AUSTRALIAN Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo has said it’s a relief to finally be in Singapore after a difficult mid-season, in which he’s failed to reach the podium since his win in Monaco, suffering four retirements in the last six races.Ricciardo, who is into his final seven events with Red Bull Racing before a switch to Renault next year, is a favourite for the win at the made-for-Instagram Marina Bay Street Circuit on Sunday — with his RB14 car suited to the tight-and-twisty track, and the 29-year-old on the podium there every year since 2014.In suitable fashion, Ricciardo posted the fastest time in the first practice at the steamy South-East Asian track.He was 0.2 seconds ahead of Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, while Sebastien Vettel was third ahead of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Championship leader Lewis Hamilton claimed sixth.“Obviously we have to see how it goes but generally we have a strong one here,” Ricciardo said.“It’s a track I enjoy. I’m just happy to be back on a street circuit, to be honest. For whatever reason, it hasn’t been a very good run [for me]. I won two out of the first six races, and it was like we might even be in the chance for a title this year, and it’s been pretty terrible since then.”And while Ricciardo’s dire recent run of reliability is the worst in his five-year career with Red Bull’s top team, he’s still keeping his chin up – with Singapore a chance for top results.“It’s obviously got me down at times but I’m still upbeat,” the 29-year-old said.“I’m still fighting, and I still believe there’s going to be some big results before my career ends with Red Bull. So this weekend is where it’s all at.
“My engine survived the last race, as it was just [an issue] with the clutch. So everything is good, no penalties, [and] no negatives coming into this weekend. So we’re ready to go.”250,000 fans are expected in Singapore this year, with spectators treated to F1’s version of the Superbowl with racing under lights and international artists on stage – the headline acts this year including Martin Garrix, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Jay Chou, Dua Lipa, and Simply Red.And visiting Australians could witness a maiden Singapore win for Ricciardo, whose Red Bull car is running Renault’s latest spec engine – which made its debut at the last race in Italy.“It gave us performance, which is good,” he said.“I think it will help us out here, it’s not a massive horsepower circuit but you still need it here, absolutely. So the chassis has been working well. We’ve got the maximum downforce package on. I think the last time we ran to this level was Monaco, so we’ll see. I don’t want to see we’re going to be like clear favourites like we were in Monaco but I think we can be equal with say Ferrari. I think Ferrari will be the biggest threat here.”