SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton may have tightened his grip on a fifth world title after extending his championship lead with a surprise victory in Monza two weeks ago, yet Mercedes are playing down the Briton's chances of adding to that triumph in Singapore.
In the last three of his four Formula One title wins, Hamilton has returned from the annual summer break in brilliant form, reeling off a succession of victories in his dominant Mercedes to close the door on his title rivals.
However, while the Briton has finished second in Belgium and first in Italy since the season resumed in August, his car is seen as inferior to Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari and Sunday's Singapore Grand Prix should once again favor the German.
Second-placed Vettel slipped 30 points behind Hamilton after coming off the worst in a first-lap collision with the Briton in Monza and the 31-year-old knows he has little room for further mishaps with only seven rounds remaining.
The pair arrived in Singapore in a similar position a year ago, but the pole-sitting Vettel crashed into Red Bull's Max Verstappen and team mate Kimi Raikkonen soon after the start as Hamilton cruised to victory and never looked back.
Vettel and Hamilton are the most successful drivers on the floodlit Marina Bay Street Circuit with seven wins between them but Mercedes chief Toto Wolff says the odds are stacked against the Briton matching the German's four Singapore victories.
"Singapore has features that we've struggled with in the past. The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make (it) one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us," the Austrian said in a team statement.