Ferrari preview the Singapore GP

By on Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photo credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

This weekend’s fourth Singapore Grand Prix marks the start of a hectic time, featuring six races crammed into the space of ten weeks, with the season finale taking place on November 27th, the latest ever date in the calendar for a Formula 1 race. Last year, Scuderia Ferrari was in the running for the titles right up to the final round, as indeed it has been on so many occasions. However, this year that will not be the case as one team and one driver has dominated the preceding thirteen races. Nevertheless, six Grands Prix means six more opportunities to try and win races, so motivation is still high for the men from Maranello. Fernando Alonso’s third place in Monza a fortnight ago promoted him to second place in the Drivers’ championship and the Spaniard will be doing all in his power to finish the year in the “silver medal” position, starting with the Singaporean event which he won from pole last year for Ferrari.

As for team-mate Felipe Massa, last week was the tenth anniversary of his first ever test in a Formula 1 car and a decade at the highest level of the sport has not dulled his will to win. “Felipe now, compared to Felipe then? I am much more experienced which is important,” says the Brazilian. “The early Felipe always wanted to be quickest on every lap, whereas experience teaches you to know when to push and when it’s better to conserve the car and save the tyres. I don’t know about doing another ten years, but I hope to continue for many years to come.” Massa started the inaugural event from pole in 2008, missed 2009 and last year a problem in qualifying saw him start from the back of the grid, before fighting his way up to seventh.

When it comes to the Scuderia’s own motivation, many team members have recently used the expression “Ferrari is Ferrari” to explain why it will still be putting so much effort into a season that will not deliver any titles. If more prosaic reasons are required, the Prancing Horse is trailing second placed McLaren by 71 points in the Constructors’ championship and catching the English team is a mathematical possibility. In addition, the remaining races will also provide a very useful test bed for some elements that could be used on the 2012 car. While next year’s car is now the main focus of attention for the designers, this year’s 150º Italia will be sporting a few aero updates, mainly around the rear wing; these modifications having been planned before the aero department switched its attention entirely to next year.

That rear wing and the front one too, will be set for maximum downforce for this street circuit, which runs at an average speed higher than its more famous relative in Monaco. While there are similarities between the two harbour venues, including the obvious fact the barriers are very close to the track and the surface is extremely bumpy, there are differences too. The most obvious one is the heat and humidity which in Singapore are among the highest encountered all year. Even with the night time start, this is a tough race for the drivers to cope with, especially as it tends to run right up to the two hour limit imposed in the F1 regulations. Unusually, throughout practice, qualifying and the race, drivers and engineers have to deal with the fact that, as night sets in, ambient and track temperatures actually drop during each session and the race, which is the opposite to all other Grands Prix. The cars are set up with a high ride height to deal with all the bumps, still there despite some resurfacing, while brakes require more cooling than usual thanks to the heat and the fact the Marina Bay Circuit boasts no less than 23 corners.

Pirelli will be bringing its Soft and Super-soft compounds and it’s a well known fact that this is the combination that best suits the 150º Italia, however, it is not a miracle solution. “Of course, if we were allowed to make our own tyre choice, this combination is what we would want,” says Massa. “But tyres on their own cannot make all the difference.”

When Singapore first appeared on the calendar, the night time schedule dominated the headlines, with concerns expressed about the lighting of the track and the need to work during the night and to sleep during the day. Both worries have proved to be unfounded, as visibility is excellent thanks to the sophisticated illumination being much brighter than that seen at other sporting events. As for working a “night shift,” it has actually proved to be quite straightforward with the added bonus that, for once, when the F1 workers return to their European bases, jet lag is reduced to an absolute minimum.

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