Hamilton has an uncanny date with destiny in Singapore
Lewis Hamilton has always regarded Ayrton Senna as his Formula 1 idol and the reigning world champion has a golden opportunity to match the late Brazilian’s 41 race wins at this week’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Should the Briton drive his dominant Mercedes to victory in his 161st start on Sunday, not only will he achieve the feat in exactly the same number of races, he will strengthen his bid for a Senna-equalling third world title.
“I watched Senna as a child and it would be an honour to match him. Now I’m just one win away but I hope to do even better,” the 30-year-old said in a recent interview.
“But we must not forget that if he were alive, he would have won a lot more,” he added of the driver who tragically lost his life following a crash at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.
Hamilton holds a 53-point lead over nearest challenger Nico Rosberg going into the 13th round of the season and it was at this race a year ago where the Briton ripped the momentum away from his German team mate.
Last season, the title race ended up going all the way to the final round in Abu Dhabi as Hamilton’s reliability issues allowed Rosberg to remain within striking distance despite winning seven fewer grands prix.
This year, however, Hamilton has secured 11 pole positions in 12 rounds, finished every single race and claimed his seventh victory of the season in Monza last time out as a late engine failure left Rosberg pointless.
Hamilton knows what it takes to win in Singapore, having twice taken the chequered flag under the floodlights after 61 concentration-sapping laps around the Marina Bay Street Circuit, and the Briton is geared up for another tough race.
“I’ve won there twice now, both times from pole, which shows you how important qualifying is too,” he said. “It won’t be easy to make it three… far from it. But I’m riding high right now and I’ll be pushing for that hat-trick.”
Rosberg has admitted he is not a fan of the 23-turn circuit and after electrical issues forced an early retirement that allowed Hamilton to leapfrog him in the standings a year ago, the German admits he has nothing to lose this time around.
“I know I’ve got the pace to win there, so I’m hoping for a clean weekend and a chance to unleash the silver beast under the lights,” he said.
A Hamilton win would also see him draw level with Sebastian Vettel with 41 career victories, although the German will be looking for his third win in his debut season for Ferrari at a circuit he also loves.
Vettel stormed to three straight wins in Singapore with Red Bull from 2011 and with his car the best of the rest this season, the four times champion sits 21 points behind Rosberg.
The tight track and regular safety car periods could work in his favour.
Local organisers of the race have played down concerns about the cloud of haze hanging over the city, saying it was not expected to impact on the event.
The city-state has been blanketed by thick smog for the past week, a result of farmers in neighbouring Sumatra burning forests to clear their land for agriculture.
Race officials said they were monitoring the situation but there were no plans to change any of the scheduled events over the race weekend, including the pop concerts held each night at the Marina Bay street circuit.
“Based on the current PSI (Pollutant Standards Index) levels, there are no plans to amend the published racing and entertainment programme,” Singapore GP said in a statement.
Lewis Hamilton vs Ayrton Senna – The Numbers
- Races started 160-161
- Wins 40-41
- Poles 49 65
- Podiums 81-80
- Titles 2-3
- Front row starts 84-87
- Fastest laps 25-19
Singapore Grand Prix statistics:
- Lap distance: 5.065km. Total distance: 308.828km (61 laps)
- Race lap record: Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 2013 One minute 48.574 seconds.
- 2014 pole: Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
- 2014 winner: Hamilton
- Start time: 1200 GMT (2000 local)
- Tyres: Supersoft (red), Soft (yellow)
- Mercedes have had seven one-twos this season and won 10 of 12 races. Double world champion Hamilton has won seven. No driver has ever failed to take the title after winning eight or more races in a season.
- Four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel has 41 career wins, Hamilton is on 40 and Fernando Alonso 32. Kimi Raikkonen has won 20 races, Jenson Button 15 and Rosberg 11.
- One more win for Hamilton would equal the career tally of the late Brazilian triple champion Ayrton Senna, his boyhood idol. If the Briton wins in Singapore, his 41 will be from the same number of races (161).
- Ferrari have won 223 races, McLaren 182, Williams 114 and Red Bull 50. Mercedes have won 39.
- McLaren have not won for 50 races, a run that dates back to Brazil 2012 and is the team’s worst since they went 53 races without a win between the 1977 Japanese Grand Prix and 1981 British GP.
- Mercedes have been on pole for the last 23 races and are set to equal the record of 24 set by Williams in 1992-93.
- Hamilton has been on pole in 11 of 12 races this season, including the last seven in a row. The Briton has 49 career poles, Rosberg 16.
- Only two drivers in F1 history have had 50 poles or more – Michael Schumacher (68) and Senna (65).
- Hamilton can take his 20th successive front row start this weekend and move closer to Senna’s record of 24.
- The last non-Mercedes pole was Austria, 2014. Ferrari’s last pole was in Germany with Alonso in 2012.
- Nine drivers from five teams have been on the podium in 2015: Hamilton, Rosberg (Mercedes), Vettel, Raikkonen (Ferrari), Valtteri Bottas, Felipe Massa (Williams), Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Romain Grosjean (Lotus).
- Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel have shared the podium in six races.
- The race was the first to be held entirely at night.
- Only three drivers, all world champions, have won at the Marina Bay circuit. Alonso (2008, 2010), Vettel (2011, 2012, 2013), Hamilton (2009, 2014).
- The race has been won from pole position on five occasions. The lowest winning grid position was Alonso, who came from 15th place in a now-notorious 2008 race that saw his Brazilian team mate Nelson Piquet crash deliberately on team orders.
- There has been at least one safety car intervention in every race in Singapore so far.
- The race is the longest on the calendar in terms of time taken to complete, ranging from between one hour and 56 minutes to the time limit of two hours.
- This month’s Italian Grand Prix was Hamilton’s 50th for Mercedes.