Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘roving reporter’ Adam Macdonald
After what has felt like an eternity to even the most passive of Formula One fans, we were treated to a slow burner in Milan as Nico Rosberg’s Championship hopes went up in engine smoke just a few laps from the end. Hamilton’s lead now over two race wins large it would seem a foregone conclusion, but this was the race which changed the momentum of the Championship last year, will it be the same in 2015?
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.
Lewis Hamilton will once again be the favourite for pole and the win around the last circuit street of the year. Mercedes will be the favourites to lock out the front row again, though Ferrari and Red Bull will be hot on their heels. It was this race last year that the exclamation “damn it” was made so famous by Nico Rosberg, beaten by just 0.007s in qualifying.
Sebastian Vettel has enjoyed a period of dominance at this track, with three consecutive victories from 2011-13, ensuring that he is the most successful driver at the track from Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who won in 2008 + 2010 and 2009 + 2014 respectively.
The constructor with the most victories at this track is obviously still 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.
Pirelli and Singapore
Singapore has the highest number of corners of any circuit on the Formula One calendar (23), creating more work for the tyres. Coupled with the 80% humidity, two-hour race time, and the fact that it’s the second-slowest lap of the year after Monaco (which limits cooling and airflow through the car) this makes Marina Bay the most physically challenging circuit of all for the drivers.
All these corners mean that traction and braking are the two most vital aspects of the Marina Bay circuit. Like most street circuits, the surface in Singapore is quite bumpy, and this certainly doesn’t help. With very little run-off area, mistakes rarely go unpunished: requiring a high degree of precision from the tyre. The left-rear is the tyre that is worked hardest, while the cars run very high downforce.
Ambient temperatures tend to be in the region of 30-35 degrees centigrade even at night, making it perfect territory for the high working range of the soft tyre. Drivers will have to manage the supersoft carefully, in order to benefit from the compound’s maximum performance by not overheating it.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director: “Since joining the calendar in 2008, Singapore has always provided a truly stunning spectacle that showcases what Formula One is all about: the most advanced technology in the world, under the spotlights.
As this is a street circuit, we’ve nominated the two softest and fastest tyres in the range: they offer the maximum mechanical grip and a rapid warm-up, which are two keys to success in Singapore. There are lots of factors for the teams and drivers to consider when planning strategy: the unusual track temperature evolution, a big performance gap between the two compounds, the need to save fuel over the long and demanding race distance, as well as the high likelihood of a safety car, which has featured at every race in Singapore so far.
Because of all these variables and also the assorted street furniture – painted white lines, manhole covers and so on, which have caught out a few drivers in the past – the work done in free practice to capture all the necessary tyre data will be even more important than usual.
During these days, we will also be defining, together with the FIA, a clearer procedure enabling the teams to more easily follow the rules regarding tyre usage. This is important to avoid any misunderstandings, by giving the teams more precise indications to comply with, thus avoiding what happened to Mercedes in Monza.”
Expected performance gap between the two compounds: 1.8 – 2.2 seconds per lap.
Last year’s strategy and how the race was won: Lewis Hamilton won the 61-lap race using a three-stop strategy. He started on the supersoft, pitted for supersoft again on lap 15, supersoft again on lap 31, and soft on lap 52. There was a wide variety of strategies used throughout the field.
Brembo and the Marina Bay Street Circuit
* Turn 07 is considered the most demanding for the braking system.
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.
2014 – The ‘invisible contaminant’ that Nico Rosberg any real chance of points around the night race meant the only thing that could stop Lewis Hamilton from taking the win was a poorly timed safety car. When Perez and Sutil collided it meant the Mercedes team were forced to show their true pace, pumping in scintillating laps to build just enough of a gap to the quarrelling chasing pack.
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|