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Wolff: Singapore ‘difficult to master’ for Mercedes

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Although Mercedes AMG Petronas has won two of the three Singapore Grands Prix since the current engine formula was introduced prior to 2014, it’s traditionally been a tough circuit pace-wise for the team by comparison to some of its rivals.

As such, if either Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas were to win this weekend at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, it’d be a decisive win in the overall championship picture, with Scuderia Ferrari the expected favorites and Red Bull Racing also expected to content on a track where outright horsepower isn’t as vital as it has been at the last two power circuits, Spa and Monza.

Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff has said as much going into the weekend, noting how Mercedes’ challenging 2015 Singapore Grand Prix weekend helped fuel a comeback last year when Nico Rosberg won.

“In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year,” Wolff said in the team’s pre-race advance.

“But notwithstanding that success, this is a circuit we have found difficult to master with its combination of short, sharp corners, relatively short straights and bumpy surface. And we head to Asia this time round with the expectation that we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

Wolff suggested both Ferrari and Red Bull should have the measure of Mercedes on pace this weekend. Sebastian Vettel has led Kimi Raikkonen for Ferrari 1-2 finishes at both Monaco and Hungary, tracks closest to Singapore on the calendar. Daniel Ricciardo was third at Monaco while Bottas has Mercedes’ lone podium at those two tracks this year, regaining the position from Hamilton on the last lap at Hungary.

Points-wise, Vettel and Raikkonen have 50 and 36 points in those two races – Ferrari having achieved a maximum 86 – while Bottas and Hamilton have just 27 and 18, respectively.

“So far this year, we have seen the pendulum swing according to circuit type,” Wolff said. “On the surface, Singapore is the kind of circuit that should favor both Ferrari and Red Bull. Both have shown strong performance on low-speed circuits demanding maximum downforce, and we have found life more difficult at those places in 2017.

“Sometimes, characteristics like this are simply in the DNA of a car. Nevertheless we learned a lot from our struggles in Monaco, raised our level of performance significantly in Hungary and we have made good progress in understanding what we need to do in order to get the most from the chassis.”

The nature of it being a night race, with teams operating on late hours but still on European times, plus the length of the race only increase the degree of difficulty.

“It’s a demanding weekend for the teams: the ambient conditions make life in the garage tough, it’s physically demanding for the drivers and challenging for the cars in terms of managing brake and tire temperatures. Safety Car periods are almost guaranteed, so there are lots of variables to consider on strategy,” he said.

“It’s a weekend when every part of the team needs to be at its best if you wish to score a strong finish.”

Singapore Grand Prix times for this weekend are linked here.

Pirelli reveals new super-hard, hyper-soft F1 tires in Abu Dhabi

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Pirelli has confirmed it will add two new tires to its range for the 2018 Formula 1 season, launching the ‘super-hard’ and ‘hyper-soft’ compounds in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Pirelli currently makes three of its five dry compounds available to teams for each race weekend, and despite varying selections across the course of the season has struggled to offer much in terms of strategy options, with one-stop races being the norm.

The hope is that the addition of two new tire compounds and a re-alignment of their durability will offer teams more choices in races.

Pirelli confirmed plans to introduce a new softest tire below the current ultra-soft earlier this month, inviting fans to pick a name.

The pink-colored compound will be known as the ‘hyper-soft’ from next year, with the arrival of a new ‘super-hard’ (colored ‘ice blue’) also being confirmed at a launch event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“Compared to this year, when the tires grew by 25% to fit a brand-new generation of cars, the changes for next year are less far-reaching,” Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola said.

“However, we’re pleased to present some important innovations with softer and faster compounds across the range: including the new hypersoft.

“We realized that, under the unique circumstances of this year, some of our 2017 compounds were perhaps conservative: the tires we have created for 2018 addresses this, in line with the objective of having around two pit stops at most races.

“However, the fundamental design concept of the tires hasn’t changed next year, preserving the attributes that all drivers have appreciated this year and allowing them to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.

“The new range consists of faster tires that should lead to even harder and more spectacular racing in 2018.”

Besides the seven dry compounds made available, there will be the two rain tires – wet and intermediate – taking it to a total of nine for the 2018 season.