Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘Track Profile Specialist’ Alistair Hunter
After our long and enjoyable stay in Formula One’s European heartlands, we go from a racetrack that has held the most Grands Prix to one that will be hosting its seventh Grand Prix this weekend. Singapore is the location for our Autumn adventure into Asia, and once again we will see the racing that has seen the Singapore Grand Prix elevated to one of the jewels in the Formula One calendar.
The search for the first Grand Prix in Singapore takes us back to the history of the Malaysian event, with three Formula Two events held at the Thomson Road track before Singapore ultimately achieved independence by being excluded from Malaysia. After this, eight Formula Libre events were held in this new state, before racing stopped in 1973 due to a variety of reasons, such as the increase in traffic, the issue of closing roads for the event and fatal accidents in the final two years of its existence.
In 2007, Formula One officially confirmed that a night race in Singapore would take place during the following year, a deal created by Bernie Ecclestone, the Singapore Tourist Board and local property entrepreneur Mr Ong Beng Seng, whose wealth sees him and his wife ranked in the top ten wealthiest people in Singapore.
The new race was mainly supported by the government, with local telecommunications company SingTel – also majority owned by the investment arm of the Singapore government – snapping up the naming rights for the event in a deal that would see Formula One added to their growing portfolio of sports events available to watch, as shown by a 2011 press release in which they promoted the kind of multi-platform F1 viewing that we all take for granted.
When the race first took place in 2008, many were interested by the way the drivers would either stay on European schedules or adapt to local time, as well as the effect of racing under so many bright lights for the first time. These factors, as well as the tough nature of the Singapore circuit, saw one of the most exciting and physically demanding races of the year.
Singapore – Marina Bay Street Circuit Characteristics © FIA
The track starts in the start/finish area specifically created for the Grand Prix, before reaching the second fastest part of the track at Turns One, Two and Three. A little straight and corner brings the drivers out onto the first DRS zone on the circuit and the fastest part of the track, with a fast right hand corner allowing the drivers to build up speed before braking for the sharp seventh corner at the end of the first sector.
Following these, a section of fairly standard corners takes the drivers from Turn Seven to the turn formerly unofficially known as the Singapore Sling, which is now a relatively straightforward left hand turn, in comparison to the tough chicane that occupied it two years ago. Two bridge sections follow at Fullarton Road and much wider Esplanade Drive.
After turning right onto Raffles Avenue, the track makes a little detour along to The Float at Marina Bay for turns seventeen and eighteen, the section of track famous for Nelson Piquet Jr. crashing there in 2008 as part of the Crashgate scandal that saw Fernando Alonso take the race victory; alternatively, if you are a fan who doesn’t want to remember that section for that reason, it is also the grandstand and floating platform which hosted the opening ceremony for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
Turn 18 also sees the track go under the previously mentioned grandstand and come back out onto Raffles Avenue, before a fast series of left hand corners reunite the drivers with the start/finish straight, which acts as the second DRS zone. The lap record for the track currently stands at 1:48.574 by Sebastian Vettel, although a faster time was set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2008 on the track configuration that included the Singapore Sling chicane.
Maximum downforce is required in order to survive the low speed corners and traction controls, especially as understeer could lead to a spectacular accident in the Singaporean night. The suspension has to be strong, as do the brakes, while the teams need to get their heads round the demands of the longest race of the year on their engines and their tyres.
Rain has not been a factor in the race so far, but the possibility of it could lead to some spectacular – albeit uncomfortable – racing. The only time wet tyres have been used on the track were in FP1 in 2010 and 2012, as the track had just survived a heavy rain shower a few hours before on both occasions. In the latest situation, Fernando Alonso had set the fastest time on intermediate tyres of 2:01.573 as the track began to dry out, before the session evolved into a battle between Vettel and the McLaren drivers for top spot in the session.
A lap with Lewis Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel has enjoyed a period of dominance at this track, with three consecutive victories in the past three years, ensuring that he is the most successful driver at the track from Fernando Alonso, who won in 2008 and 2010.
The constructor with the most victories at this track is obviously Red Bull, although McLaren and Ferrari can claim two victories each in Singapore Grands Prix due to victories in 1969 and 1970 respectively, when the race did not count as part of the Formula One calendar.
Only three people have been on pole position this year, and only three people have won races this year – Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg belonging to both categories, while Felipe Massa has been on pole without winning, and Daniel Ricciardo has been on the top step of the podium without starting from the front of the grid.
Hamilton has won six races, in comparison to Rosberg with 4, and Ricciardo with 3. After the British driver’s performance last weekend, I suspect not many people will bet against him extending his lead in that category, and closing the gap on his teammate at the top of the standings.
Pirelli and Singapore
Following Monza, where the two hardest compounds of the Pirelli F1 range were nominated, Formula One now heads to Singapore where the two softest compounds in the range will be present: P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft.
Singapore is a street circuit, but a highly unusual one. The race is run entirely by night, which means that track and temperature evolutions are somewhat different to the normal course of a grand prix weekend. Nonetheless, ambient temperatures are still generally high, which along with the enclosed nature of the track in the heart of the city, means that this is one of the most physically demanding tracks of the year for the drivers.
Traction and braking are the key elements to the Marina Bay street circuit, and there is also a bumpy surface, which makes finding consistent traction all the more difficult. As well as that, there is the usual street furniture including painted white lines and manhole covers that can catch drivers out and provide an extra hazard for the tyres. Singapore has more corners than any other track on the F1 calendar, creating yet more work for the tyres.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “It’s always a great pleasure for us to come to Singapore, which has consistently proved itself to be one of the most spectacular races of the year. Racing under the lights in such a vibrant city provides an amazing atmosphere that showcases Formula One at its very best.
The unique nature of the race at night obviously has an impact on the tyres, and we’ve selected the two softest tyres in the range for their rapid warm-up and high levels of mechanical grip: vital characteristics on a street circuit. This is actually a step softer than last year, when we nominated the medium and supersoft, so we should see some interesting tyre strategies with teams taking full advantage of the performance on offer.
There’s traditionally quite a high incidence of safety cars, so every strategy has to be flexible enough to bear this eventuality in mind as well. With the championship seemingly getting closer, all the signs suggest that we’re in for an exciting and unpredictable race.”
Jean Alesi, Pirelli consultant: “I’ve never actually raced in Singapore but my impression is that it’s a bit like Monaco, with its capacity to transform a simple mistake into an absolute disaster, given how little run-off there is.
Here you also have to add in the high ambient temperatures and high humidity, plus the fact that you are racing at night while keeping to a European timetable. So it’s easy to see how physically fatiguing the race can be for the drivers. From a technical point of view, the most important aspect is to have a car with the best traction possible.
Consequently it’s important to look after the rear tyres, otherwise you lose a lot of time coming out of the corners (which are nearly all slow corners in Singapore). This can really compromise your race if you are not careful.”
The circuit from a tyre point of view:
Singapore is all about traction and braking. In particular the rear tyres are worked hard on the exit of all the slow corners. The left rear is particularly stressed, as it has to cope with both longitudinal and sideways accelerations. Traction is further compromised by the bumpy surface of the normal roads used for the circuit.
The supersoft tyre is a low working range compound, capable of achieving optimal performance even at a wide range of low temperatures. The soft tyre by contrast is a high working range compound, suitable for higher temperatures. Ambient temperatures are usually between 30-35 degrees centigrade in Singapore and there has not yet been a wet race.
Singapore has higher abrasion than most street circuits but the asphalt takes longer than most tracks to rubber-in so track evolution is slow; as is the case generally with non-permanent facilities. Rain showers in the late afternoon – a frequent occurrence – also have the effect of washing away a lot of the rubber that has already been laid down.
The winning strategy last year was a two-stopper, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel stopping on laps 17 and 44. The German started on the supersoft, changed to the medium, and then completed the race on the supersoft again.
A lap with Pirelli
Brembo and the Marina Bay Street Circuit
As they pick their way through the turns and chicanes on the Singapore Street Circuit the drivers are well aware that they will need to put a lot of stress on their brakes with almost a full quarter of the time spent on them.
Of the 13 braking sections that characterise this circuit, non of them are particularly demanding, but the heated pace and the lack of adequate space for cooling make it one of the hardest on the braking systems. Friction material wear is one of the things that need to be monitored constantly in telemetry during each lap of the race.
2008 – The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was won by Fernando Alonso after his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed in order to bring out the safety car and benefit the Spaniard’s strategy. Felipe Massa led the race from pole position, but his race was ultimately destroyed by driving away from his pit box with the fuel hose still attached. Rosberg, Fisichella and Trulli also had stints in the lead, but as soon as Alonso led he built up enough of a gap to the rest of the field, albeit with another safety car period between him and his first victory of the season.
2009 – Lewis Hamilton led away from pole position, and was caught up in a battle for the race victory with Sebastian Vettel. However, Vettel was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane, leading Hamilton to finish ahead of Timo Glock and Fernando Alonso in second and third place respectively.
2010 – Fernando Alonso qualified on pole and led every lap on his way to victory, but was pressurised by Sebastian Vettel. The two McLaren drivers were also involved in a fight for the championship points with Mark Webber, with a collision between the Australian and Lewis Hamilton ruining the race of the British driver. Behind them, Sebastien Buemi and Heikki Kovalainen had an incident leading to the Lotus Racing driver seeing his car go on fire on the main straight, forcing him to put out the fire with an extinguisher borrowed from the Williams garage.
2011 – Vettel led the race from pole and took the race victory from Jenson Button and Mark Webber, while Lewis Hamilton got involved in an incident for the second year in a row, this time with Felipe Massa, compromising both of their races.
2012 – Hamilton led the field away and appeared to be on course for a routine victory, before a gearbox issue saw Sebastian Vettel overtake him for the eventual race victory. In addition, Michael Schumacher gained further criticism due to his crash into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, while the race finished two laps early due to time constraints.
I was all prepared to write in the standard mix of GP2, GP3 and Porsche Supercup figures, but instead we have a change (don’t worry, we’ll see the latter in the United States, and the other two in Russia and Abu Dhabi). F1 is accompanied by the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series, which is currently led by Earl Bamber.
Eighteen points behind him is second placed driver Martin Ragginger, with Ho Pin Tung a further fifteen points behind. To change that, they have three races in order to become champion – one this weekend, and two more in Shanghai, supporting the Sportscar Champions Festival. This series also supported F1 in China and Malaysia.
In addition, the Masters Historic Racing series rejoins us this weekend, having previously featured in Montreal. I can’t find out much information about teams and drivers though, so I’ll leave you with their press release:
“With the Masters Historic F1 races set to hit the streets of Singapore on September 19-21, the entry list has been confirmed along with the timetable and fans will get a chance to see a 24-strong entry in two races, preceded by free practice and a sole qualifying session.
“The constructors represented are Lotus, Tyrrell, Brabham, Wolf, Williams, McLaren, March, Shadow, BRM, Hesketh, Parnelli, Penske and Fittipaldi, with drivers from Europe and America set to go head-to-head in the two 25-minute races.
“Heading the entry is experienced Spaniard Joaquin Folch in the ex-Nelson Piquet 1981 title-winning Brabham BT49C[, while] against Folch as potential winners come young guns Michael Lyons (Hesketh 308E), Ollie Hancock (Fittipaldi F5A) and Aaron Scott (March 761), plus leading Americans Chris Locke (Lotus 79), Doug Mockett (Penske PC4) and Robert Blain (March 761).
“The race will make history for being the first historic F1 race on the streets of Singapore, the first time that the cars will have been driven in anger on the Singaporean streets. The event will also break new ground by being run under the floodlights on Friday evening and that will be a first for the cars that never ran in the dark in period. For the cars and drivers it will be a completely new experience and an exceptional spectacle.”
Sounds exciting, right? Nathan Kinch won the two support rounds for the Canadian Grand Prix in his ex-John Watson McLaren MP4, but I don’t think he’s racing this weekend. Should be a good spectacle anyway.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|