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Why Singapore GP is make or break for McLaren, Red Bull and Toro Rosso
Singapore GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Sep 2015   |  4:45 pm GMT  |  114 comments

Most Formula 1 teams long ago came to the conclusion that they would not be competing for the championship this year, or even for wins and in most cases even for podiums. But racers are optimists at heart and there is always something to look forward to; for the majority this weekend is that opportunity.

But not everyone who has been targeting a season’s best result in Singapore can get it, so there will be some major disappointment come Sunday night and for some the season will effectively be over.

Such has been the domination of Mercedes in 2015 that only two race wins have got away from them – to Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. After 12 rounds, Mercedes has scored 452 points out of a maximum of 516, which is 87% of the maximum available points, with seven 1-2 finishes, while pole for either Mercedes driver at Marina Bay will extend the team’s unbroken pole streak to 24 races, equalling the record of Williams during the 1992/93 active suspension era.

The signs in Monza were that the new Mercedes power unit is a big step up from the old one, perhaps half a second in pure performance, so there is no let up from the Stuttgart marque.

Consequently, there has been a lot of talk from teams blown away by this domination about Singapore representing a “great chance for a result”, as the power deficit is minimised there.

At the same time teams like Williams and Lotus may struggle a bit more than they have lately due to the track characteristics, creating some opportunities to get among the serious points positions.

Red Bull, Toro Rosso and McLaren in particular are all hoping to come away with something to show from the two hour marathon around the streets of Singapore.

They all took care to get any potential engine penalties out of the way in Monza, where the damage is minimised, so as not to have to take any pain in Singapore, where it would be impossible to recover.

Alonso has accumulated an impressive 90 places worth of grid penalties this season due to changing Honda engines.

Provided none of the drivers from these teams get more penalties from replacing parts of power units, then this is how we see their prospects.

McLaren F1 team
Yet to reach Q3 with either driver this season, McLaren will want to build on Fernando Alonso’s 5th place finish in Hungary, the last track on which their yawning deficit in deployment of the energy recovery system counted for little. McLaren will also be buoyed by the starts its drivers have made since the rules changed last month; Alonso and Button have both gained nine places in the two races since then.

Both drivers have done well in Singapore with Alonso a two times winner among five podium finishes there and Button twice second.

Alonso Singapore 2010

On the downside, Monza was a milestone McLaren hoped it would never cross, which was its 50th Grand Prix since its last win. No wonder the team has set its sights on Singapore as the last real chance this season – reliability permitting – to salvage some respectability from a miserable campaign.

Sainz, Verstappen
Toro Rosso
If you put an F1 fan on the spot and ask how Toro Rosso is doing this season, chances are he will tell you that it’s going well. Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz have been competitive in a wonderful chassis, with Sainz getting some impressive qualifying results with five Top 10 grid slots and a best of 5th, and Verstappen pulling off some overtaking masterpieces.

But a glance at the championship standings tells another story; the strong performances have not been backed up with results and reliability issues have clouded the campaign. Toro Rosso has just 35 points, 12 of which came with Verstappen’s breakthrough 4th place in Hungary. They lie a distant 7th in the constructors’ championship standing, which is no kind of return from what has been one of their best chassis for years.

Between them the drivers have retired seven times in 12 Grands Prix and Sainz’s last points came in Monaco.

The performance of the Renault power unit, particularly on race days, has been the handicap and especially on the power circuits F1 has visited lately. So Singapore is targeted as a track where both men should get solid top ten points scoring results from the nimble Toro Rosso chassis. The fact that the team tried out three different front wings in Monza, shows that the team are making a great effort, but also that they are getting desperate.

Red Bull
Red Bull
The other team with an underpowered engine, Red Bull scored a double podium in Hungary – the last time power didn’t count – and they will be looking to repeat in Singapore. Daniil Kvyat’s growing maturity has been one of the stories of the season; he and Daniel Ricciardo are capable of qualifying up the front and staying there this weekend against the Ferraris, just behind the Mercedes.

Red Bull has won Singapore three times, in the era when its Renault powered car with the exhaust blown diffuser was the ultimate weapon for the lower speed corners. Since Silverstone this year the chassis has improved a great deal and is giving little away now to the front runners, so there will be significant pressure to race at the front this weekend.

Red Bull Singapore 2012

Behind the scenes the messy divorce from Renault continues, which is clearly a distraction and a drain on energy.

JA on F1 verdict: Podium finish for one of the Red Bull drivers; Top six finish for a Toro Rosso; Top eight for a McLaren.

What do you think? Leave your predictions below in the Comments section

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Ok, so the voting system implemented on this site is [Mod]. Go ahead and click as many times as you want on one post. I voted 600 times on 2 posts !

No admin, don’t delete this post, instead give your tech guys some food for thought. How hard is it to log IP and prevent more than 1 vote per post ?


I don’t think multiple votes count Ravi…I’ve just given you 100 5 star votes….. still says 1

I think it would be better if there was just a +1 or -1 option and overall total displayed


that renault engine destroys careers.


James do you think Mclaren will publish an updated version of their book Team Mclaren: The Cars to include the MP4/30?

I mean, I know there won’t be any updates to Team Mclaren: The Wins, but I think this car needs to be in the book.




so 100 votes from me to you James 🙂


My gut feel is that Ferrari are going to do really well at Singapore. The Monza PU upgrade not only gave a power boost but more importantly looks like real driveability out of corners and Hungary proved the SF-15T can turn a corner or 2. I will put a commentators curse and say both Ferrari drivers will end up on the podium IF no Tech Failures!. With Hammy on the other one. I dont know who will go where but thats your top 3. Raikkonen has become a bit of a Singapore specialist- 3rd from 14th in 2013 with the back injections and almost same in 2014 before the failure with that bag of bolts– The Iceman is old school hard nut – he wont melt like rookies will over 2hours. Which is why I dont think TR will be top 5. Kvyat is due another good result p4or 5 for him and Dan,


I certainly wouldn’t call Raikkonen a ‘specialist’ around Singapore – the only time he has ever outqualified a team mate there was Fisichella in 2009. Massa was 8 tenths ahead in 2008, and Grosjean was 7 tenths ahead in both 2012 and 2013.

He got within 3 tenths of Alonso last year, but followed it up by finishing 45 seconds behind him during the race.

Vettel being on for a surprise result in Singapore? I can see that, but not Raikkonen. I hope to be wrong though.


Ps.. I dont think its make or break for anyone in F1. Rather that the season is done and dusted as far as Mercedes is concerned. Mchonda arent all of a sudden going to pose a threat to the midfield. TR will continue its tussle in the midfield. Just another GP really.. Albeit a long gruelling one for all.


Some stats on McLaren losing runs: they have gone 3 years without a win twice before now : 1978-1980 and 1994-1996. In 1994-96 they went 49 races without a win, and in 1978-81 it was 53 races, a record that they’re clearly going to beat this season.

They also still have a chance to set a record for their worst ever season. Currently the joint record is the team’s first two seasons, 1966 and 1967. In both of those years Bruce McLaren made only a handful of starts and scored 3 points, or 18 points on 2015 scoring. This year so far they have 17 points (or 1 point in old money).

Their worst full season (not counting the 2007 disqualification) was 1971, when they scored 10 points (56 2015-points). They’re some way off that now, so this looks set to be McLaren’s worst full season by some margin.


Correction: McLaren currently have 2 points using the old system, not 1.


@JMV…i’m with damon.



Is this a headline pasted from the Sun, Miirror or Star or just sloppy journalism? ……. I’m afraid this site is slidding downhill fast !!!


I wonder if Alonso will be making a random pit stop to try out his luck with a safety car. ???

It worked for him here before, yet he, nor any other diver has tried this genius tactic, either before or since. Amazingly.


His Samurai senses were just so strong back then.


And his team-mate was so weak…


I have sympathy for Button. He already went through hell with Honda in 07-08.

Don’t feel bad for Alonso though. Afterall he said theres no difference for him coming 2nd or coming 16th, especially when he gets paid $30,000,000 to do it.

Never forget Singapore 2008.


Totally agree Tim. No one needs to cry a river for ALO.

How many drivers are there who would cheerfully PAY for the chance to drive just one grand prix in any car?

Heck, some would amputate their left gonad with a rusty butter knife if necessary…


Quote: “Alonso has accumulated an impressive 90 places worth of grid penalties this season due to changing Honda engines.”

And 11 world championship points.

Shame on you McLaren and Honda.

Shame on FIA to maintain such a rule which completely destroys one driver´s fan base.

As Damon Hill pointed out the other day: do not penalize the driver with grid position for engine changes because that destroys Sunday´s race. Penalize the team in its WCC standing.

Ok for Mclaren… there is not much to deduct, but still would provide a stronger incentive to get the freaking car working, and we´d have Alonso starting somewhere in mid pack providing some good action still.


After the shameful 90 (mostly deliberate) penalties that Alonso has incurred he & Mclaren deserve nothing.

He should have to start dead last.


There is absolutely nothing shameful in using rules to your own advantage.

Ask any sportsperson.

Or tax accountant.



Fingers crossed for Mclaren to get nothing.

I hope the Toro & RB cars do well though.

Mclarens struggles have literally been the only interest for me in 2015. I want to see it get worse for them to take the story to the next level.


” It’s early days(years) yet, but one wonders at what point will Mercedes withdraw from F1 on the basis that there is no competition for them?”

Seriously dude did you just say that? I wonder at what point did you think that was actually a question? Maybe the Merc guys are saying, hmmmm we dominating, making history and breaking records, let’s withdraw instead, sounds like the better thing to do …


Mercedes dominated F1 before iirc, and then Ferrari in MS’s days, Williams and McLaren have had good runs too. It’s early days(years) yet, but one wonders at what point will Mercedes withdraw from F1 on the basis that there is no competition for them?

P.S. — Gotta love the freudian slip in my reading Comment #14 as …

“….be placing all of their egos into one basket ….” 🙂


I wouldn’t be so sure Verstappen will do too good. Probably repeat his Monaco erratic behaviour


How do you gather that the new Mercedes engine is half a second faster? The only element of comparison was Nico Rosberg who was on a 6 race old engine. Toto Wolf suggested that the performance gain wasn’t that big.


This is a big test for all those guys and mclaren have been telling anyone who would listen they have a great chassis and Andy benson says the chassis is as good as ferraris which I personally don’t see. I think I’m q2 if a mclaren is within a second of the quickest Ferrari they will be doing well. I remember last year kimi was quickest in q1 or else q2 so Ferrari should go well this year also.


Yeah but Mr Benson also made the point the Ferrari is now considered the 4th best chassis on the grid at present. That being behind Mercedes and RBR and even STR.


I don’t see it either

It’s an OK chassis, but not on the level of Merc, RBR or even Ferrari


If Toro Rosso themselves are to be believed then they have an even better chassis than Ferrari.


The chassis is typical Mclaren, all about peak downforce and stiff suspension to limit stalling surfaces.

Even if the Honda engine was any good they would still lag behind rivals, at least until they gave up chasing this aero philosophy.


“Alonso has accumulated an impressive 90 places worth of grid penalties this season due to changing Honda engines”

I might have said this before, but I’d like to see a sub-championship where the driver with the most grid-drops this season wins a prize 🙂


Or, as incentive for the back markers, a trophy for most positions made up over the year.

Eg; start 19th on the grid but finish 12th in the race = 7 points.

Go Will Stevens!



Good idea 🙂


Not a good idea as Red Bull would easily win it by bringing 20 Renault Clio 1.6L engines to most of the races and spending most of practice swapping them into and out of Kvyat’s car (he lost the coin toss). He would have accumulated so many grid penalties at Monza that he would started the race between the two Lesmos.

On the following Monday.


I’m hoping for multiple safety cars, and Manor ending up with some points. With the resources they have, and using last years Ferrari engine, they deserve to finish the season ahead of McLaren.


I wish for that too, but after Hungarys lucky resut there won’t be enough points for the likes of Manor to make it. They’d have to come top 4 LOL. Not gonna happen even if you ran the event 100 times.


First corner carnage for sure.


An unlikely theory I know, but has Renault already developed a more powerful engine than Mercedes and is waiting until all the other engine manufacturers have spent their development tokens so Renault end up with an ‘engine freeze’ power advantage?




That would make sense at the start of the season, not the end when there is nothing to gain anymore…


Is there more engine development permitted after the current ‘tokens’ are spent or is there an engine freeze again?


James, well I completely disagree with you on Mclaren as I don’t think either driver has a hope in hell of scoring points. It almost seems in inevitable that one if not both Mclarens will have to take more engine penalties and if they start from the back (given Honda’s seeming deficit to the rest) then it’ll be a long afternoon I think . I hope I’m wrong though.

Kimi was also looking quick in Qualifying in Singapore last year until he had a technical problem so let’s see how he gets on this weekend.


Well that will be Mclarens fault then because Alonso and Mclaren and Honda have been talking up their chances in Singapore. If they fail then they deserve the public shame.


All they’ve been really saying is their engine shortfalls will be less crucial compared to Spa and Monza.

I agree I don’t think they’ll get points unless we have another crazy race like Hungary


In terms of pace I think JA’s prediction is right on the money. Singapore has surprise potential though, so who knows.

James – perhaps I’m the only one, but I’m having real problems with your site on Safari 8.08 browser. The screen shakes when I try to scoll with a picture partially on screen, No issues with Firefox (40.0.3).


Mm what device?= are you using?


Imac. No issues on iPad either. Thanks.


“Mercedes driver at Marina Bay will extend the team’s unbroken pole streak to 24 races, equalling the record of Williams during the 1992/93 active suspension era.”

If Massa and Williams didn’t grab that pole in Austria,the record should be 31now!


“If Massa and Williams didn’t grab that pole in Austria,the record should be 31now!”

And if Senna and McLaren didn’t grab that pole in Canada 1992, Williams would have had an unmatched record of 31 consecutive poles for over 20 years.

What’s your point?


That pole is some kind of efforts to protect their record.


But they did…


And it isn’t.


It’s pretty sad for any team to be placing all of their eggs into one basket to the detriment of all the other races. Why bother turning up at all to the other races at all if only to dump all your penalties to give you a clean sate? Would be schadenfreude if the Honda engine doesn’t go the distance over the race weekend.


How would you handle the situation before you if you were the team principal for:


Torro rosso ?

Red bull?

I’m very curious to hear how you’d handle not losing sponsors in a way that isn’t ‘sad’. Not showing up like you suggest sounds like a great start!

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