A spectacular night race awaits the paddock as they move to Singapore for the start of the Asian leg of the Formula 1 campaign.
The Singapore Grand Prix is unlike any other on the calendar.
Sure, it’s a street circuit in the centre of the city with lots of right-hand corners. But there’s a special vibe and atmosphere that surrounds the event making it a ‘must see’ race for most spectators.
Walking past the British colonial buildings to the inner-city track you can feel a palpable excitement.
The night time setting adds to the spectacle with 1,500 lamps taking over the dusk evening to cast an entirely new light on the Formula 1 cars.
And the race organisers have done a superb job to make use of every inch of the public roads around the Marina Bay district to get spectators unbelievably close to the cars.
It all makes for a stunning Singapore Grand Prix.
Marina Bay Circuit: a track of extremes
But everything about the race is extreme.
The most obvious challenge is the heat and humidity – something that not even the night setting can alleviate. It makes driving in a confined cockpit unbearable and concentrating a serious challenge.
“It’s so hot and humid; a real test for the driver,” says Force India’s Sergio Perez. “Sometimes you feel really uncomfortable in the car and you just want the race to be over as soon as possible. It’s hard to breathe, you are sweating a lot and the sweat goes in your eyes!”
Then there is the race length. At 5.065 kilometres, it’s a long lap and a long race – the longest of the season. The race usually goes the full 2 hours so the mental endurance of the drivers is always being tested in Singapore.
And the track presents its own challenges. With a staggering 23 corners and the longest straight being only 520 meters, the circuit is tight and twisty. The non-stop braking gives the drivers little chance to cool their engines or tyres, while low grip, big kerbs and high traction demand complicates car setup.
Finally, the drivers need to find a way of overtaking on the confined Marina Bay Circuit. One of the few overtaking places is the Turn 7 90-degree right-hander that comes at the end of the fastest part of the track. But with overtaking opportunities so few and the unforgiving walls always nearby at least one safety-car appearance is almost certain.
Mario Isola from Pirelli says: “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.”
Ferrari Tipped as Favorites
Lewis Hamilton’s win at Monza put the Englishman on top of the driver’s championship for the first time this season.
His narrow 3-point lead could be challenged at Singapore with the twisty track and hot temperatures typically favouring Ferrari who have excelled in those conditions throughout 2017.
Mercedes also come to Singapore having delivered some of their worst performances in recent times at Marina Bay. Ferrari claimed victory in 2015 despite Mercedes otherwise dominating the season. And last year, Ferrari and Red Bull finished closer to Mercedes in Singapore than at any other track.
“In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
“So far this year, we have seen the pendulum swing according to circuit type.”
“On the surface, Singapore is the kind of circuit that should favour both Ferrari and Red Bull.”
“Both have shown strong performance on low-speed circuits demanding maximum downforce, and we have found life more difficult at those places in 2017.”
In front of 80,000 spectators with the city backdrop in the night sky, the battle between Hamilton and Vettel will be intense and something special to watch.