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F1 Preview: 2018 Singapore Grand Prix

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The first of seven fly-away races to end the 2018 Formula 1 season awaits in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Singapore also represents one of the most glitzy events of the calendar. With parties and concerts galore surrounding the weekend, the Singapore Grand Prix is highly reminiscent of the Monaco Grand Prix, at least in terms of its glamor.

And the race is a spectacle in and of itself. The first F1 race to run at night under flood lighting, and with the stunning backdrop of Singapore to boot, it immediately took its place as one of the most unique races of the year.

In fact, the event is so unique that it sees a peculiar scenario in which the teams, in order to maintain their usual European timezone sleeping habits, are often in bed and asleep around 6:00 a.m. local time and begin their day in the early afternoon.

Of course, all of the glitz, glamor, and pageantry of Singapore ultimately comes second to the race itself, especially given its place late in the season.

The championship battle is nearing critical mass for title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton enters Signapore leading Vettel by 30 points after winning the Italian Grand Prix, a victory that must have felt like a punch in the gut to Vettel and the Ferrari team.

Vettel and co. must rebound in Singapore in order to take back the momentum from Hamilton and Mercedes.

Talking points ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix are below.

Vettel Looks for Vengeance After 2017 Singapore Nightmare

SINGAPORE – SEPTEMBER 17: Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H and Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF70H collide at the start during the Formula One Grand Prix of Singapore at Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 17, 2017 in Singapore. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel started on the pole last year in Singapore, only to suffer terminal damage following a Lap 1 collision involving Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen. Vettel and Raikkonen appeared to squeeze Verstappen off the start, and the three of them all dropped out on the spot – Vettel was able to briefly continue after the contact, but spun in his own radiator fluid and hit the wall with the front wing before the Ferrari team ordered him to stop the car to prevent further damage.

That wreck kicked the downfall of Vettel’s 2017 title chances into high gear. He finished fourth in the Malaysian Grand Prix after starting at the back, and then DNF’ed again in the Japanese Grand Prix, essentially ending his championship hopes.

This year, he enters Signapore again reeling, this time after a problematic Italian Grand Prix – Vettel spun on the opening lap after contact with Lewis Hamilton and could only climb as high as fourth. As a result, he now sits 30 points behind Hamilton.

The good news for Vettel is that the Singapore track is something of a weak spot for Mercedes. For example, in qualifying last year, Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas qualified on the third row, behind the two Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen and the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

Indeed, Ferrari may enter Singapore with a pace advantage. And if Red Bull can be strong this weekend as well, it may create the needed buffer between Ferrari and Mercedes to allow Vettel to eat into a big chunk of Hamilton’s lead.

Red Bull’s Last Chance for a Win on Merit?

SPA, BELGIUM – AUGUST 26: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 26, 2018 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Singapore may be Red Bull’s last chance to challenge for a win on outright pace. On the streets of Monaco in May, they looked all but unbeatable, with Ricciardo soaring to pole and the race win. However, they failed to repeat this form at the Hungaroring, which is similar in nature to Monaco, in July – Ricciardo finished fourth, while Verstappen retired.

Signapore has historically been a strong circuit for Red Bull – Vettel won their three times for them between 2010 and 2013, and they’ve had at least one car on the podium every year since 2010.

Third-place in the constructor’s championship has all but been consolidated for Red Bull – they’re 162 points clear of Renault, but are 142 points behind Ferrari. So, they’re sitting in no man’s land of sorts, and they usually don’t have quite enough pace to challenge for wins without a little help.

However, Singapore might be their last chance to get one more win on merit.

Misc.

  • Romain Grosjean’s disqualification from the Italian Grand Prix boosted Sergey Sirotkin into tenth place, meaning every driver has now scored a point in the 2018 Formula 1 season. Sirotkin will look for a second consecutive points finish, while Grosjean will look to rebound from the DQ.
  • Racing Point Force India has two consecutive double points finishes since their restructuring – Sergio Perez has finishes of fifth and seventh, while Esteban Ocon has back-to-back sixth-place efforts. They’ll look for a third straight double points outing in Singapore.
  • Ten points separate Renault and Haas in the constructor’s championship. They may not be contenders to take the top spot in the title race, but their rivalry is no less combative. In fact, it was Renault’s protest after the Italian Grand Prix that saw Grosjean disqualified. There is no love lost between these two teams, so things could get dicey if they end up near each other on track this weekend.

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Christopher Bell wins third straight Chili Bowl

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Christopher Bell passed Kyle Larson on the final lap of the 55-lap A-Feature to win the 33rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals. Bell is only the second driver in event history to win three consecutive Golden Drillers, joining Kevin Swindell who holds the record with four.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be able to win the Chili Bowl,” Bell said at ChiliBowl.com. “To do it three straight times is just unbelievable, but man, I don’t even care about three straight. What about that race? I don’t think I’ve ever really been a part of a last lap race like that, so I’m just glad that thing came out in the end.”

As the white flag waved on his eighth appearance in Saturday’s main event, it seemed Larson was finally going to walk away with his first Golden Driller. This was closest he’s been to the win.

Larson took the lead from Logan Seavey on Lap 21 after a five-lap hot pursuit. Bell moved into second for the first time on Lap 27 but a caution forced him back to third as the field realigned to the last completed lap.

On Lap 33, Bell passed Seavey again for second before another caution reset the field. On the next restart Bell road the rim diving to the hub in Turns 3 and 4. With Larson in sight, Bell started to think about where he was going to put his third trophy.

The final caution flag of the night waved with 20 to go to set up the Bell vs. Larson shootout fans had been waiting for since Larson retired early from the race last year. Larson pulled away on the highline in Turns 1 and 2. He switched to the low in 3 and 4.

With five laps to go Larson hit traffic. That gave Bell the opportunity to close the gap. With two to go Bell was on top of Larson and challenging for the lead. On the final lap Bell passed Larson in Turn 2 as they bumped tires. Glued together through the final pair of turns, they touched twice more before Bell pulled away on the final stretch.

The action wasn’t over, however. Bell wound up on his lid following the win. His donuts got a little out of control and he rolled his midget.

Justin Grant took third by passing Brady Bacon on Lap 36. Bacon followed for fourth with Zach Daum in tow to complete the top five.

Tyler Courtney was the hard charger of the night finishing sixth after starting in 22nd. Brad Sweet and CJ Leary finished seventh and eighth.

Seavey was able to hold onto third until late in the race but ultimately the pole sitter who led the first 20 laps faded to ninth.

Tanner Thorson rounded out the top ten.

Friday’s Main Event

1. Christopher Bell
2. Kyle Larson
3. Justin Grant
4. Brady Bacon
5. Zach Daum
6. Tyler Courtney
7. Brad Sweet
8. CJ Leary
9. Logan Seavey
10. Tanner Thorson
11. Danny Stratton
12. Jonathan Beason
13. Tucker Klaasmeyer
14. Colby Copeland
15. Rico Abreu
16. Michael Faccinto
17. Chad Boat
18. David Gravel
19. Cole Bodine
20. Robert Dalby
21. Jake Neuman
22. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23. Shane Golobic
24. Sean McClelland