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Ferrari, Mercedes prepare for battle

AFP-JIJI

Sebastian Vettel is under growing pressure to slash Lewis Hamilton’s championship lead at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix — and erase Ferrari’s painful memories from last year in the process.

Mercedes normally struggles at the steamy Marina Bay Circuit, but in 2017 Hamilton won after starting fifth on a rain-soaked grid after a first-lap accident knocked out both Ferraris and the Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Ferrari and Vettel are still smarting after Hamilton won in Italy 10 days ago, despite the Marinello team locking out the front row at their home grand prix.

Vettel’s first-lap spin after contact with Hamilton enabled the Englishman to extend his lead in the drivers’ standings to 30 points and the German vowed to bounce back in Singapore, where he has won a record four times.

“For sure it’s a disappointment right now,” Vettel said after the race. “But I am turning the page and focusing on Singapore — I like the place and I am happy to go there.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff warned this week that Ferrari and Red Bull would have the edge on Mercedes on the tight, twisting street circuit.

“Singapore has features that we’ve struggled with in the past,” said Wolff.

“The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make the Marina Bay Street Circuit one of the trickiest for us.

“On paper, the track should favour the Ferraris, but the championship fight is so close that predictions are almost meaningless.”