Lewis Hamilton condemns Helmut Marko's criticism of Sergio Perez

POLE POSITION: Lewis Hamilton condemns Helmut Marko’s criticism of Sergio Perez’s focus as ‘discrimination’ and claims there is still work to do in F1… PLUS humidity is the real killer at the Marina Bay Circuit

  • We can expect a lap record at this weekend’s Grand Prix after track changes 
  • Sterling Moss was a big supporter of Singapore’s wonderful Marina Bay Circuit 
  • Finding breakfast in Singapore can be a mission for some European travellers

Lewis Hamilton has condemned Dr Helmut Marko’s criticism of Sergio Perez. Red Bull’s 80-year-old motor sport adviser, a key ally of the late energy drink mogul Dietrich Mateschitz, said of the team’s No 2 driver: ‘Let’s remember that he is South American, and so he is not as focused in his head as Max Verstappen or Sebastian Vettel was.’

Well, as a Mexican, Perez is actually North American, and Marko’s views were variously excoriated as absolutely outrageous or a touch old school. Marko, the octogenarian, apologised publicly, social media full of foot-stamp fury.

Perez, who is 145 points short of Verstappen, revealed he had also received a personal apology from the Austrian. He claimed that knowing the nature of the man, he was not offended by what others saw as a xenophobic slur.

Another way of putting it is: typical Helmut! Which doesn’t mean all’s well.

Certainly, Hamilton was not prepared to let the matter rest. ‘It is completely unacceptable,’ he said here in Singapore on Friday. ‘We say there is no room for any type of discrimination in this sport and there should be no room for it.

Lewis Hamilton has been quick to condemn Dr Helmut Marko’s discriminatory comments on Sergio Perez

The Red Bull chief claimed that Perez doesn’t have the focus that team-mate Max Verstappen has as he is ‘South American’

Perez – who is Mexican, and therefore from North America – claimed that he was not offended

‘To have leaders, people in his position, making comments like this is not good for us. It highlights the work that still needs to be done.

‘There are a lot of people in the background that really are combating these kinds of things but it is hard to manoeuvre if those at the top have these mindsets. I am not surprised to be honest.’

One observation is that everyone could do more to turn the world back to a pre-fruit Garden of Eden. Lewis, for example, might consider whether he is right to have signed a new contract for a team whose title partners, Petronas, are the state oil company of intolerant Malaysia.

And Formula One, owned by Liberty Media, of all misnomers, trouser billions from any manner of dubious regimes all around the world.

Raffles Writers’ Bar the jewel of the F1 circus 

I once got into awful trouble at the Writers’ Bar in Raffles, and some may say I’ve been getting into it annually here ever since.

The old colonial hotel – home of the gin-based Singapore Sling – is where you picked up Formula One gossip then, and still can now. Anyway, at the time there was conjecture over whether Max Mosley would stand again for the presidency of the FIA.

I thought he would and told his chief consigliere Alan Donnelly as much. ‘I’d bet anything he will,’ I ventured, trying to cajole him into spilling insider information.

‘A thousand pounds on it?’ responded Donnelly, as fast as Hamilton.

Singapore plays host to the latest race in the Formula One calendar with the Grand Prix taking place this weekend

The Raffles Hotel – the home of the Singapore Sling cocktail – is where to pick up any F1 gossip

This wasn’t a moment to look at your feet, so I said ‘yes’. It was by a factor of approximately 50 the biggest wager of my life. Donnelly owned several houses and I didn’t want an escalation that risked our property portfolios. In my case, one dwelling, courtesy of Nationwide.

We shook on it. I lost.

In lieu of my outstanding debt, Donnelly generously suggested a convivial lunch at Raffles the following year, in the Tiffin Room, of all life-enhancing delights. He and I would split the bill for him, me, FIA race director Charlie Whiting, his deputy Herbie Blash and a few of my journalistic pals.

The Writers’ Bar, where Rudyard Kipling, Somerset Maugham and Joseph Conrad were itinerant habitues, has since moved from its cosy, understated berth in the heart of the lobby to nearer the entrance, not even nostalgia being as good as it used to be.

But the Writers’ Bar remains a jewel of the travelling circus. Just don’t tell anyone, please.

It’s the humidity that gets you

We can expect a lap record in Singapore this weekend. We can be assured of that because the circuit has been trimmed from 3.14 to 3.06 miles and turns 16 to 19 expunged to make one long straight of 435 yards. This takes the number of corners down 23 down to 19.

The result is an expected reduction in lap time of 10 seconds.

The number of laps goes up from 61 to 62. However they cut it up, the stop-start street circuit is hard work for the drivers. Lando Norris spoke of locking himself in a hot room while riding a stationary bike in preparation. Half a stone can be lost in the course of the race in sweating alone.

Although a night race, it’s humidity that’s the killer.

The Singapore GP may be a night race, but the humidity is still a killer for the drivers

Marina Bay Circuit a particular favourite of Moss’ 

It was to a Singapore hospital that Stirling Moss was taken with the chest infection that was to kill him more than three years later.

This was an island he loved to visit and he was a big supporter of this wonderful Marina Bay Circuit that added much lustre to the world championship as the first night race, starting in 2008 – a distinction predictably dimmed by newer venues, led by Abu Dhabi, also being staged in the dark.

In Ian De Cotta’s book The Singapore Grand Prix, Moss remembered that he never had the chance to drive on the old Upper Thomson Road track. He visited in 1963 and was taken around it, but by then he had suffered his big shunt at Goodwood and his career was over.

‘Innocence and passion is the biggest difference between motor racing then and now,’ he reflected. ‘Then, it was the most fabulous sport. Now it is the most fascinating business!’

The Marina Bay Circuit added much lustre to the world championship when it was added to the calendar in 2008

Singapore haven’t mastered everything just yet

Most things run like clockwork in Singapore. Littering, chewing gum and jaywalking are forbidden. But one thing they have never mastered is switching restaurant and bar opening hours to European time to suit the itinerary of this nocturnal race.

All the teams and we fellow travellers are living according to the clocks back home, which entails wanting breakfast at 2pm and dinner at 2am (local time). If you can find them. You can if you know where to look – and have a suitably flexible bank balance – but it is by no means easy. My hotel’s breakfast shuts at 3am BST.

Can something be done to address this most first world of problems?

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