Cape Town - Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel will edge his Mercedes title rival Lewis Hamilton to the chequered flag in Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix, if bookmakers are to be believed. He told Autosport: "I still believe there are certain characteristics of the tracks that suit the auto or not, and you can see this year the slow, twisty circuits have rather suited Red Bull and Ferrari". We still need to understand a few things we've introduced on the auto for this race a bit better because at the moment we're not 100% sure, but we will work hard overnight to solve this.
Hamilton became the first back-to-back race victor in 2017 by sweeping the final two European races of the season at Spa and Monza, moving into the lead of the drivers' standings for the first time this year in the process.
"So I don't go with the theory that we are favourites for the race".
"Red Bull seem like they're very strong. but nothing is out of reach". Saturdays they're very strong, which obviously has its contribution to Sundays, it's not a big secret but I think we are strong, we don't need to hide and there's plenty of positives.
But Vettel is a driver who flourishes when the package is ideal, as his Red Bull record suggests, and hasn't quite had the tools to deliver since joining Ferrari in 2015. Vettel has excelled throughout 2017 and, aside from the occasional blip, his performances have been back to the level we saw consistently when he was at Red Bull.
The 30-year-old cited two examples.
Hamilton arrives in the Far East with a three-point advantage after his triumph at the Italian Grand Prix a fortnight ago.
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With reports suggesting a parting of the ways between them and engine manufacturer Renault at the end of next year, drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will be keen to keep themselves in the shop window.
After news dropped of Valtteri Bottas signing an extension to remain at Mercedes, all three top teams - Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull - will go into 2018 with unchanged line-ups. "As I said many times whatever I do next year is because I want to win". The total points have only been considered post-2010 - when the scoring system was restructured to what we see today. "I'm enjoying things so far and it's great fun driving these cars around this circuit".
He added: "I'm not here to finish third".
"Since 2014 I felt if I was in a Mercedes I believed I could have won and previous year as well".
"It's not going to be the easiest of weekends, but man I'm coming with positivity and with the plan of winning this race", said Hamilton.
Verstappen also hinted his future at Red Bull may not be secure if his woes continue.
Mercedes' Niki Lauda even claimed they will "lose for sure" at F1's marquee night race, while executive director Toto Wolff did at least have a more optimistic outlook.