Formula 1 returns to the track this weekend as the teams descend on Singapore for the only true night race on the calendar.
Singapore is relatively new to Formula 1 having only hosted its first race in 2008.
But in that short time the Marina Bay Circuit has established its own identity and become a ‘must see’ race for most spectators.
And it’s not hard to understand why.
Nothing compares to the spectacle of Formula 1 cars at night lit up by 1,500 lamps around the circuit. The tropical humidity is punctured only by a vibrant atmosphere and the cars navigating the challenging downtown track.
With the dazzling city skyline as a backdrop, the track makes use of public roads around the Marina Bay district. The result is a spectacular street circuit with low grip, lots of bumps, high walls and few genuine overtaking opportunities.
The 23 corners – most of which are 90 degree turns – feature 16 braking zones. The non-stop braking around the circuit gives the drivers little chance to cool their engines or tyres forcing each to chose between speed and conservation at some point in the race.
Despite there being excellent run off areas for a street circuit, Marina Bay has also witnessed its share of incidents with a safety car at each Grand Prix. The tight left-right-left zig-zag through Turns 1 to 3 on the opening lap could be one to keep an eye on.
Hard on Drivers and Their Crew
But if the track is hard on the drivers spare a thought for the pit crew.
The race stays on European time with the practice sessions run in early evening and both qualifying and the race taking place about two hours after sunset.
If the demanding humidity isn’t enough, the teams keep strictly to their European time zone – getting up at about 2:00pm, having dinner in the early hours of the morning, and going to bed before sunset.
“Knowing you’re working on European time while the rest of Singapore is running on local time makes it really unique – like racing in a parallel universe!” adds McLaren’s Jenson Button.
Upset in The Cards
Unlike many of its European counterparts, Singapore is a track with more emphasis on downforce than power unit.
And this plays nicely into the hands of Red Bull, especially, but also Ferrari.
“This is a Red Bull track and we weren’t so strong there last year,” said Nico Rosberg.
“But I have faith in the team and my belief in myself is as high as ever. I approach each weekend aiming to win the race.”
But with Red Bull expecting Singapore and Monaco – where Ricciardo finished second due only to a slow pit stop – to be their best chances of victory, Toto Wolff from Mercedes made a swipe at their inability to find pace at other tracks.
“Our car is the best compromise,” said Wolff
“We have 21 races throughout the season and we have to have a chassis-engine combination that works well in average.
“You have a team that is doing extremely well on circuits like Singapore with high downforce but they are not competitive on a circuit like [Monza].”
“It is about finding the best compromise. Let’s see what happens in Singapore.”
The Singapore Grand Prix starts at 20:00 local time and will run over 61 laps.