Singapore Grand Prixview

By on Monday, September 17, 2012
Let’s go night racing…

After a two week gap, Formula One springs back into action in spectacular fashion under the lights in Singapore. The race around the Marina Bay Street Circuit is the only ‘standalone’ event remaining this season; the remaining races are all ‘back-to-back’ events, meaning that the rest of the year will be a tough run for the Formula One fraternity.

Heading into the race, Fernando Alonso holds a thirty-seven point lead over Lewis Hamilton, with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel following a point behind. McLaren has won the last three events, with Button’s Spa victory sandwiched between two wins for Hamilton. As the field heads to the East, team orders may become prominent, as both Felipe Massa and Jenson Button are virtually out of the reckoning. But the McLaren man is unlikely to assist Hamilton just yet, whose future is likely to be a central talking point until it is resolved.

History

When the sun goes down, the cars emerge... Photo Credit: LAT

The four Grand Prixs to have been held in Singapore have all been won by world champions: two for Fernando Alonso and one apiece for Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Every race has seen the deployment of the Safety Car, while the sixty-one laps will usually take almost two hours to complete – the longest race of the year.

Any mention of Singapore will undoubtedly bring back memories of the Crashgate scandal of 2008, when Nelson Piquet Jr, Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds conspired in order for Renault to claim victory courtesy of Fernando Alonso, who was found not to have played any role in the scandal. That race was also memorable for turning the championship on its head, as an eager Ferrari mechanic sent a previously dominant Felipe Massa out of his box too early, the fuel hose still attached to his F2008.

A year later it was Hamilton’s turn for victory in a fairly uneventful race that turned out to be Timo Glock’s last points and podium to date as he finished in second place. In 2010, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel were separated by less than three tenths of a second after almost two hours as Alonso claimed pole position, the win, fastest lap and the honour of leading every lap in spite of his German rival hounding his every move. Last season, Vettel moved to within a point of the world championship after a dominant victory, while the battles between Hamilton and Massa reached almost comical levels after another collision saw the fuming Brazilian approach his rival in the press pen after the race.

The track

A spectacular shot from the TV coverage in 2011

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is one of the toughest tracks of the seasons for cars and drivers alike. 23 corners make up the five kilometre circuit, with the lap record currently standing at 1:45. The first corner has plenty of run-off in order to prevent collisions, but drivers have to be wary not to straight line Turn 2. Turn 3 is a tricky left hander which opens up to the almost non-existent Turn 4 as the drivers turn right onto the Raffles Boulevard. A good exit here is crucial as it provides the best overtaking opportunity of the lap down into Turn 7. A couple of ninety degree corners should pass without incident, leading on to the Singapore Sling, a narrow left-right-left with little run-off and high kerbs. The track is only wide enough for one car and it’s a sequence of small corners disliked by many drivers and fans. The track widens over the spectacular Anderson Bridge and, with the famous Fullerton hotel behind them, the drivers blast down Esplanade drive. The braking point at Turn 14 presents the drivers with another good opportunity, with the cut back available on the exit and into Turns 15 and 16. A 30,000-seater grandstand overlooks the bay and the segment of track made famous by Nelson Piquet in 2008 between Turns 17 and 18, the latter a tricky left hander that heads underneath the grandstand. The drivers get perilously close to the wall at Turn 21, which leads on to a quick double left hander and the end of a tough lap. Only sixty more to go…

Vettel triumphed in 2011

What might happen?

The last three races may have been won by McLaren, but that’s no guarantee that they are the favourites heading into this weekend. Pirelli will bring the Supersoft and Soft tyres to the night race, meaning that preserving the rear tyres on the exit of slow corners will be crucial to having a good race. Rain is possible, but unlikely to trouble the drivers in either qualifying or the race meaning the main track action should take place in hot and humid conditions. Such track conditions should suit Lotus and Red Bull, while Williams will also be hopeful of a strong weekend. Teams like Mercedes could struggle with tyre wear, but as always, don’t discount Fernando Alonso from being near the front at a circuit where he is particularly strong. Sauber’s fine form is unlikely to be translated into a podium under the lights in Singapore: they will be focusing on a Suzuka circuit that should be ideally suited to the C31. So with several teams likely to be competitive and a championship fight intensifying, it’s time to turn up the lights and get ready: it’s going to get noisy in Singapore.


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