With just five Grand Prix races to go, five drivers still have a realistic chance of winning the title, but it seems likely that the number will decrease after this weekend’s night race in Singapore.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber is the surprising championship leader on 187 points, just five ahead of 2009 world champion Lewis Hamilton of McLaren.

The two have a comfortable — but not secure — lead in the standings from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (166), defending champion Jenson Button (165) in the second McLaren and Germany’s Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel (163).

Even with the new points system giving race winners 25 points, Alonso, Button and Vettel can not allow the two championship leaders to widen the gap.

Vettel, in particular, will be disappointed with his standing as the 23-year-old had more poles this season than any other driver (seven compared to Webber’s five), but he simply does not have the points to show for it.

He has admitted that he has made a number of mistakes, which cost him dearly and if he wants to become the youngest-ever world champion, he has to take the title this year.

The German told the media in Singapore that he was still hoping to win the championship. “It will be very close in the finale, but I am not panicking.

“With 25 points for a win, under the old system, I’d only be eight or nine behind, which would seem much less dramatic. So I believe in the title, that is the most important thing.”

Although Vettel’s teammate Webber has yet to finish a race on the 5.073 kilometre-long Marina Bay Street Circuit, the Australian says that he enjoys the Grand Prix.

“I like Singapore; it’s unique as we race at night. You get the impression the crowd is pretty close to the track in most sections, so it’s certainly cosy.

“I’m hoping to improve on last year’s result, as it’s a high downforce street circuit that should suit our car. It’s got some similarities to Monaco and Budapest and we did well at both those circuits, so I’m hoping for a strong result.”

Hamilton, who won in Singapore last year, said he has put the disappointment of Monza, where he failed to finish, behind him. “I’ve learnt from the experience and, while it was extremely disappointing, those things are sometimes what you need to sharpen your mind and raise your game and motivation at an extremely crucial time in the season.”

The Briton realises that the McLaren has this season, struggled in similar races like Monaco and Hungary. “The engineers are positive that we’ve made some good progress, so I’m looking forward to getting out on track and sampling the changes for real.

“The race should give us a clearer indication of exactly where we stand as the championship closes down over the next five races.” Sunday’s race sees the return of Nick Heidfeld, who lost his ride after BMW pulled out of Grand Prix racing.

The German has been signed by Sauber to replace the disappointing Pedro de la Rosa and is now hoping to use the five remaining races to secure a seat for next season.

“I do see some potential to put myself back into the picture,” he told DPA.

Keywords: Singapore GP

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