SINGAPORE — Lewis Hamilton is relishing a return to the tough conditions the drivers will experience around the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore this week as he looks to wrestle back control of the Formula One title race from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.
The Briton leads his German rival by two points with seven rounds remaining but his seemingly unstoppable charge towards a fourth world title has stalled in the last two races, allowing Rosberg to close the gap at the top of the standings.
Rosberg had surged to a 43-point lead over Hamilton at the start of the season before the Briton won six of seven races to seize the momentum going into Formula One’s traditional summer break with a healthy 19-point cushion.
In the two races since the season reconvened, Hamilton did well to surge through the field from the back of the grid to finish third in Belgium but endured a miserable start from pole at Monza as Rosberg romped to a second straight triumph.
A second-place finish in Italy was not a total disaster but Hamilton had dominated practice and qualifying and would have been expected to convert his superiority into a 50th Formula One victory.
“I don’t know really what happened at the start… I did everything normal,” Hamilton told reporters. “The procedure was done exactly how I was supposed to do it but unfortunately the wheels were spinning from the get-go.”
Hamilton, however, is one of only three men to win in Singapore since the inaugural Grand Prix in 2008, while Rosberg has struggled to come to grips with the tight, floodlit, 23-turn street circuit, managing just a single podium in eight visits.
“Next up is Singapore, which is always a great event. The race is a challenge with the heat and humidity… but it’s a street circuit, which I love,” said Hamilton, who won the race in 2009 and 2014.
As Singapore citizens have been advised to exercise extra vigilance due to the recent outbreak of the Zika virus in the city-state, Mercedes will need to be equally as wary of their Red Bull and Ferrari rivals on a track that nullifies the German team’s power advantage.
Last year, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel won his fourth Singapore Grand Prix ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo as Hamilton retired and Rosberg limped to a fourth-place finish, and Mercedes will be keen to avoid a repeat performance.
“This is a Red Bull track and we weren’t so strong there last year,” Rosberg added. “But I have faith in the team and my belief in myself is as high as ever.”
Vettel’s triumph a year ago was Ferrari’s third of a resurgent campaign but the popular Italian outfit has fallen further behind Mercedes this season and remains without a win in 2016, a sequence the German driver would love to end this week.
“I have excellent memories from previous years in Singapore,” Vettel said. “The track is very rough, bumpy, long, with long-lasting laps. So it’s a hard work inside the car, but I think it’s something we all enjoy.”