bay offers far fewer straights, with each lap featuring 23 corners.

"Singapore is maybe the toughest track for us drivers physically, just because of the heat and the humidity," said Leclerc.

"After two positive weekends in Belgium and Italy, the race in Singapore doesn't look as good on paper for us, because of the very different circuit layout, featuring lots of slow corners and fewer straights.

"It might be a more difficult weekend for us, but we will give our all to have a good result."

Hamilton and Bottas had to settle for podium finishes at the past two races, but Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff thinks the duo did brilliantly to limit their losses in tough circumstances.

"We came back from the summer break knowing that the first two races would be difficult for us," said Wolff.

"We ended up with two double podiums and 67 points which was a strong form of damage limitation and more than we expected.

"For a long time, Singapore used to be one of our weakest tracks, but we've made some inroads into that and performed well last year.

"However, there are no home runs at a track like Singapore: we need to understand this car and this year's tyres on a very particular track layout and take absolutely nothing for granted in our approach to the weekend. We are looking forward to a tough battle under the lights in Singapore."

 

TALK OF THE PADDOCK

Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto confirmed the team will bring updates in Singapore in an attempt to improve their competitiveness on a track that does not suit them.

"We are bringing a few new parts there as part of our effort to close the gap to the competition, at a track that features predominantly slow speed corners," said Binotto.

While Ferrari have been the team to beat since the mid-season break, Red Bull went into the hiatus in strong form. Max Verstappen won in Austria and Germany, before coming second in Hungary.

Verstappen said on Singapore: "It's a race where we tend to do better than say, Monza and Spa and hopefully we can have another good weekend. We're aiming for maximum points and I'm really looking forward to it."

Renault had their two drivers in the top 10 for just the third time this season at Monza, but it was the first occasion Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg both placed in the top five.

Ricciardo said: "We deserved the double top-five finish in Italy. We know now there will be eyes on us to repeat that, but I can see no reason why we can’t string together more solid results and really chase down fourth place [in the constructors' championship]. The challenge excites me."

 

RACEWEEK SCHEDULE (all times local)

Friday
FP1 (16:30-18:00)
FP2 (20:30-22:00)

Saturday
FP3 (18:00-19:00)
Qualifying (21:00-22:00)

Sunday
Race (20:10-22:10)

F1 FACT

Leclerc could become the first Ferrari driver to win three grands prix in a row since Michael Schumacher.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

2018: Lewis Hamilton
2017: Lewis Hamilton
2016: Nico Rosberg

DRIVER STANDINGS

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 284
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 221 (-63)
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 185 (-99)
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 182 (-102)
5. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 169 (-115)

CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS

1. Mercedes 505
2. Ferrari 351 (-154)
3. Red Bull 266 (-239)
4. McLaren 83 (-422)
5. Renault 65 (-440)

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    Marc Marquez made history in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix and now he has another milestone in his sights on race day.

    The world champion, who sealed his sixth premier class title with a win in Thailand last time out, claimed his first Motegi pole to ensure he has now started at the front of the grid at every circuit on the MotoGP calendar.

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    He is also eyeing a fourth consecutive race triumph for the first time since 2014 and, if he makes a 13th straight podium, it will mark his best-ever run.

    "To get a first pole position on the MotoGP bike in Motegi is great," said Marquez, who has won this race in two of the past three years.

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    YAMAHAS POSE FAMILIAR THREAT

    Franco Morbidelli out-qualified Fabio Quartararo as the two Petronas Yamaha bikes joined Marquez on the front row.

    Morbidelli equalled his best qualifying performance from Jerez this year and will be hoping to improve on his eventual seventh place finish there as he continues to show good speed towards the end of 2019.

    His team-mate Quartararo has only missed the front row at three races this year and was cruelly denied a maiden win by Marquez in Thailand, instead having to settle for a fifth podium of an excellent rookie campaign.

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    CRUTCHLOW PIPS THE DUCATIS

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    Dovizioso, who starts seventh, won the race in 2017 from even further back in the grid (ninth). The Italian is seeking his 100th podium across all categories.

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    Alex Rins sits third in the championship behind Dovizioso and starts 11th, while Takaaki Nakagami will begin his home race from 13th.


    THE GRID

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)
    2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha)
    4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    5. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda)
    6. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing)
    7. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati)
    8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati)
    9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team)
    10. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha)
    11. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar)
    12. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar)

    PREVIOUS WINNERS

    2018: Marc Marquez
    2017: Andrea Dovizioso
    2016 : Marc Marquez
    2015: Dani Pedrosa

    TITLE STANDINGS

    Riders

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) 325
    2. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) 215 (110)
    3. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) 167 (-158)
    4. Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha) 163 (-162)
    5. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati) 162 (-163)

    Teams

    1. Ducati 377
    2. Repsol Honda 358 (-19)
    3. Monster Energy Yamaha 308 (-69)
    4. Petronas Yamaha 233 (-144)
    5. Suzuki Ecstar 229 (-148)

    WEATHER FORECAST

    After a wet FP3 and damp FP4, conditions largely cleared for qualifying on Saturday. Sunday's forecast is presently for a dry and cloudy day, with temperatures reaching 25 degrees Celcius.

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    PROVISIONAL CLASSIFICATION

    1. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda): 1:45.763
    2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha): +0.132s
    3. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha): +0.181s
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    8. Danilo Petrucci (Ducati): +0.664s
    9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team): +0.795s
    10. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha): +0.795s
    11. Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar): +0.837s
    12. Joan Mir (Suzuki Ecstar): +0.853s

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