September, 22 2012
The Formula 1 roadshow rolls into Asia this weekend for the Marina Bay Street Circuit and the Singapore Grand Prix, one of the toughest and longest races on the F1 calendar.
The Singapore GP poses numerous challenges. It is the first major time-zone switch since April and the first night race of the season. It has an anti-clockwise circuit, which ensures a workout for the drivers’ necks and tests their physical conditioning, high track temperatures and humidity.
Marina Bay, the last street circuit of the year after Valencia and Monaco, also poses lots of challenges for cars. There are 14 left-hand and nine right-hand turns, plus long and fast straights combined with heaving braking zones, which are approached at high speed. Tyre choice is also an issue as teams have to account for high natural temperatures as well as the heat from the floodlit circuit.
No wonder then that the drivers from Red Bull Racing and Sahara Force India are approaching the Singapore GP with an equal measure of excitement and anticipation.
“Singapore is the toughest race of the year – physically and mentally,” says Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg. “There are 23 corners and it’s one of the longest races of the year – always close to the two hour limit.
“It’s a very long lap with some tricky bumps and kerbs, and you need to get close to the walls if you want to be quick, so getting the perfect lap is not easy. So you certainly feel it after the race because of the high temperatures and humidity.”
Team-mate Paul Di Resta, who placed an excellent 6th in last year’s race, says: “I had a good race there last year and we’ve seen already that the car has been strong on street circuits this year. I think it’s a track everybody enjoys and it’s an interesting race because of the unusual schedule.”
The Singapore GP has been a recent favored hunting ground for the Red Bull Racing-Renault, who currently lead the constructors’ championship with 272 points to from McLaren-Mercedes’ 243. Both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have podiumed there in 2010 and 2011, with the German winning last year on his way to the world title.
“Singapore is one of the highlights of the calendar, because the atmosphere of a night race is amazing,” said Vettel, who led Friday’s practice session. “I also like it because the track is really great to race on – which is partly to do with the fact that we race anti-clockwise.
“We all stay on European time for the weekend and because the race doesn’t start until 8pm, most of the drivers tend to get up at around 2pm – it’s pretty unusual.”
Team-mate Mark Webber demonstrated at Monaco that the Red Bull car can handle street circuits, something which gives the Australian some confidence that at Marina Bay he can get back to winning ways.
“We’ve had some good results in Singapore. It’s a very, very challenging circuit and one that the car should work well on,” said Webber. “We’ve been solid on street circuits this year, so that gives us some confidence that the car will be towards the sharp end again.”
Fernando Alonso leads the drivers’ championship on 179 points from Lewis Hamilton (142) and Kimi Raikkonen in third (141). Vettel and Webber are fourth and fifth respectively.
. Saturday sees the final practice session between 18:00 (all times CET) and 19:00 and qualifying at 21:00. Sunday’s race begins at 20:00.