• Singapore Grand Prix preview

Put the champagne on ice

ESPNF1 Staff
September 22, 2011
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Rumour has it that Red Bull's marketing department has already made arrangements for an after party at Singapore's towering Stamford Swissotel on Sunday night, with Sebastian Vettel and double world champions as the theme. Of course Red Bull's official line is that the title is not over until it's over, but there's still a fairly good chance Vettel will be crowned the youngest ever double and back-to-back world champion by the end of the weekend.


The following results will guarantee him the 2011 title:

A win with Fernando Alonso fourth or lower and Jenson Button and Mark Webber third or lower.

A second place finish ahead of Lewis Hamilton with Alonso eighth or lower and Button and Webber fifth or lower.

A third place finish ahead of Hamilton with Alonso ninth or lower and Button and Webber seventh or lower.

The second two are unlikely, but with eight wins to his name and Hamilton very capable of a second place finish the first scenario is entirely possible. What's more, both Vettel and Red Bull are brimming with confidence after their win at the Italian Grand Prix and, if anything, Singapore is better suited to the RB7 than Monza. The champagne (and Red Bull) is on ice.

On form

Sebastian Vettel's victory at Monza was one of his finest this season. He and Red Bull got the trade off between downforce and straight-line speed absolutely spot-on, allowing him to qualify on pole and dominate the race. He lost a place to Fernando Alonso at the start but snatched it back in dramatic fashion and went on to take his second victory in asmany races. All that's left is to wrap up the title for good, and it's safe to say that it's now a matter of when not if.

Out of form

The 2011 season will be one to forget for Williams. The once dominant team has just five points from 13 races and neither of its car have finish in the top eight all season. With six races remaining it appears to be destined to finish ninth in the constructors', which will be its worst position since 1978 when it scored 11 points in just its second season. There are updates to the car for Singapore including a new front wing assembly and diffuser, but the night race will also be the last for technical director Sam Michael, a sure sign that the FW33 is reaching the end of its development. The focus is now on the new technical team led by Mike Coughlan to deliver the goods next year.

Kamui Kobayashi qualified tenth in Singapore last year © Sutton Images
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One to watch

Sauber has failed to score a point at the last three races after struggling at the high-speed circuits of Spa Francorchamps and Monza. Singapore's tight confines will provide a happier hunting ground and the return to the super-soft and soft tyre compounds should also suit the characteristics of the C30. Of the two drivers Kamui Kobayashi is the most likely to push the boundaries of the Singapore circuit and has good form there after qualifying 10th last year.

Talking points

Vettel's championship As mentioned in the introduction, a win for Sebastian Vettel could quite easily secure him the 2011 world championship this weekend. He will undoubtedly get asked about his chances of sealing the deal in the build up to the race and will most likely respond by trawling out the stock response that he is focusing on each of the six individual remaining races. But the interesting thing will be how he acts on track and whether he goes on an all-out attack to try to take the title this weekend.

Rain Every time F1 has visited Singapore there have been concerns about a tropical downpour during one of the sessions, and yet we have not witnessed a truly wet session. Last year the circuit was damp during practice but, despite taking a long time to dry in the humid conditions, it was not a problem. The concern is that heavy rain could cause glare from the lights, but the good news is that the nasty thunderstorms tend to occur in the afternoon in Singapore and by the evening, when the cars are out, conditions are usually dry.

Musical chairs for 2012 With the top teams' driver line-ups pretty much sorted for next season, attention has turned to the remaining midfield teams that have yet to confirm their plans. Renault has three potential candidates in Robert Kubica, who is still recovering from his rallying injury, Vitaly Petrov, who is under contract for 2012, and Bruno Senna, who is impressing in his new role as race driver. The big question is whether Kubica can fully recover in time, but if he does it is then a question of who will join him. Petrov's position was thought to be secure until Eric Boullier muddied the waters earlier this week by telling the Daily Mail: "You have contracts, but there are some exit clauses for every party." There is also a potential opening at Williams to replace Rubens Barrichello and in recent weeks both Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil have visited the factory. Meanwhile, Force India and Toro Rosso are not expected to announce their 2012 line-ups until the end of the year, creating plenty of opportunity for further speculation.

Overtaking Despite Singapore being one of the paddock's favourite circuits, overtaking has actually been quite rare. Last year Robert Kubica and Mark Webber proved that it is possible given the right set of circumstances and this year the Pirelli tyres and DRS should open up several more opportunities. Turn seven will be the favoured spot for most drivers with the DRS zone assisting the chasing car on the straight before. Turn one will also be an opportunity for cars that are on fresher tyres through the high-speed final corner.

The lights were tested earlier this week © Getty Images
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Trivia

  • The first grand prix in Singapore took place in 1961 and was called the Orient Year Grand Prix, in 1962 it was renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix and 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 from Britain in 1965 it held its own annual grand prix 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

Fast facts

  • The top speed is 298km/h, achieved on Raffles Boulevard
  • The drivers spend 70% of the lap on full throttle and are expected to use the DRS for 52.2% of the lap in qualifying
  • The pit lane is 400m long and a pit stop, minus stationary time, takes 19.3 seconds
  • 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

Circuit

After just three years of use, the Marina Bay circuit has already established itself as a classic 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 setup, similar to Monaco and Hungary, and suspension settings to cope with the bumps and high kerbs that litter the circuit. Good traction is key for corner exits while braking stability is important for the stops into the slower corners such as turns 7, 10 and 14.

© Getty Images
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Weather

It is currently rainy season in the city and thunderstorms are predicted on all three days. 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. Thunderstorms in Singapore are usually either heavy or biblical but the saving grace is that they tend to occur in the afternoon, well before the cars hit the track. However, the steamy heat means the surface struggles to dry and last year a couple of the practice sessions started damp. One thing is for sure and that's that it will be very hot and very humid, making Singapore one of the toughest physical challenges for the drivers.

Betting

No prizes for guessing who the bookies' favourite is this weekend and you won't see much of a return if you bet on Sebastian Vettel at 5/6 either. Previous Singapore Grand Prix winners Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have slightly more tempting odds at 7/2 and 9/2 respectively, but Jenson Button and Mark Webber will give you even better returns at 15/2.

ESPN prediction

McLaren has fared will on tight circuits this year, such as Monaco and Hungary, and although Lewis Hamilton hasn't had the best of luck in those races he has won in Singapore before. The combination of soft and super soft tyres has also helped McLaren in its pursuit of Red Bull this season and Hamilton has the ability to eke every last tenth from them between the barriers.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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