Singapore Grand Prix Preview - Drivers prepare for the dark side 26 Sep 2008
Few races have been quite so keenly anticipated as the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix. It will be the first night race in Formula One history, and the sport's first-ever street race in Asia.
This is going to be a fantastic event, and I am really looking forward to competing in it and, hopefully, making a little history, says Ferraris Felipe Massa, who leads the title challenge against McLarens Lewis Hamilton. They go into the event a single point apart after the latters appeal against their Belgian Grand Prix penalty failed in Paris this week.
As he showed on 2008s other new street circuit in Valencia, where he won easily, Massa will be a formidable contender this weekend on a track that should suit the Ferrari F2008. But Hamilton also believes that his McLaren MP4-23 will be highly competitive.
"Im looking forward to visiting the country, trying the food, seeing what the track is like, seeing what it will be like to race on, he says. It is going to be an exciting weekend. The race will be quite a fun challenge, and I like a challenge! Ive never raced at night before, but I dont think it is going to be a problem.
It doesnt seem to be a problem in other sports and there have been huge preparations for this, so I think it will be great. We are racing on another street circuit, which are a particular favourite of mine. From what I understand it is wide and fairly flowing in nature, which is not what you usually expect from a street circuit, but it sounds like it will be pretty spectacular."
The anti-clockwise, 5.067-kilometre track winds through one of the worlds most charismatic cities, using public roads that pass such landmarks as the historic Anderson Bridge, St Andrews Road and Raffles Boulevard. The circuit also passes directly underneath a grandstand at one point.
With 23 turns and a mix of short, sharp straights and longer ones where maximum speeds will exceed 280 km/h, Singapore promises much. There are 10 right turns and 13 left, with Turns 10 and 12 likely to pose the greatest grip problems. Turns One, Seven, Eight, 10 and 14 are likely to offer the best opportunities for overtaking.
The race will inevitably be compared with that other famous street race in Monaco, but where the Monte Carlo circuit is tight and sinuous, Singapores is appreciably wider and significantly faster. An average speed of about 175 km/h has been calculated, compared to Monacos average speed during qualifying this year of about 160km/h.
The temporary lighting system is a major feat of engineering. 108,423 metres of power cables, 240 steel pylons and some 1,500 light projectors have been installed, creating light that is four times brighter than that used at sports stadiums.
All of the teams have developed bespoke packages to maximise their track performance here, and will have the choice between Bridgestones soft and super-soft tyre compounds. The biggest challenge, however, will be for each to organise themselves into night mode and get acclimatised for the unusual time schedule.
"Singapore is going to be a unique challenge for every member of the team, Hamilton says. Our doctor has prepared a very precise schedule for the drivers to stick to because all the sessions are so late in the day. Essentially we must not acclimatise to the local time, which is totally different to how we normally operate.
Our training programmes ensure that over a race weekend we are at peak performance during the afternoons and as a result we are going to be staying in European time so this doest get disrupted. Apparently not acclimatising is much harder than adapting, because your body naturally wants to change.
For the drivers, our meal, waking and sleeping rhythms will all be in European time, for example we will get up early afternoon for breakfast, have supper at 1am and go to bed at around 3am. It will be very different preparation to any other race but well try and do the best job we can."
The drivers will try out the track for the first time in Fridays opening free practice which starts at 1900 hours local time. Qualifying is the latest session of the weekend, kicking off at 2200 hours on Saturday, and the race starts at 2000 hours on Sunday. The local time in Singapore is eight hours ahead of GMT.