In the dark of the Singapore night, James Gray expects F1's biggest star to shine brighter than ever...
"Hamilton at Singapore is like a jockey who knows how to get round the Grand National without falling foul of its many dangers"
The suspension of disbelief is a difficult thing to maintain sometimes, but once you lose it, you cannot regain it. That is how this F1 season is beginning to feel, because while each race in isolation has generally been filled with excitement, it is hard to get carried away with the title race.
I am not quite sure when I crowned Lewis Hamilton 2019 world champion but given that he is now a 1/100 favourite to take the title, it is safe to say it was some time ago. Eight of fourteen races have gone his way; his team have only been unrepresented on the podium once. To say he has been dominant hardly seems to cover it.
Hamilton to find a new home from home
We are used to considering a tight, twisty, power-limited circuit like Marina Bay territory that Mercedes might cede to the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull, or least where they might struggle for total dominance. But this year, the tables have been turned as their engine superiority has wavered. Instead, they seem to have an aerodynamic advantage and the slower tracks have seemed to suit them.
Hamilton has won the last two races here to suggest he himself knows how to get round one of the more treacherous circuits on the calendar, like a jockey who knows how to get round the Grand National without falling foul of its many dangers. However, he was helped in 2017 by a reckless opening 30 seconds from his rivals and in 2018 by some well-placed back-markers.
He did not even have the fastest car on those occasions and still found a way to win, so I have to back Hamilton at 11/8 to make it three in a row and five career victories in Singapore.
Bottas to show single-lap speed
The additional point for the fastest lap has, bizarrely, not changed much. Drivers themselves have always coveted putting purple numbers up on the board, especially if they do not find themselves at the very front of the field. It seems to be a bragging right that says 'I could have won the race, I had the pace'.
The only difference the new rule has made is to force teams to allow their drivers a shot at the fastest lap, with points instead of merely pride at stake.
If Hamilton is out at the front, he is likely to be looking after his tyres and minding his own business; a win is paramount. Bottas meanwhile may have more to prove and at 5/1 in what is likely to be the fastest car, I love taking the chance on him for the fastest lap of the race.
Unpredictable Singapore must throw up a surprise
Every single race in Singapore has given us at least one safety car, not least to the enclosed nature of the street circuit, the low-grip conditions and the propensity for rain. Its unpredictability is the most predictable thing about this race.
The concertina effect the partial stoppage has on the field can give some of the lesser teams the chance to gamble with their strategy as well as eliminate some of the bigger players - and the podium market looks attractive in those circumstances.
McLaren have been steadily improving and might well relish the opportunities a technical circuit offers them. Carlos Sainz Jr finished in the top six in five out of seven races before consecutive retirements caused his season to stall: I'm speculatively backing the Spaniard to bounce back with a podium finish in Singapore at 40/1, on the basis that it feels like more of a one-in-20 occurrence.