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My Singapore Grand Prix predictions

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Jonathan Legard | 22:22 UK time, Friday, 25 September 2009

Singapore's slogan 'nothing else comes close' rings true both on and off the track in Formula 1's only night race on its 17-stop calendar.

The city backdrop with the action played out under the lights is simply stunning, while the storyline - the "crash-gate" saga with Renault at the centre of the storm - has been equally captivating.

The world has been gripped, shocked, appalled and fascinated by the scandal, with headlines saying it was the worst tale of cheating in F1 and that the sport is losing touch with its fans.

The image of the weekend so far has to be of Romain Grosjean crashing his Renault during practice at the same corner, Turn 17, where Nelson Piquet deliberately crashed 12 months ago. You just couldn't make it up.

As for the race itself, well, the omens suggest that the battle on the track will also live up to the slogan given that the top 15 cars were covered by 1.3 seconds in the second session of practice.

button595_getty.jpgJenson Button drives during practice for the Singapore Grand Prix

The Brawn team fancy their chances here. Ross Brawn's cars have been shipped in with yet another new upgrade - new rear and front wings and diffuser.

But the real surprise is the performance of their rivals, Red Bull. The team came here with low expectations but insiders say there is a totally different feeling inside the garage as regards their prospects this weekend.

Whether that renewed confidence is enough to carry the fight to the Brawns is another matter. Brawn just need to score 14 more points than Red Bull this weekend to clinch the constructors' crown.

Both Brawns were positive in Friday practice, running with heavy fuel loads in both sessions so I think it could well be a Brawn one-two just as it was last time out in Monza but with the positions reversed.

I'm tipping Jenson Button to win his first race since the Turkish Grand Prix in June.

Button is determined to do well in Singapore and he has a 14-point advantage over his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, which means he holds all the cards in the championship race.

With all that in mind here are my top eight predicted finishers for the Singapore Grand Prix:

Jenson Button (Brawn)
Rubens Barrichello (Brawn)
Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari)
Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren)
Nico Rosberg (Williams)
Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber)

If you discount Barrichello's flawed finish in Indianapolis in 2002 - when he and Michael Schumacher crossed the line together and the Brazilian was awarded the victory - only once has he won two races in succession.

The oldest driver on the grid has a chance to follow up his victory in Monza but Button seemed to have the edge in practice and I'm picking him to pip his team-mate to victory here.

Button was the only driver who put in consistent, fast laps on the softer tyres without suffering the tyre degradation that just about everyone else on the grid succumbed to during practice.

I was anticipating a ding-dong battle between the Brawns and the McLarens in Singapore - and that could still happen.

The higher downforce track with slower corners plays to the strengths of the McLarens but team insiders tell me that they are somewhat puzzled by their performance in practice and that they still have some work to do.

They are disappointed that they are not as strong as they thought they would be given that they have brought their final upgrades of the season - a new front wing and floor - to Singapore.

For that reason, I'm picking Lewis Hamilton to finish third, with Heikki Kovalainen, who has scored points in the last five races, to take sixth.

Red Bull's leading title challenger, Sebastian Vettel, took to the track straight away here in last year's inaugural Singapore GP, and they say that you find more out about a driver on a new track than on a familiar circuit.

Red Bull have arrived with a new front wing and aerodynamic package and there is far greater optimism that they can score more heavily than they thought, which is why I've gone for Vettel to come home fourth.

Things did not go so well for his team-mate Mark Webber during practice as he admitted he lost the car for the first time this season because he got slightly slippery off the racing line.

Kimi Raikkonen's string of podiums in recent races for Ferrari is a real credit to him. The 2007 world champion is racing without any new upgrades and his future also looks to be heading away from the Italian marque.
Despite all that, the Finn is looking good but I think he will be hard pushed to churn out another podium finish in Singapore.

After a shocker in Monza, Williams are back on the case this weekend. Nico Rosberg scored points in the last eight races before the Italian Grand Prix and he is well suited to this track, finishing second here last year.

BMW Sauber could be the joker in the pack. The team have come here with almost a totally new car, sporting new front and rear wings, a new diffuser, gearbox and sidepods.

It's extraordinary. They've put more into developing this car with four races left to go than they did when they were challenging for the championship in 2008.

webber595_ap.jpgRed Bull driver Mark Webber

It makes me think that team principal Mario Theissen is keen to wring the most out of BMW before they pull out at the end of the season to put into the development of next year's car as they look to stay in F1 under a new moniker.

It's always dangerous to write off Fernando Alonso on a relatively unfamiliar track where the drivers' skills can make a real difference.

The double world champion and his Renault team are cranked up after the events of recent weeks but the team say the performance of the car isn't there and it will take another classic Alonso performance to propel him into the points.

The changing track conditions could have a big impact on Sunday's race. The Marina Bay street circuit is changing all the time - the dust was like a snowstorm during the support races on Friday - and that makes overtaking even more challenging than it already is.

The last corner is very slippery - as Webber proved - and alterations to the kerbs and the chicane mean we could be in for the slowest laps on the calendar so far.

It is important that F1 puts on a show in Singapore to remind people of the good in the sport rather than reopening old wounds with more scandal and suspicion.


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