It would be fair to say that the calendar for the F1 category may seem a little strange. It starts in Melbourne, Australia, in what is early Autumn, before heading to the northern hemisphere for a number of rounds. After the mid season break it moves to the Asian region with Singapore, Russia, and Japan. It’s a curious schedule but it does bring with it the spectacle that is the Singapore night race.
The island country will host the second round after the break in the 2018 season and brings with it uncertainty hanging over the heads of some potentially key drivers in the future of the sport. Stoffel Vandoorne is one, with the exceptionally talented at the mercy of McLaren. But the other question is about Vandoorne himself. It’s not doubted the bloke can steer, it’s about how well he HASN’T done in this year’s season. Even with a chassis that may not be delivering as it should, Vandoorne simply has failed to fire and potentially may be overwhelmed by being at the top level of this particular kind of sport.
He would not be alone in this, as many in differing sports have proved to be more than adequate in anything other than the top level, yet that next step has them unable to deliver on promise, only to see a revesal of fortune in the lower levels once they return there.
Redemption for Romain Grosjean, Daniel Ricciardo, and Sebastian Vettel is also on offer this weekend. Ricciardo to see if his Red Bull can hang together mechanically after a clutch failure at Monza saw him retire for the fourth time in six races; Grosjean after his car was found to be “illegal” with a modified floor pan not meeting requirements, and Vettel for what is being seen as a brain snap in the first lap at Monza cost him a podium.
Those counting their blessing before the night race include Marcus Ericsson. A massive crash and roll over showed the validity of the “halo” device, with the team having to provide a new chassis and engine swap for the Sauber driver. It shows the strength and integrity of the cars now that Ericsson was able to get out of the wreck completely unscathed.
Singapore’s Marina Bay Circuit is a stunning location. Set in the city itself and featuring a cross-over design where the cars pass underneath a grandstand, it’s been on the calendar since 2008 and is regarded as one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar.
At just over five thousand metres in length it’s far from the longest track, but with a bumpy road surface, a compact layout, and twenty three corners, it’s far from the open and free flowing tracks seen elsewhere around the world. Such is the layout, and then bringing in the potential for high humidity levels, it’s said that drivers can lose up to three kilos of body mass after the 61 laps/308 kilometres has been completed.
The 2017 race was somewhat controversial; a wet race and a collision at the start saw the two Ferrari entrants and a Red Bull eliminated. History shows that Lewis Hamilton extracted something extraordinary to win ahead of Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas.
Practice 1 starts at 16:30 local time on Friday September 14, with qualifying at 21:00 local Saturday and the race getting underway at 20:10 local on Sunday September 16.