Lewis Hamilton might have to fight through choking smoke on his way to a third world title as the Singapore Grand Prix battles thick smoke from southeast Asian forest fires.
The Briton enjoys a strong lead in the Formula One standings and would miss a chance to draw further ahead if organisers took the extreme, and so far unlikely, action of cancelling Sunday’s race.
But visibility could be a serious concern at the night grand prix, held under floodlights on a narrow and bumpy street circuit which snakes past downtown Singapore landmarks.
Fans in face masks, and fog shrouding Singapore’s glitzy skyline, would also be far from ideal in front of a global TV audience.
Organisers stressed there were no plans to change the race program but warned in a statement: “The haze situation is highly changeable – not only from day to day, but from hour to hour.”
PSI (pollutant standards index) levels will be shown on big screens and masks will be sold at cost price, while medical posts will tend to any breathing and eye problems.
Hamilton tweeted a picture of himself smiling as he arrived, but it has not been a happy week for Singapore’s 5.4 million residents as pollution soared to unhealthy levels accompanied by acrid smoke smell.
With storms forecast, rain might help improve the air quality – but could also be an extra obstacle during qualifying or the race.
Mercedes driver Hamilton won last season in Singapore en route to a narrow world title win.
After seven victories in 12 races this year, he is 53 points clear of teammate Nico Rosberg and on the verge of emulating idol Ayrton Senna with three F1 championships.
Hamilton can also equal the late Brazilian’s record for consecutive pole positions (eight) and his career haul of race wins (41) if he triumphs.
“Since I was a boy I have always wanted to emulate Ayrton and be as similar to him as I could – whilst still being myself. I’ve always wanted to drive a car like he could or handle a car like he could.
“It’s quite surreal to think that 20 years later, I am fighting for a similar number of podiums or championships, but we have to remember that if he continued, he would have won many more.”
Rosberg will try to launch a late surge after flaming out at the Italian GP, but will be wary of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who is 21 points behind him in third.