George Russell feels the Marina Bay Circuit, host venue of the Singapore Grand Prix, should be revamped to boost overtaking opportunities.
Singapore certainly delivered on atmosphere as Formula 1 returned for the first time since 2019, a new attendance record set for the event of 302,000 as fans flocked through the gates to embrace Formula 1 action in the nation once more.
But on the track, while multiple appearances of the Safety Car and Virtual Safety Car played their part in spicing up the action, there was not a great deal of clean overtaking going on.
The conditions certainly played a part in that, the race having begun on intermediate tyres after a storm had passed over the circuit and triggered a delay of over an hour. The track, as in qualifying, dried slowly, which meant it was treacherous to go off the racing line and encounter the wetter parts on wearing intermediate tyres.
And once the drivers switched to dry tyres, it was still far from an overtaking bonanza with Russell, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton doing the bulk of the attacking as they looked to push up through the pack.
Russell believes the conditions alone cannot be blamed for the limited action, the director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association suggesting changes can be made to the Marina Bay track to generate more overtaking opportunities.
“You have to be incredibly audacious in these conditions and without DRS, on a circuit like this, these F1 cars are nigh-on impossible to overtake,” said Russell, quoted by GPFans.
“I feel like F1 has something to learn about these kinds of circuits, here and Barcelona – the only overtaking opportunities, the corners are too quick.
“Here, you are braking just after the 100m board into that 90-degree left-hander. There’s enough space there to make it a tighter corner to make for better racing and better overtaking.”
In his efforts to bring some overtaking action to the show, while Russell enjoyed some success he also encountered setbacks, making contact with Valtteri Bottas and also Mick Schumacher, the collision with Schumacher causing a puncture for both drivers.
As for Bottas, Russell clipped the Finn’s Alfa Romeo as he lunged and alas that one ended with Russell needing the sanctuary of the escape road.
“I lunged from a long way back,” said Russell, who finished the race P14 and last in his Mercedes. “If it had paid off, great, but it didn’t.
“Nevertheless, we caught him back up in two laps. It goes to show the pace we had.”
Not our finest weekend but the team did a mega job to resolve our Quali issues which, combined with our pace in the dry, is a big positive to take. In such a long and demanding season we were bound to have one that didn't go our way, so we chalk this one off and move on to Japan. pic.twitter.com/Dy50v9sCFv
— George Russell (@GeorgeRussell63) October 2, 2022
DRS crucial for overtaking action in Singapore and beyond
Although the FIA have gone to great lengths to try and reduce Formula 1’s reliance on DRS with the all-new 2022 cars, from what we have seen so far Formula 1 is still a long way from reaching the point where this aid could be axed without lessening the quality of the racing action. Singapore only further proved this.
Imola earlier in the season offered a taster of Formula 1 without DRS during the first half of the race, a lack of overtakes supporting that theory, while Singapore further validated it with DRS not enabled until lap 43.
Although overtaking did not exactly increase once it was, that was largely down to track conditions as Formula 1’s 2019 visit to Singapore demonstrated the power of DRS, even in cars that were perceived to make following and therefore passing more difficult.
There were 118 on-track overtakes made in the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, according to data from Formula 1, where three DRS zones were active. So that kind of number would make for some excitement on any circuit!
So does the Marina Bay Street Circuit need to be redesigned for regular overtakes to become possible? Probably not.