F1 looks forward to the Singapore Grand Prix weekend and the buzz around the city for F1’s long-established night race. It’s like Bahrain with atmosphere or Montreal without the daylight. The only difference is that people in Montreal are happy while in Singapore, despite the high average wealth, they’re the most miserable in the world. In Gallup surveys they come bottom along with places like Haiti and Afghanistan. So just imagine how much unhappier they’ll be this year with the sound of those screaming V8s and a bunch of hairdryers in their place…?
The weather is going to be predictably warm through the weekend, but there’s a high chance of rain through FP1, FP2, FP3. Qualifying might escape any rainfall and the race should be dry after earlier rain on the Sunday.
Sebastian Vettel’s won here for the last three years, so can he break his 2014 duck at a circuit where has a blue-chip record? “The toughest challenges in Singapore are the heat and the amount of turns (23, with 80 gear changes a lap). The chicanes are very difficult to drive and you barely get to catch your breath. Very important for a fast lap is the last turn before heading to the start finish line. There is an extremely high curb, which you should not hit otherwise the car lifts up. It’s very long, there’s no space for mistakes and the race just seems to go on forever.”
Traction is the big factor in Singapore. This is because the corners are generally slow and tight, so it means the way cars exit turns will be critical to ensure a good lap time. It’s going to be a tough challenge to regulate the torque and the traction out of the slow-speed corners with all that recovered energy. And there’s a lot of them.
The biggest thing on everyone’s mind this weekend will be what the team can and can’t say on the radio. There’s a big list of ‘cans’ and ‘cannots’ now that the FIA have ruled that drivers are not allowed driver coaching over team radio while they’re out on the circuit.
The most complex set of instructions from the engineer revolve around clutch bite points and sorting out the launch procedure on the parade lap. There could be some muffed starts in Singapore thanks to the new prohibition of advice.
“We are still evaluating the full consequences of the new interpretation of Article 20.1 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, but, as a team, we will of course find a solution that works and which follows this new interpretation. Singapore is a difficult race to manage under normal circumstances, so this will definitely add an extra dimension to our preparations.”
Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery has decided to go very soft. “The unique nature of the race at night obviously has an impact on the tyres, and we’ve selected the two softest tyres in the range for their rapid warm-up and high levels of mechanical grip: vital characteristics on a street circuit. This is actually a step softer than last year, when we nominated the medium and supersoft, so we should see some interesting tyre strategies with teams taking full advantage of the performance on offer.
Given that it is a long, strength-sapping race with 23 turns and very close barriers, the chances of a Safety Car are very high. There have been six races at Marina Bay and there has been a Safety Car in every race. So far this season Daniel Ricciardo has had 11 consecutive points finishes and Nico Rosberg has led at least one lap for nine consecutive races.
Daniel Ricciardo gets a lot of Aussie support in Singapore, which is about the same distance from Western Australia than Melbourne is. Daniel says he likes it dirty: “When you walk around on Thursday, the surface always looks pretty dirty. Modern street races tend to wash and scrub the track but even that doesn’t really change the fact that you’re driving on a public road with all the grit and grime and dirt that those have. It means you’re in for a slithery, bumpy weekend – which I love! The important thing in Singapore is to not get caught chasing the set-up on a Friday. The track is going to evolve, you’ve just got to be patient and let it happen without constantly tweaking your car, trying to hit a moving target.”