13 September 2014
F1: Mercedes aiming to steer clear of drama
With Singapore's dramatic backdrop next on the F1 schedule, Mercedes will be looking to play a more minor role rather than let its in-house battle take centre stage.
After the clash between its two drivers at the Belgian Grand Prix, and rumours swirling around Nico Rosberg's trip down the Monza escape road last time out, Mercedes' Paddy Lowe insists the team will be looking for a straightforward weekend in Singapore.
The Three Pointed Star heads to Marina Bay holding down a comfortable lead in the constructors' championship, with Rosberg heading team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 22 points with six rounds remaining, but the combination of competition and tension within the camp will ensure that the outcome of each weekend – and the season as a whole - remains in doubt.
With Red Bull and Daniel Ricciardo remaining in contention for the two titles, especially with double points on offer at the Abu Dhabi finale, taking a 1-2 finish in Italy was the ideal outcome for Mercedes, but Lowe admits that the team would like to carry on in that vein, albeit with less drama in the weeks to come.
“As a team, we were incredibly happy with the result in Monza,” the executive director (technical) confirmed, “It's one of the great circuits of the season and a challenging one to take a win, let alone achieve a one-two finish, so that was extremely satisfying. They were fantastic drives from both Lewis and Nico and it was a welcome return to winning ways.
“Singapore is always an action-packed, incident-filled race, with the nature of the track and the heat playing a role in retirements - both mechanical and by human error. We'll be aiming to steer clear of any drama and come away with another strong result as the season enters its final third.”
The Singapore street circuit has certainly more room for manoeuvre than Monaco, but drivers are nevertheless running mere centimetres from the barriers, leaving very little margin for error. Similarly, it will be important for drivers to maximise track time during the practice sessions to build a good rhythm through the weekend and, those who are restricted in terms of running time could well find themselves compromised. Nobody will want to take an engine penalty in Singapore but, with engines being recycled from previous race weekends and approaching the limits of their usable window, mechanical failures may occur.
“The circuit itself could not stand as more of a contrast to Monza, with a lot of low-speed corner content,” Lowe continued, “The demands on the car are still very high in terms of braking, steering and also the engine.
“It's also a long race - often running to the full two hour limit and frequently characterised by safety cars. It's a tricky one to manage no matter what position you might be in, with fortune playing a part depending on the nature and timing of any issues which may arise.”
Singapore is a prime event for teams bringing upgrades, a race where most will bring a significant update for a track where the differences will pay off. With the last two low downforce circuits - Spa and Monza - now out of the way, and only Suzuka likely to provide something of balancing act between set-ups, such a package can then be carried through the remaining races.
More notable, however, is Singapore's position as one of the few night races on the schedule. With its unique offset timetable, the event has already caught the imagination of those in and out of the paddock, with Lowe comparing it, somewhat fittingly given his team's central role, to drama.
“Singapore is a race that I'm sure the whole paddock looks forward to,” he noted, “It really is a unique weekend - not least because of the peculiar timings…
“It's a glamorous event with a fantastic atmosphere - to the extent that standing on the starting grid under the thousands of spotlights feels much like being on stage, waiting for the theatre to begin….”
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