Five things to watch in Singapore

Lewis Hamilton’s relaxed approach has reaped dividends on the track this year and whether his hair is blond, brown, green or purple, he will be the centre of attention in Singapore as he zeroes in on the World title.

Lewis Hamilton will be the centre of attention in Singapore as he zeroes in on the World title.   -  AP

Nico Rosberg... needs nothing short of a miracle to deny team-mate Hamilton the World title this season.   -  REUTERS

Jenson Button... his future could be in jeopardy as he haggles over a new contract with McLaren.   -  AP

1. Lewis Hamilton’s hair

The championship leader prompted a few double-takes when he went blond and sported a new neck tattoo at the last race in Italy, but the change did him no harm at all as he calmly totted up his seventh win of the season. Hamilton kept fans guessing about his current hair colour when he tweeted a picture of himself arriving in Singapore, but with his head covered by a hood. Hamilton’s relaxed approach has reaped dividends on the track this year and whether his hair is blond, brown, green or purple, he will be the centre of attention in Singapore as he zeroes in on the World title.

2. The N95 face mask

The surgical mask could be de rigueur in Singapore this year after choking haze caused by Southeast Asian forest fires raised fears that the race could even be cancelled, although that appears highly unlikely. But with pollution at unhealthy levels and the acrid smell of burning wood in the air, organisers are offering face masks at cost price and medical teams will be on standby for any fans with breathing or eye problems. However, heavy rain is also forecast this week, which could both wash away the haze and prompt fans to swap their face masks for plastic ponchos.

3. Nico Rosberg’s engine

The German’s season appeared to go up in smoke when his engine caught fire near the end of the last race in Italy, leaving him stranded 53 points behind Hamilton with seven races to go. Rosberg now needs a miracle to deny his Mercedes team-mate the title, with any more retirements surely ending any realistic hopes of winning the championship this year.

4. Everyone else’s engine

No other team on the grid has been able to match Mercedes’ hybrid power unit this year, and a merry-go-round of engine suppliers looks in prospect as they position themselves for the new season. Red Bull look headed for a split with Renault and are reported to be lining up Ferrari as a replacement. Renault meanwhile are eyeing a majority stake in cash-strapped Lotus, and noises from struggling McLaren suggest some sharp words behind the scenes with Japanese engine-maker Honda.

5. Jenson Button’s contract

The popular Briton’s future in the sport could be in jeopardy as he haggles over a new contract with McLaren after a dismal season for the team as a whole. Team-mate Fernando Alonso and the McLaren hierarchy have both signalled a desire to retain the 2009 world champion, but one sticking point is likely to be money. With several younger, and no doubt cheaper, drivers in F1, the 35-year-old Button will be looking over his shoulder. However, McLaren will also be keen to have an experienced hand on board as they look to battle their way back to the front of the grid next year.