Formula 1 enters the night on Sunday with one of the modern wonders of the current calendar: the Singapore Grand Prix.
With the track bathing under 1,500 spotlights and the iconic city skyline lighting up the night sky, few races come close to magic of Singapore.
Nico Rosberg will be hoping to create some magic of his own on Sunday as he chases his third straight grand prix victory and looks to regain the championship lead from Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.
Rosberg dominated qualifying with a rapid lap that was over half a second faster than any other driver, securing his first pole position in Singapore.
With Hamilton struggling for form throughout the weekend and slipping to third place on the grid behind Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, his lead in the standings is at serious risk.
Alas, things in Singapore are never straightforward. With the walls waiting to punish the smallest of errors and at least one safety car expected, the fight for victory is wider than its seems.
You can watch the Singapore Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 7am ET on Sunday. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.
Here’s what to watch for in today’s race.
2016 Singapore Grand Prix – What To Watch For
The rule of Rosberg
Today’s race offers Nico Rosberg an opportunity never afforded to him in 2014 or 2015. In both those years, once Hamilton went on a streak and gained momentum, the title race was effectively over. You would have been forgiven for thinking the same after his run of four victories through July.
Yet after winning at Spa and Monza, Rosberg pulled himself back into contention. If his imperious display in qualifying is anything to go by, combined with Hamilton’s own lack of rhythm, this should be his race to lose.
Rosberg has a habit of capitalizing on situations where his opponents are at their weakest. An eighth win of the year today would be a huge, huge statement of intent heading into the final six rounds of the season.
Can Lewis bring it back?
Lewis Hamilton’s Singapore Grand Prix weekend thus far has been a difficult one. An issue in FP2 followed by a mistake in FP3 meant he was unable to complete a full qualifying simulation, perhaps accounting for his lack of pace in Q3 that left him third on the grid.
For Hamilton, the focus today will be jumping Ricciardo at the start. With the Red Bulls set to run further into the race before pitting and overtaking opportunities around the Marina Bay Street Circuit coming at a premium, failing to do so would surely end his hopes of victory.
That said, Hamilton’s career has featured a number of hard-fought for victories that seemed unlikely heading into the race. Perhaps Singapore will offer the latest chapter of that story today…
Super-soft start gives Ricciardo, Verstappen options
Red Bull’s gamble on getting Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen through Q2 on super-soft tires could pay off today. The ‘middle’ compound in Singapore has been holding up well, opening up a variety of strategy options for the Red Bull drivers. Given there has been a safety car in every Singapore Grand Prix of the modern era, this flexibility will surely boost Red Bull’s chances.
Ricciardo proved in Monaco earlier this year how tuned in the RB12 car is to street circuits, coming within a clean pit stop of his first victory since Belgium 2014. Now armed with an updated Renault power unit, the Australian will be out to avenge that defeat.
And just as it is crucial for Hamilton to get the jump on the Red Bulls off the line, Ricciardo will know that seizing the lead into Turn 1 could define his race. Keeping the Mercedes’ pace capped will put him in a very strong position indeed.
More misery for Grosjean?
Romain Grosjean’s Singapore Grand Prix weekend has been nothing short of miserable. After missing FP1 due to an engine issue and then completing just 12 laps in FP2, Grosjean crashed out of qualifying, leaving the Frenchman dumbfounded.
Haas brought a raft of updates to Singapore for its VF-16 car, yet they appear to have sent Grosjean off-kilter. Realistically, the team’s hopes of its first points since Austria lie with Esteban Gutierrez, who will start from 13th on the grid. Gutierrez is out to break his own points drought dating back almost three years – a race of attrition could lift him into the top 10.
Vettel’s Charge of the Night Brigade
What a difference a year has made for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. 12 months on from his charge to pole position and domination of the race in Singapore, the German will start from the very back of the grid after a rear anti-roll bar failure on his car during qualifying.
Vettel had struggled with the setup on his car all weekend long, but still felt he had a shot at the front row in qualifying. From P22, he will need a few safety cars and some lucky breaks to make it back into the top 10 – although as a four-time Singapore winner, you cannot write him off.
Everyone loves a fight through the field – so be sure to keep an eye on Seb today.
2016 Singapore Grand Prix – Starting Grid
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso
7. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
8. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
9. Fernando Alonso McLaren
10. Valtteri Bottas Williams
11. Felipe Massa Williams
12. Jenson Button McLaren
13. Esteban Gutierrez Haas
14. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
15. Kevin Magnussen Renault
16. Felipe Nasr Sauber
17. Sergio Perez Force India*
18. Jolyon Palmer Renault
19. Pascal Wehrlein Manor
20. Romain Grosjean Haas**
21. Esteban Ocon Manor
22. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari***
* Eight-place grid penalty for yellow flag infringement in Q2
** Five-place grid penalty for gearbox change
*** 25-place grid penalty for multiple component changes.