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Vettel in healthy lead - Singapore F1

Vettel says he the race is among the toughest, with plenty of bumps.

Red Bull Racing driver Sebastian Vettel from Germany in the pits at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve during the first practice session for the 2012 Formula One Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal, Canada, on June 8, 2012. Picture: AFP

SINGAPORE - Sebastian Vettel will be confident of extending his healthy lead at the top of the Formula One drivers' standings in Singapore this week on a circuit that kick-started his imperious march to a third consecutive title a year ago.

In 2012, the German arrived in Southeast Asia 39 points adrift of championship leader Fernando Alonso but drove a perfect race to capture the first of four straight wins as he sped past the Spaniard in the second half of the season.

A year on and the tables have been turned with the Red Bull driver boasting a 53-point advantage over his Ferrari rival and carrying plenty of momentum to a circuit where he will be seeking a hat-trick of victories.

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is very much a Red Bull track and while Alonso remains hopeful of gaining ground on his title rival, the reality is Vettel is likely to head to next month's Korean Grand Prix with an even bigger lead.

"It's a very long race ... the full two hours, so the race just seems to go on forever," a cautious Vettel said earlier this week.

"The circuit itself is a killer because there are so many bumps, there's no room for mistakes.

"I think it's one of the toughest of the year to be honest, so to win is an amazing moment and you feel you deserve the champagne."

Alonso can, however, take heart from the fact that he too has won twice under the floodlights in Singapore and claimed two more podiums and a fourth place finish since the race was added to the Formula One calendar in 2008.

His Ferrari cannot match the Red Bull's speed in qualifying but has shown a tendency to perform far better in races, with Alonso often cutting a swathe through the field from a mediocre position on the starting grid to challenge for victories.

However, with just seven rounds of the 19-race season remaining, Alonso needs to add to his two wins this campaign or a third world title will again slip from his grasp and leave the 32-year-old second in the standings for a third time since 2010.

The only other winner in Singapore, Lewis Hamilton, has made a smooth transition from McLaren to Mercedes this season and he and team mate Nico Rosberg will be banking on an improved performance from their cars to vie for victory on Sunday

Hamilton was unfortunate to miss out on a second Singapore victory a year ago, when a gearbox failure while leading from pole position all but ended his title ambitions, and this year's challenge already looks over with the Briton a distant 81 points adrift of Vettel in third.

There will also be interest in Kimi Raikkonen's performance after the Lotus driver was confirmed as Felipe Massa's replacement at Ferrari next season earlier this month, the Finn returning to the team where he won a world title in 2007.