SINGAPORE, Sept 13 ― Five talking points ahead of this week's Singapore Grand Prix, the 14th of 20 races in the Formula One season:
Grid penalties galore
“Farcical” was the near-unanimous verdict at the last race in Italy, where nine drivers were demoted a total of 150 grid places for offences such as changing engine components and gearboxes. Out of 20 drivers, only four started the race in the positions in which they had qualified. Small wonder that there are moves to ditch the policy of handing out grid penalties for technical infractions. “It needs a serious look-at to see whether there is a better way of penalising a manufacturer or an entrant or a constructor as opposed to messing around with the grid,” said Red Bull team principal Christian Horner. “I think it will only get worse and it would be a shame to see this championship decided on grid penalties.”
Honda ponder wander
Time appears to be up for Honda at McLaren with expectations high that the Japanese power unit supplier will be replaced by Renault. It hasn't been a happy time for Honda, who have been criticised for providing unreliable and under-powered engines since they returned to the sport in 2015. As if to underline the point, both McLaren drivers, Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, failed to finish this month's race in Monza. Honda appear likely to stay in F1, however, with reports that they will wander the short distance down the pitlane to the Toro Rosso team.
Honey badger on the prowl
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo promised to unleash his “hidden honey badger” this season and he has been as good as his word, standing six times on the podium including his fifth career win in Azerbaijan. Across the garage, his teenage team-mate Max Verstappen has been struggling, with six retirements against a solitary podium finish in China. The omens look good in Singapore for Ricciardo, who has a picture of the notably tough and tenacious honey badger etched on his helmet. The Australian has finished second at the last two Singapore races, and he was third in 2014. He is likely to celebrate further success with his trademark “Shoey” ― drinking champagne from his sweaty boot.
Hulk heads for unwanted record
Approach Nico Hulkenberg at your peril after Sunday's race. If he fails to finish in the top three, he will set a new record of 129 grand prix starts without a place on the podium. Hulkenberg, who currently shares the undesirable record with Adrian Sutil, doesn't look likely to break his duck in Singapore. The 30-year-old German's best finish with Renault this season is sixth, and his solitary pole position at Brazil 2010 for Williams remains a career highlight.
Godzilla, the sequel?
Max Verstappen got a nasty fright last year when he was confronted by a large monitor lizard which slunk across the track in the final practice session. The giant reptile probably came up from the depths of Marina Bay, the stretch of water which lines downtown Singapore. “You came face-to-face with Godzilla,” Verstappen's engineer joked. At least it was better than 2015, when a confused-looking British fan climbed through a gap in the fence and wandered onto the track, crossing in front of a flabbergasted Sebastian Vettel. Singapore isn't the only circuit to have intruders: in 2011, a stray dog held up practice for the inaugural India Grand Prix while stewards chased it from the track. ― AFP