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.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.