The Marina Bay Street Circuit will provide drivers, teams and Formula 1 personnel with one of the toughest tests of the entire season courtesy of an unusual timetable, high temperatures and a punishing circuit. Last year’s race, won by Sebastian Vettel, went to the full two hour limit.
The first Formula 1 race around the streets of Singapore took place in September 2008 and it was the sport’s first night race. The race started at 20:00 local time, ensuring a lunchtime viewing for European audiences. The first 61 lap affair was won by Renault’s Fernando Alonso but is best remembered for Nelson Piquet Jr’s deliberate crash, an incident which only came to light a year later.
Lewis Hamilton won the race in 2009, while in 2010 Alonso won in Singapore for a second time, beating Vettel by just a couple of tenths. The German finally took to the top step in Singapore a year later and benefited from Hamilton’s retirement in 2012 to seal back-to-back wins.
The circuit is one of the longest that Formula 1 visits and, courtesy of its comparatively slow average speed, means that the race regularly nears – or even hits – the two hour limit. The circuit is bumpy, tough on brakes and while it’s much wider than Monaco, there are walls for drivers to hit.
The first three turns all come fairly quickly as drivers brake underneath the highway, flick the cars left before a slight right and a tighter left. It’s a tricky sequence of corners that leads to many shortcutting turn two, especially on the opening lap. Raffles Boulevard – with a short kink in the middle as the drivers pass underneath a shopping centre – provides one of the best overtaking opportunities and will again be one of the DRS zones for the race. The drivers negotiate a few 90 degree bends before heading towards the Singapore Sling, which has been remodelled for 2013. Gone is the single file chicane and in its place is a left hand corner, much to the relief of several drivers. The circuit then takes the drivers across the old Anderson Bridge and then across Esplanade Drive and into turn 14, another prime overtaking opportunity. The last sector is fairly fiddly, with the most prominent feature being the run past the huge grandstand, before the drivers switch left and run underneath it. Turn 18 – where the drivers flick left under the grandstand – regularly catches drivers out and the lack of run-off means that if anyone shunts here, the safety car will be required. The fast and spectacular final double left hander rounds out the lap, with the second DRS zone doubling up as the pits straight.
With reigning world champion Vettel having dominated the last two races in Belgium and Italy, Singapore perhaps presents the final chance for his rivals to prevent him from sweeping to a fourth consecutive title. But they’ll have a tough task: Vettel finished fifth for Toro Rosso in 2008, and then fourth in 2009, second in 2010 and he won the race in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps the only weakness for Vettel and Red Bull is reliability. Both cars suffered with gearbox problems in the Italian Grand Prix and a similar issue forced Vettel out at Silverstone. 61 laps of the Marina Bay Street Circuit will punish the gearbox, which must be the same one used at Monza. A pre-race change would trigger a five place grid penalty.
As for tyres, Pirelli will bring the red-banded Super-soft tyre and the white Medium tyre for the night race.
Derek Warwick will act as the FIA’s driver steward.
Alongside the Formula 1 schedule, GP2 will also race at Singapore, perhaps for the final time.
Friday 20 September
- Practice 1: 18:00 – 19:30
- Practice 2: 21:30 – 23:00
Saturday 21 September
- Practice 3: 18:00 – 19:00
- Qualifying: 21:00 – 22:00
Sunday 22 September
- Race: 20:00