World championship leader Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg are braced for a worrying weekend in the heat of the night at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Just a fortnight after saying ‘goodbye’ to Europe at the Italian Grand Prix, won by Rosberg ahead of Hamilton at Monza, the ‘silver arrows’ admit they face a very different challenge at the first of three potentially decisive events in Asia.
"We didn't have the greatest weekend there last year so, hopefully, we're on top of that now," said the defending three-time world champion, in reference to his team’s struggle with tyres last year when they were well beaten and unable to show their usual competitive speed.
“I guess we'll find out in a few days' time… Either way, it's not going to be an easy breezy drive. Even when we won there back in 2014, it wasn't straightforward.
“Ferrari and Red Bull are going to be right on it, I’m sure of that. So, we've got a big fight on our hands if we are up at the front. I love a battle, so I'm excited to see how it plays out."
Rosberg, whose maiden win in Italy trimmed Hamilton’s lead in the title race to two points with seven races remaining, was of a similar opinion to his team-mate.
“Of course, it won't be easy for us,” he said. “We know this is a good track for Red Bull, but I have faith in the our team and my self-belief is as high as ever. I approach each weekend aiming to win the race."
For once, Mercedes may find themselves pushed out of the limelight and even off the front row of the grid by Ferrari and Red Bull, the teams that have enjoyed winning under the lights with four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel.
He was victorious with Red Bull in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and with Ferrari last year.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said: "After a strong showing in Italy, we go to Singapore with a big challenge ahead of us. No team has ever scored a 1-2 finish there - and with good reason.
“As we have seen before, it's a race where a single problem can cascade into many more as the weekend progresses. So, we have to optimise everything to get a solid result.
“We didn't manage it last year and although we believe we now understand why only performance on the track can prove our conclusions right. We are not favourites this time.”
Last year, of course, the Mercedes men were 1.4 seconds adrift in qualifying as Vettel set the pace in the customary sweltering conditions that make the weekend one of the most challenging, physically, for the teams and drivers.
Tyre suppliers Pirelli plan to take the new ultra-soft tyre to Singapore this weekend alongside the super-soft and soft compounds – a factor that has encouraged Aussie Daniel Ricciardo to believe he has a chance to gain an elusive win around the Marina Bay street track.
“I don't believe in much, but if there is a little bit of Karma or whatever, I'd like to think I will get my Monaco win back somewhere and Singapore is the place I’m looking at for that,” he said.
“I don't expect to be handed a victory… Absolutely not, but I feel if I work very well across the weekend then it should provide me with a chance. And that would be great because there’s always plenty of Australians at the race.
“We are going to have a few updates on the car and we should have a good car for this track.”
The Perth racer knows, however, that he and Red Bull will have to overcome Ferrari and Mercedes – not to mention his team-mate Dutch teenager Max Verstappen – if he is to make up for his Monte Carlo disappointment.
And Hamilton is also relishing his chance to regain the momentum.
“Monza didn't quite go to plan," he said. “But when you look at how far we've come as a team this season, from the position we were in, then I realise I'm in a phenomenal position. I’m looking forward to it…”