Iceman lurks at the Bay — Ian De Cotta
SEPT 22 — The adoration was almost universal when the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix was unveiled on the global stage for the first time in 2008.
Boasting curves that set racing hearts aflutter, the Marina Bay street circuit stood as regal as a princess beneath the night sky, adorned with the finest jewellery that sparkled under the spotlights.
Its coronation was instantaneous and, since then, ink has been flowing generously to hail Formula 1’s newest crown jewel.
But the Grand Prix in the Lion City is more than just a head turner.
Suitors charmed by her 23 curves know she is a temptress who would devour those who fail to live up to her exacting standards.
Every year, almost two hours of absolute attention is needed to take on the narrow 5.073km of asphalt for a torturous 61 laps. Anything less would lead to a crash.
Small wonder then that the Marina nymph has managed to claim its fill of crumpled metal every year since 2008.
Small wonder, too, that only the most accomplished gladiators have been able to subdue the tight street circuit and earn the right to step onto the top of the podium.
And they were already world champions in their own right: Fernando Alonso in 2008 and 2010, Lewis Hamilton in 2009 and Sebastian Vettel last year. They are the contenders again this year.
Two-time world champion Alonso is the consummate street fighter and my money is on Ferrari’s championship leader to be the first to cross the finish line tomorrow night.
The Spaniard’s intimate knowledge of each nook and cranny of the toughest circuit in Formula 1 is unrivalled and he is acutely aware that technological wizardry counts for only half of what it takes to get the job done.
The more crucial half comes from within, from his immense talent at steering the red-hot Prancing Horse. Only a few have the ability to give him a run for his money in this area.
In a closely fought season, Hamilton has emerged as Alonso’s closest rival and the gloves are off in the title battle. Sporting a Merlion and the crescent and five-star imprints on his helmet, he has summoned the gods from the Bay in an attempt to shave his rival’s 37-point lead.
Do not be fooled by the compliments that both men have showered on each other in the run-up to qualifying — they mask the fierce rivalry sown from a bitter partnership at McLaren in 2007.
Despite the respect that has grown between the pair since then, a bare-knuckled fight around the Marina Bay is on the cards on race day.
However, another former world champion is lurking around, itching for another shot at the coveted chequered flag under the Singapore night sky.
That person is Kimi Raikkonen, who fancies himself a more fitting suitor now after crashing out in 2008 and finishing outside the points the following year.
His Lotus is also on an upward curve and the Finn has enough genius to make it overcome the more powerful Ferrari and McLaren cars and pull the rug from under the two main protagonists.
Behind the wheel, Raikkonen has the smarts and the finesse to tame and charm the Marina Bay nymph.
Expect a cracker tomorrow. The Iceman is primed to steal the spotlight. — Today
* Ian De Cotta is the senior F1 correspondent at Today.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.