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    INSIGHT: Singapore Storylines You May Have Missed A whirlwind weekend at the ...

A whirlwind weekend at the Marina Bay Street Circuit raised both eyebrows and talking points...

Let's Get Physical

The heat, humidity and a long 61 laps of a bumpy, demanding street track makes Singapore the toughest physical test a Grand Prix driver faces all year.

"I like to come out a couple of days early and acclimatise," said Valtteri.

His personal trainer, who formerly worked with the Finnish Olympic track and field team added, "Some people ask about cool suits and so forth but you can't really think about that because of the weight.

"Really, it's about getting the electrolyte balance right and doing the cardio. If you've done that correctly, you will be okay. Maybe a few extra ice towels here and there!"

Some drivers do not normally use a drinks bottle in his car. A general equation in F1 is that an additional 10kgs of weight costs around 0.3s of lap time.

They figure that the 2kgs of weight for the fluid and drink system will therefore cost around 0.06s per lap, which translates to 3-4s over a race distance - the possible difference between scoring points and not.

But that regimen goes out of the window in Singapore when the threat of concentration lapses through dehydration and the close proximity of the walls and barriers are perceived as a much bigger risk than the penalty of a little extra lap time.

Is Lewis' Senna-Like Qualifying Ability Tipping the Balance?

Red Bull may have had an electronic issue to contend with and Ferrari, by their own assessment, may have underperformed in Singapore Qualifying - but nothing should detract from a stunning 79th F1 pole position from Lewis. It was a vital component of his 69th Grand Prix win.

The lap was described as "stardust" by Toto Wolff: "The most epic lap I've ever seen from him. I went on the radio to him because I'd never seen anything like this before."

Technical Director James Allison labelled it "A privilege to witness." Chief Strategist James Vowles added: "I was very surprised at the time Lewis was able to extract. I thought that ourselves, Ferrari and Red Bull would all be in the hunt scrapping for pole - but not with the gap we saw."

Lewis described the Marina Bay circuit as "Monaco on steroids" and there is a strong correlation between the importance of pole position and the subsequent ability to tyre-manage at both Monte Carlo and Marina Bay

Lewis won Singapore from pole this year and in 2014 and 2009. Nico Rosberg did it in 2016 and Sebastian Vettel did it in 2015, 2013 and 2011.

There is little doubt that Lewis' wet weather qualifying performance in Budapest gave him and the team a race we did not expect to win. But in Singapore he did it in the dry, and by such a wide margin, allowing the team to win a race thought likely to be our weakest of the year.

As the Channel 4 F1 pundits discussed the pole lap in the paddock, David Coulthard suggested that

Ayrton Senna and Lewis stand out as the greatest qualifiers in F1 history, something backed up by the record books (Lewis surpassed Ayrton's 68 poles in 2017).

Eddie Jordan said that he'd put Michael Schumacher in the same league, which caused Mark Webber to question, "What, on a Saturday afternoon?" But the Aussie had no doubt that Lewis belonged in the pantheon.

The Difference Between a Genius and an Idiot?

That incredible pole lap from Lewis might have stolen the limelight on Saturday night - but there were certainly a few sweaty palms on the pit wall in the lead-up to it!

The team had come to Marina Bay with six sets of Pirelli's fastest HyperSoft tyres versus the nine sets brought by Ferrari.

In order to be left with four fresh sets for two runs each in Q2 and Q3, the team needed to run the significantly slower UltraSoft compound in Q1, where you must get into the top 15 to progress to Q2.

Both Valtteri and Lewis made it - but not comfortably. Valtteri was 12th quickest in 1m39.291s and Lewis was 14th on 1m39.403s.

Kevin Magnussen's Haas was 16th with 1m39.644s. In other words, if Lewis had been a quarter of a second slower, he would have been out in Q1 with all victory hopes gone... 

Once the fist-pumping and back-slapping surrounding Lewis' Q3 lap was over, Toto permitted himself a wry smile about Q1, and revealed: "My good friend Frederic Vasseur (Sauber Team Principal) sent me a text message. It said: "You know what the difference is between an idiot and a genius? Two tenths!" I think that summarises it pretty well!"

An Abundance of Talent

Toto admits he is currently considering the future direction of the Mercedes Junior Driver programme. The lack of competitive seats in Formula One and behind-the-scene politics are particularly highlighted by the plight of Esteban Ocon who, despite offers and impressive displays, is still without a cockpit for 2019.

Having just agreed to release Pascal Wehrlein at the end of 2018, Toto said in Singapore, "There are many reasons why we started a junior programme. One was to help talent we thought didn't have the means to make it through the ranks.

"We invested time and money with Pascal and the same with Esteban and George Russell, but we are coming to a point that we haven't got a junior team and if you are lacking possibilities to place them, then you need to think about reducing your driver programme and releasing them, or changing the strategy. We are at a crossroads at the moment.

"You can see that for most of the other junior programmes, if you are lacking either a partner team like Red Bull has with Toro Rosso, or contractual relationships like Ferrari has with Sauber and Haas, it's very difficult to find the right place for young drivers. They are very exciting but beyond the emotional aspect it also needs to make commercial sense. If at a certain stage it doesn't, then it's not for us."

Two's Company - Is Three a Crowd?

One potential solution to the problem of blooding new talent would be for leading F1 teams to run a third car. The suggestion is not a new one but it will be discussed again in the coming week.

"There are more talented drivers in F1 then we have seats," Toto said. "Pascal (Wehrlein) deserves a chance and if you look at experienced drivers and young drivers you can say that Kimi Räikkönen deserves to be in Ferrari, as does Charles Leclerc.

"With Esteban (Ocon), in July he had two firm offers on the table, contracts there, and decided for one, but then they forgot about what they offered. Then things accelerated. McLaren signed Carlos Sainz, who also deserves to be in F1.

"I like the idea of third cars because the more cars we have in the field the more opportunity we give to exciting drivers to fight in a competitive car against experienced drivers. It would create great stories and would be easier access for talent, but we've had quite some pushback to the idea for reasons I respect.

"We've looked at various scenarios. You could even let them participate in practice and qualifying and let them do their own race if people feel that meddling in the Championship is not right. Or don't let them score constructors' points, just drivers' points.

"There would be many fantastic and exciting ways to integrate them on the grid but you have to respect that if some teams are not up for it, it's difficult to implement.

"Personally I would just really enjoy it. Have a third Mercedes and put Pascal in there, or George (Russell) or Esteban, and just see what they are able to do. Because I think a third car would be very easy to finance - putting another brand on the car and giving it a different livery and story. It would be easier to market a junior driver who drives in a Mercedes or a Ferrari."

Sounds great, doesn't it? But, sadly, don't hold your breath. As Toto said, with a smile, "Maybe it's better I don't say anything and someone else brings it up..."

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