- Singapore Grand Prix preview
A stab in the darkLaurence Edmondson September 22, 2010
Nothing is certain in Formula One this year. As the F1 circus left Spa Francorchamps four weeks ago, the drivers' championship appeared to have been boiled down to a two-horse race. Leaving Monza two weeks later and we were back to a five-way battle. It is now widely believed that the Red Bull will be the fastest car around the streets of Singapore, but even that isn't set in stone. There is no doubt that the RB6s will be quick, but it's also worth baring in mind the influence that the stricter flexi tests have had on the cars since Hungary, not to mention the updates to all cars between races. Predicting the result in Singapore this weekend really is a stab in the dark.
On formFernando Alonso went into the Italian Grand Prix knowing it was the most important race of his Ferrari career to date. He desperately needed a win for his title chances but was under a huge amount of pressure to perform in front of the home crowd. Needless to say he managed it, and in doing so showed a glimpse of his 2005 and 2006 championship-winning form that deserted him in Belgium and on a number of other occasions this year. In his two visits to Singapore he has won (albeit with the help of a well-timed crash) and finished third in uncompetitive cars. He will be challenging the Red Bulls from start to finish.
Out of formLewis Hamilton had a car capable of winning in Monza but he qualified fourth and crashed out. Ironically, his controversial strategy not to run the F-duct could have worked but was never put to the test. The extra straight-line speed should have given him a huge advantage at Monza and allowed him to pass the Ferraris and Button, but the resulting lack of downforce meant he made a mistake in qualifying and in the race struggled to slow the car on a heavy tank under braking for the second chicane. There should not be an F-duct dilemma in Singapore to distract him, but the McLaren will not be as competitive compared to the Red Bulls and Ferraris.
One to watchNico Rosberg has been incredibly quick on his last two visits to Singapore and should have two podiums to his name as a result. In 2008 he finished second despite a penalty for refuelling under the safety car and in 2009 he qualified third and was on for a good result before another penalty, this time for crossing the pit exit line. His Mercedes team is currently in good form and the teething problems it has had with its latest updates have finally been ironed out. What's more, Singapore is a track where in the past championship leaders have made mistakes and underdogs have come out on top.
For this year's race major parts of the track have been resurfaced in order to improve safety and driver comfort. In many respects it is a shame as we are less likely to see sparks fly from the undertrays of cars and it takes away one of the more challenging aspects of the circuit. The only positive will be if it gives drivers more confidence to go off line and attempt to overtake.
It is guaranteed to rain at some point during the grand prix weekend, but the question is whether it will do so during one of the sessions. Nobody is quite sure what will happen if litres of spray are thrown up under high-powered floodlights, but it's likely that visibility will be severely restricted. The other problem is that thunderstorms in Singapore are always either heavy or biblical and the drainage on the street circuit has never been tested.
The latest rumour in the F1 paddock is that this will be Michael Schumacher's last season. Fans of the seven-time world champion can take solace that the speculation was sparked by one of Eddie Jordan's hunches, but it's hard to deny that it would make some sense. F1's opinion makers are largely agreed that he will wait until the first Pirelli tyre test to see if his problem with front-end grip can be solved by next year's new rubber. But that won't stop the endless speculation in between times.
Over the winter it looked as though Michael Schumacher's decision to return to F1 had brought an end to Nick Heidfeld's racing career, as the 33-year-old German had to settle for a test seat with Mercedes. But then came a ray of hope in the form of a Pirelli tyre testing contract and he went from a has-been to one of F1's hottest properties overnight as he garnered vital knowledge about the 2011 tyres. Peter Sauber saw the value of his experience and offered him a race contract to the end of the season in return. As a result Heidfeld will return to the cockpit at Singapore, but don't expect any miracles as his opening laps on a dusty track on Friday will be his first in the Sauber.
- The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix took place in 1961 and was called the Orient Year Grand Prix. In 1962, it was renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix. In 1963, two years after its introduction, the grand prix became listed on the World Motor Racing calendar and was part of the Asian circuit of racing events
- Graeme Lawrence was the most successful driver in the early grands prix, he won three times for both Ferrari and McLaren
- After Singapore gained independence in 1965, it held its own annual grand prix from 1966 during the Easter holidays and called it the Singapore Grand Prix. However, racing was banned in 1973 after concerns it promoted reckless driving. Seven deaths occurred over the 11 years of the event
- To ensure visibility at the modern night race, 1,600 high-wattage lights are put up around the circuit. A total of 3,180,000 watts of power will be used to ensure a brightness level of 3000 lux. The result is four times brighter than an average sports stadium
- The lap record is 1:45.599 set by Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari in 2008
- The pit lane is 400m long and a pit stop, minus stationary time, takes 19.3 seconds
- The Vmax top speed is 298 km/h, achieved on Raffles Boulevard
- On average an F1 car burns 2.45kg of fuel a lap, and each lap of fuel in the tank costs the driver around 0.08 seconds a lap
CircuitAfter just two years of use, the Marina Bay circuit has already established itself as a favourite for both drivers and fans. More than anything it benefits from being at the centre of one of the world's most vibrant cities, but the novelty of a night race and the intensity of a flying lap lift the excitement level well above the average circuit. From a technical perspective it requires a high-downforce set-up, similar to Monaco and Hungary but with suspension settings to cope with the bumps and high kerbs that litter the circuit. Overtaking is possible into turn seven but only if the following car gets a much better run onto Raffles Boulevard. There are also opportunities into turn one and 14 but it requires a mistake from the leading car to make it stick.
WeatherIt has never rained during a grand prix session at Singapore but it is only a matter of time until it does. It is currently rainy season in the city and thunderstorms are predicted on all three days. The steamy South East Asian heat means that a wet track could stay wet, especially with the sessions taking place at night.
BettingAfter their supremacy on similar circuits in Monaco and Hungary, the Red Bulls are the favourites with Sebastian Vettel at 2/1 and Mark Webber at 3/1. Fernando Alonso is 4/1 just ahead of Lewis Hamilton at 9/2. Despite his strong performance at Monza, Jenson Button is just 11/1 with odds only slightly shorter than Robert Kubica at 14/1. Meanwhile, Button is 14/1 to win the title, a long way off favourite Webber at 13/8.
ESPNF1 predictionFernando Alonso is riding a wave after his Monza victory and the car is set to have further upgrades this weekend that should work to his favour on the tight circuit. The Red Bulls would be the obvious choice for victory, but the Marina Bay circuit in 30C heat is a bit of a car breaker and reliability has not been their strong point this season.
Laurence Edmondson is an assistant editor on ESPNF1