Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is braced for a “difficult weekend” at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Hamilton took the outright championship lead for the first time in 2017 with victory in Italy on 3 September.
But the Briton expects Ferrari and Red Bull to be the teams to beat around the tight and twisty Marina Bay Circuit.
“Maybe we don’t have the best package for this weekend, but we still have a great car. We can still be in the mix,” he said.
“We can still do potentially better strategies. Maybe on a single lap we will have a better scenario and that is so important here.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel’s finishing positions this season: Hamilton has 6 wins, Vettel 4.
As it stands in the titel race so far…
“But it is a very challenging circuit here, getting the set-up right, getting the timing right, understanding the tyres. So time on track is going to be very important.”
In that remark, Hamilton appears to be learning the lessons of last year, when he made a series of mistakes through the practice sessions, qualified third 0.7 seconds behind team-mate Nico Rosberg and finished in the same place.
The result put a major dent in his title hopes and he ended up losing the championship to Rosberg by five points despite winning the last four races.
Mercedes insiders have been saying for some time now that they expect this weekend to be an almost certain win for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, who trails Hamilton by three points in the championship after finishing third in Italy.
A win would put the German back on top of the standings on Sunday evening no matter where Hamilton finished, but Vettel said he was taking nothing for granted.
“It should be a lot better than Monza but it will still be close,” he said. “It has been close wherever we go.
“I go by what I feel on track tomorrow (Friday). Here it’s important to trust the car. There is no reason to believe the car shouldn’t be very good but how good we don’t know.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified and finished second in Singapore last year, believes his team can make it a three-way fight for victory.
“I have confidence in myself and in the team,” he said. “I think we come here with a good chance. Third, second, second, both seconds were close to wins, hopefully this is the one.”