Lewis Hamilton has turned the tide and taken over the lead in the driver’s championship courtesy of back to back wins since the summer break, but this weekend F1 arrives in Singapore, which should on paper suit Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel down to the ground. Singapore has proven tricky for Mercedes in recent years, but then again, they have won 2 out of the last 3 years here, so you can’t exactly write them off! Red Bull will be hoping they can continue their recent good form in Singapore and possibly claim another victory, and throw in the fact that the safety car always makes an appearance in Singapore and the championship could be well and truly mixed up this weekend, so stay tuned!
Singapore is a relatively recent addition to the F1 calendar, first appearing in 2008, and the list of race winners is an exclusive one, with all previous winners having a world drivers title to their names (Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had this race all to themselves until last year Nico Rosberg won on his way to picking up the driver’s title). Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton both have two wins each, with Sebastian Vettel leading the way with 4 wins.
Last year’s race saw Nico Rosberg win from pole after outshadowing Lewis Hamilton all weekend, taking a major step towards securing his only world drivers championship in the process. Lewis couldn’t match Nico in qualifying, and then suffered in the race while struggling to manage high brake temperatures. Despite leading all the way, Mercedes were given a scare as they were challenged right at the end by the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who had a fine race after starting from the front row alongside Rosberg. Rosberg, on old tyres, was just able to hold Ricciardo off to take the win, while Lewis Hamilton recovered to third after getting the jump on Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari in the pits. Sebastian Vettel had a great race, coming through from the back of the grid to finish fifth, after a roll bar failure in qualifying left him unable to set a representative time, while Max Verstappen came home sixth after a disastrous start saw him drop right back down the order, Max getting stuck behind a feisty Daniil Kvyat provided plenty of entertainment during the race!
The Singapore Grand Prix dates back to 1961, when the Ministry of Culture decided to sponsor a race to be included as part of a tourism push, with 1961 being dubbed ‘Visit Singapore – The Orient Year’. The Singapore Motor Club were tasked with organizing the race, called the Orient Year Grand Prix. Without a permanent road course at their disposal, a street track would have to be used, and after reviewing various options the track was eventually decided to run around the old and new Upper Thomson roads. This was a 4.3 km circuit that started down the Upper Thompson road, with hairpin bends at either end of the straight. From the start finish line the cars flew (in some cases literally) over a fast kink called the hump, before tightening into a chicane then winding its way back around to the Upper Thomson road again via a series of bends and hairpins, the tight Devil’s Bend being one of the highlights of the course. The track, lined by monsoon drains and lampposts was both fast and dangerous, a true test of skill and bravery. The Grand Prix weekend, which featured separate races for motorbikes, vintage cars, touring cars and saloon car in addition to the Grand Prix, was deemed a great success, with reports of 100,000 people attending. The Grand Prix itself was held to Formula Libre rules, with Ian Barnwell taking the victory in an Aston Martin DB3S. After a successful event the Grand Prix continued in 1962, being renamed to the Malaysian Grand Prix, before being renamed the Singapore Grand Prix in 1966 following Singapore’s independence. The Grand Prix was thriving, with the race gaining stature, being added as a non-championship event in the world motor racing calendar in 1966, and the race attracting more foreign drivers, but the race would stop after 1973 (a race won by Australia’s Vern Schuppan driving a March). There had been talks about establishing a permanent track circuit, but this never materialized, and after the 1973 race the Singapore Sports Council announced in October that the race would be stopped – the official reason being given that the race was too dangerous (a number of drivers had lost their lives at the track since the races inception, with fatalities for Singaporean Lionel Chan in the 1972 race and Swiss racer Joe Huber during the 1973 weekend) although the Oil Shock of 1973 and local political factors were felt to have some impact on the decision as well. Attempts were made to have the Singapore Grand Prix revived, and it came close to being added to the F1 Calendar in 1992, with discussions taking place with Bernie Ecclestone and a proposed new track to be built for the race. However this bid stalled, and the track was never built, and Singapore would have to wait until 2008 when it would stage it’s first ever round of the Formula One World Championship, this time around the Marina Bay street circuit, in a spectacular night race, the first of its kind in Formula One.
The track was initially conceived by Herman Tilke, and has undergone some minor modifications since it’s first run in 2008. After the experience of the first Grand Prix, there were several modifications made for the second running in 2009. The original layout saw the pit exit feed back onto the track prior to turn 1, but this was altered along with modification to the profile of the first corner, resulting in the pit exit feeding out into Turn 2. The pit entry was also modified, with the entry moving back from the final corner to its current location prior to Turn 22. There were further small modifications to Turns 13 and 14, with further changes to Turn 10, the Singapore Sling as it was known. The Singapore Sling was an annoying slow chicane which simply seemed beneath the dignity of a modern Formula One car – but it also had a habit of sending cars airborne over the kerbs or sending them sailing helplessly into the wall on the exit, or both! The Sling appears to have been universally despised by the drivers, and it disappeared for good in 2013 when it was replaced with a straightforward bend, but not before it had caught a number of drivers out during its time as part of the circuit, with the likes of Giancarlo Fisichella , Kimi Raikkonen, Adrian Sutil, Kamui Kobayashi all victims of the tricky chicane.
The track saw further changes in 2015, with the section leading onto Anderson’s Bridge undergoing changes, with Turn 11 being re-aligned to sit tighter with the left hand side of Fullerton Road, reducing the corners speed. Turn 12 was altered so that the drivers now enter Anderson Bridge on the left hand lane before accelerating into Turn 13, which was widened by a meter in an attempt to provide more scope for overtaking.
It’s a flat circuit, with just 5.28 m elevation change, and the highest point of the track sits just 23 meters above sea level. Not a lot of time spent on full throttle, this is one of the slowest circuits on the calendar and will see cars running a high downforce specification. Despite being run at night the temperature is still very high here, and with the high humidity this race is one of the toughest physically for the drivers. It is also very hard on the brakes though, due to the number of corners and their closeness together, as well as the high ambient temperature. Overtaking is not very easy around the track, with qualifying and strategy vital, and teams need to be ready to adapt, as the safety car has made an appearance in every Grand Prix held here to date. Coming from Monza, which gives us a very quick race, the appearance of the safety car has seen the Singapore Grand Prix run to the 2 hour time limit in the past, to add another variable for those calling the strategies on the pit wall.
From the grid the cars have a reasonable run to down the start finish straight into the first series of corners, Turns 1 to 3, a left right left section that has plenty of scope for action on the opening lap. Turn 1 is sharp to the left and the track immediately curves to the right (Turn 2) and then doubles back again to the left (Turn 3). Don’t be surprised to see cars bailing out and cutting across the track here on the opening lap as the cars funnel into turn 1, although Fernando Alonso took this to extremes in 2014 as he simply ran too deep into Turn 1 to maximise his start, cutting across the track, his deep run into the corner allowing him to pass both Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo, and although he handed the place back to Vettel he was allowed keep the place he gained on Ricciardo. The pit exit feeds out into the middle of Turn 2, which will be one to watch for in the race as we saw in 2015 as Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India was punted into the wall by Felipe Massa’s Williams as the Nico rejoined the track just as the Williams was arriving (with Hulkenberg given a grid penalty for the next race for not leaving Massa room). Exiting turn 3 the cars run wide on the kerbs, mindful of the wall, and wind left (Turn 4) past the first DRS detection zone a short burst around Republic Boulevard down into Turn 5, a tight right hander (again mind the walls on the exit!), opening out onto Raffles Boulevard. This is the first DRS activation zone, with the cars winding right (Turn 6) before reaching Turn 7, one of the obvious overtaking opportunities on the track (Lewis Hamilton showed just how dominant the Mercedes was here in 2014 as he blasted past Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull on the run through Turn 6 into Turn 7, while Daniil Kvyat showed how to defend here last year as he repeatedly positioned his Toro Rosso to resolutely defend against the Red Bull of from Max Verstappen!), a tight left hander coming at the end of the DRS zone, and with space on the outside on the exit inviting both attack and defence alike. Out of Turn 7 the cars just have time to swap from the right to the left on Nicoll Highway before reaching Turn 8, another tight right hander. This is where Michael Schumacher went off in 2011, his Mercedes getting airborne after climbing all over Sergio Perez Sauber as they exited Turn 7. Watch the wall on exit and swap from left to right hand side of the track on Stamford Road for the sharp left hander Turn 9. Oh and watch the wall on exit. See a pattern appearing yet? The cars are allowed a little acceleration down St. Andrews Road before taking a left turn (Turn 10, where Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari outmuscled Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes last year) winding back to the left into a slow right hander (Turn 11) and opening out into a left hander (Turn 12) at the Anderson bridge with the track jinking right before a tight left hand hairpin (Turn 13) which may invite some desperate lunges as drivers attempt to find a spot to get by slower cars – Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Williams’ Bruno Senna banging wheels here in 2012 as Massa finally slid his way past his countryman into Turn 13. Watch the barriers on exit and the cars now accelerate down Esplanade Drive, the cars moving over to the left to take the next bend, Turn 14, a 90 degree right hander, where Mercedes Michael Schumacher earned a 10 place grid penalty in 2012 after hammering into the back of Jean Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. Careful of the wall on the exit and foot down to accelerate down Raffles Avenue, taking a gentle left (Turn 15) on the approach to a tight right hander (Turn 16), which can a successful overtaking spot, with Max Verstappen edging his Toro Rosso past Romain Grosjean’s Lotus here late on in 2015, and Red Bull’s Mark Webber also worked his way passed Fernando Alonso as they emerged onto Raffles Avenue on the run through Turn 15 and 16 back in 2011.
The exit of Turn 16 feeds into a left hander (Turn 17), keeping an eye on those walls on the exit. This is where Jenson Button’s McLaren came together with Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus in 2015, Button first nudging Maldonado in turn 16, with Maldonado then running wide and slowed into 17 and Button running straight into him from behind. After enjoying a very brief squirt of throttle the cars are into a tight left hander (Turn 18) and under the grandstand flowing into a tight right hander (Turn 19), barriers lurking to catch any lapses in concentration. Turn 18 has lent itself to a number of crashes over the years, with both Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso 2013) and Narain Karthikeyan (HRT 2012) bringing out the safety car by sliding off by themselves here. Another short squirt leads into a right left hand combination (Turns 20 and 21), with the track daring the drivers to run as close to the walls on exit as they can to set up a good run into the next turn, the left hander Turn 22, which opens into the final corner, another left hander (Turn 23 – that’s right 23!!). The 2nd DRS detection point is located on the run out of Turn 21, and the pit entrance dives in just after this prior to Turn 22. Exiting Turn 23 the cars are back on the start finish straight and the second DRS activation zone, with a run down into Turn 1 sure to give some hope for an overtaking opportunity (reference Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz lunge down the inside of Romain Grosjean into Turn 1 in 2015, running Grosjean off the track as he was determined to keep up the pressure on team mate Verstappen who had just passed Grosjean).
TYRES WITH PIRELLI:
Following one of the season’s most straightforward one-stop races in terms of strategy, at Monza, Formula 1 now heads to one of the most complex tactical races of the year, around the illuminated streets of Singapore. The three softest tyres in the P Zero range – soft, supersoft, and ultrasoft – have once again been brought to Singapore, just as was the case last year, ready for a 61-lap race that normally lasts close to the full two-hour limit, with more than one pit stop. Added to this unusual challenge are the usual considerations of a non-permanent street circuit: variable levels of low grip, street furniture such as manholes and white lines, as well as a high probability of safety cars: 100% so far in the track’s nine-year history.
THE THREE NOMINATED COMPOUNDS
1/ Purple ULTRASOFT
2/ Red SUPERSOFT
THE CIRCUIT FROM A TYRE POINT OF VIEW
- With each session starting late and continuing into the night, the pattern of track temperature and track evolution is different compared to usual daytime sessions.
- With 23 corners, the tyres have their work cut out; it’s one turn after another.
- While it’s the circuit with the most corners of the year, it’s also the second-slowest lap after Monaco: a unique combination.
- Even at night, ambient temperatures remain high, leading to some thermal degradation.
- The rear left is the most stressed tyre, which will largely dictate the number of pit stops.
- Two stops won the race last year, but there were several three-stoppers as well.
MARIO ISOLA – HEAD OF CAR RACING
“Singapore is always one of the most exciting and unpredictable races of the year, in which pit stop strategy often plays a crucial role in the outcome: also because of the near certainty of a safety car at some point during the arduous two hours. Having said that, pole position has historically had a strong influence on the race win at Marina Bay, so
qualifying will be crucial as well. In order to prepare, teams will have to pay particularly close attention to the free practice data as track temperature at night will evolve in quite a different way than it does at a conventional daytime race. Understanding this will be key to getting a good handle on wear and degradation rates, and so implementing an effective tyre strategy”.
- Team have generally favoured the ultrasoft tyre for Singapore, with the soft and supersoft being chosen in more modest quantities.
- There are no major modifications to the circuit layout and infrastructure this year.
- Pirelli’s 2018 slick tyre prototype test programme continued at Paul Ricard last week, with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas driving for Mercedes and fully completing the test schedule.
- Pirelli claimed its first overall FIA championship title of 2017 recently, thanks to Simone Faggioli who clinched the European Hillclimb Championship on P Zero tyres.
- Pirelli’s star guest at Salon Privé in the United Kingdom was former F1 driver John Watson from Northern Ireland, well-known for his overtaking prowess on street circuits.
MARINA BAY STREET CIRCUIT MINIMUM STARTING PRESSURES (SLICKS)
18.5 psi (front) – 17.0 psi (rear)
EOS CAMBER LIMIT
-3.75° (front) | -2.00° (rear)
It really is all to play for in Singapore which will be considered a weak track for Mercedes (well 2 out of 3 wins here in the PU era is probably weak by their recent standards). While Mercedes may be downplaying their chances they certainly cannot be counted out, with their form around the tight Hungaroring before the summer break showing they have improved after they struggled in Monaco earlier in the season. Certainly Sebastian Vettel has great form here, and Ferrari will be expecting to be able to carry the fight to Mercedes, but that doesn’t mean they will have it all their own way. Red Bull have more podiums here than any other team (Vettel did contribute greatly there!), and will be viewing this race as one where they can fight for victory. It’s also likely to provide McLaren with an opportunity for a decent result, and it will be interesting to see how the team from Woking can perform on a track that should emphasis the contribution of the chassis more than the ‘engine’!
2008 – Massa’s title dream left hanging by a thread as Alonso takes ‘Crashgate’ Victory for Renault (Read more)
2011 – Untouchable Vettel on the brink of back to back titles, Massa vs Hamilton Round III (Read more)
For the trip to Singapore we have to do without the usual European support series of F2/GP3 and the Porsche Supercup, instead the support races will be provided by the one make Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.
The Ferrari Challenge will warm up the crowd as the Ferrari 488s battle it out around the streets of Singapore, with Italy’s Philippe Prette holding a sizeable lead in the championship with only 2 race weekends left.
The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will see Singapore’s Andrew Tang (currently fourth in the standings) looking for glory in front of his home crowd. The series is headed by the 2015 champion, New Zealand’s Chris van der Drift, who holds a narrow lead over Austrian Martin Ragginger, with another Kiwi Will Bamber in third place still able to get into the championship mix, where he will hope to emulate the feat of his LeMans winning brother Earl, who won this championship back in 2013 and 2014, edging out Ragginger for the title both times!
|2013||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2012||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|
|2011||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault|