SINGAPORE, Sept 21, 2011 (AFP) - Sebastian Vettel will seek to become the youngest man to successfully defend a world title when he bids for his ninth
win of the year in this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.
The 24-year-old German will also be aiming to complete a hat-trick of wins for Red Bull, following successes in Belgium and Italy, by triumphing on the
floodlit streets of the Marina Bay circuit in Sunday night's race.
But, in a long and demanding race in hot and humid conditions, Vettel knows his title dream will not be realised easily as he has to overcome not only the
physical and technical challenges, but also the determination of his rivals.
Vettel, who has 284 points, holds a lead of 112 on nearest rival and two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari.
To take the title on Sunday, he needs to enlarge that lead to 125 or more ahead of the final five races. This means a win will only be enough for Vettel if Alonso fails to deliver a podium finish for Ferrari -- a target that he has hit seven times this season.
Briton Jenson Button of McLaren and Vettel's Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber of Australia are currently level on 167 points, a further five adrift of Alonso.
Vettel could win the title by taking a cautious approach to the final six races starting this weekend, accumulating points without taking risks. However, according to his team's technical chief Adrian Newey, that is not his style.
"Sebastian doesn't want to cruise to the world championship. He really wants to earn it. That's what you saw at Monza," he said, referring to the champion's bold passing move on Alonso to take the lead during the fifth lap of the race.
"And what's so impressive about him is that he very rarely makes the same mistake twice.
"He learns and he keeps confounding the critics. Last year, people were saying he's great if he gets out in the lead, but he can't overtake people. People won't be saying that after the last few races."
A determined Alonso, twice a winner in Singapore, including last year's race, has made clear already that he hopes to postpone any Red Bull championship celebrations for at least one more weekend.
The McLaren pair of Button and compatriot Lewis Hamilton, who won the Singapore race two years ago, will also be in strong contention.
McLaren team chief Martin Whitmarsh has forecast an "electrifying" race due to the drivers' use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS) on the long kinked straight between turns five and seven.
Last year, Alonso was able to hold off the faster Vettel on his way to victory, but Whitmarsh believes that scenario will not be repeated. "Luckily, we have two drivers who are never satisfied to sit behind another car, but the addition of DRS means that we should expect some truly electrifying racing this weekend," he said.
"The track is wide enough to support close and exciting wheel-to-wheel racing and I sincerely hope that's what we see." Both Button and Hamilton have said they believe they can win -- and will drive that way. "I will never give up and I'll be driving to win as always," said Hamilton.
This weekend's race will be the fourth in the modern era of the Singapore event and is expected to attract a huge crowd to a city that first hosted a
Grand Prix in 1961.Sunday's race under light supplied by 1,500 projectors producing 3,000 lux -- four times that needed by an ordinary sports event -- will be very
different to the Singapore races of old, and could well climax with a coronation.