From the Temple of Speed to the Marina of Relentlessness, F1 teams are braced for one of the most intense venues on the calendar. But who’s set up for success?
A regular site for scenes of chaos, drama and controversy, the Singapore Grand Prix has become a modern classic and an integral part of sport.
With the Marina Bay Street Circuit hosting one of the toughest races of the season, we take you through Singapore’s unique challenge, and which teams might be well-placed to succeed.
How has the circuit changed for 2023?
The Marina Bay Street Circuit has undergone numerous minor tweaks in its 16-season history, but the fundamental 23-turn layout of the venue has remained the same. However, this season sees the first major configuration change for the circuit, with the number of turns dropping down to 19.
The section that is being removed from the circuit is in sector three, which has historically been a series of mostly-90-degree corners. Due to the redevelopment of the Float at Marina Bay into ‘NS Square’, the four corners which previously made up turns 16 to 19 have been temporarily removed, which was the right-left-left-right sequence which sent the drivers under a grandstand.
The little straight in between turns 17 and 18 had sometimes been a scene of overtaking opportunism, with several drivers falling foul of the barrier at turn 18. However, the section is traditionally single file, and converting this section into one straight is likely to increase the number of overtaking chances.
Visually, this might make the relentless challenge of the Marina Bay circuit look less spectacular, particularly from the onboard cameras, but hopefully this will provide the increase in action many have desired.
What are the characteristics of the Singapore circuit?
In a stark contrast to the Monza circuit, teams will be trying to generate much higher levels of downforce from their cars. The track consists predominantly of low-speed corners with relatively short straights. The changes to the circuit for 2023 will slightly lessen the demand for super-high downforce configurations, but the track will definitely still favour the teams that can optimally run higher loads on the car.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit featured three DRS zones in 2022, and the invention of a new longer straight in this year’s race opens the door for a fourth. Alternatively, one of the less-effective DRS zones could be moved to this longer straight. Either way, an increase in the total length of the DRS activation zones will only serve to favour the teams who can use them effectively.
As is common with street circuits, teams will need to set their cars up to be able to handle the quirks of the public roads. A car’s ability to be able to handle the bumps, undulations, drain covers and low-grip painted lines will be critical to achieving a good result.
Whilst the tarmac is moderately abrasive, the high temperatures of Singapore are likely to create concerns over thermal degradation of the tyres. Teams will also need to ensure their cars have sufficient cooling to deal with the climate. The inclusion of another straight will provide an extra opportunity to cool the car down and take care of the power unit and brake temperatures.
Who is expected to do well at the Singapore Grand Prix?
The teams who were prepared for pain at the high-speed Monza circuit are likely to be hoping for much different fortunes at the Marina Bay circuit. Some of the teams that have confessed to having issues with aerodynamic drag won’t experience the same top speed deficits seen in Monza.
McLaren, Aston Martin and in particular Alpine suffered drop-offs in performance due to a lack of aerodynamic efficiency at Monza, so the much lower average speeds at Singapore will help them push further up the grid. Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin in particular have been eyeing up the Singapore GP as a potential win location for some time.
Mercedes also felt the pain of a draggy car, and have openly said that their heavily-modified car prefers the higher-downforce circuits, as proven by Lewis Hamilton’s pole position for the Hungarian GP.
However, the modified Singapore circuit means that average speeds will be higher than usual, which might mean any drag-related issues won’t be as well disguised as in previous seasons.
Whilst Red Bull have been the unquestioned class of the field in 2023, team’s have occasionally been able to best them in qualifying trim. Despite this, it’s hard to look beyond Red Bull for the race, even if they don’t lock out the front row. If they can stay out of trouble on the opening lap, their tyre efficiency will likely prevail once again, helped along with any increase in DRS zone length.
After throwing the kitchen sink at Red Bull on their home turf, Ferrari might find themselves concentrating more on the likes of Mercedes, Aston Martin and McLaren in Singapore, who could all surge forward and get themselves back into podium contention. The team’s inconsistent form (and setup issues) is difficult to read, but tyre overheating issues – like the ones commented on by Max Verstappen at Monza – might make the race difficult for them.
Williams have openly admitted that they’re not looking forward to the Singapore GP weekend. Their low-downforce car is unlikely to be suited to the venue, although their upgrades over the season have been focused on making the car more of an all-rounder, so they will be hoping for a similar surprise to the Dutch GP. The tyre overheating issues seen in Monza don’t put them in good stead for the hot Marina Bay circuit, however.
The majority of Haas’ points have come in chaotic or rain-affected races, and they will probably be hoping for something similar from Singapore. Whilst they have been able to extract good one-lap pace across a variety of circuits this season, chronic tyre issues have shown no sign of going away, and the heat of Singapore might trigger similar issues again.
Whilst this season’s bottom two teams, Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri, have generally suffered from a lack of overall car performance, both will have hopes for different reasons. AlphaTauri have been focusing on improving performances in low-speed corners – of which there are a lot in Singapore – and Alfa Romeo’s excess aerodynamic drag will not be as obvious in Singapore.
AlphaTauri had respectable performance in the low-speed, high-downforce Monaco GP qualifying, and Alfa Romeo had pace success at the Hungarian GP. Both teams will be hoping some of this can be translated into an outside opportunity for points in Singapore.