Singapore Grand Prix Preview - which night owl will fly fastest? 24 Sep 2009
The outcry over the ultimate result notwithstanding, last year's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One racing's first-ever night race, was an outstanding success. And this weekend's follow-up is just as eagerly anticipated.
The 5.073-kilometre Marina Bay Street Circuit is located in the heart of downtown Singapore, and passes several famous landmarks including Saint Andrew's Cathedral, City Hall, the Supreme Court and the Esplanade Bridge.
It comprises public roads and features 23 corners, two of which will be taken at speeds in excess of 100 mph. Running in an anti-clockwise direction it is the only circuit which crosses two bridges and travels beneath a grandstand.
Since this is a night race, teams face the unusual prospect of the track temperature being cooler than the air temperature. This could create slippery conditions for drivers, hence the need for maximum downforce. Over 1,500 light projectors, each with 2,000 watt white metal halide lamps, will be used to illuminate the way.
As usual, everyone has developed bespoke aerodynamic packages, and this time their tyre choice falls between Bridgestone's soft and super-soft tyre compounds. Red Bull desperately need a strong result here to stay in the world championship fight, in both the drivers' and constructors' stakes. They will have a new aero package, as will their main rival, Brawn GP.
"We have a significant aerodynamic upgrade for the BGP001 for this weekend which should bring another good step in performance for the final races of the season," says Ross Brawn. "The nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit is tight, twisty and very narrow in places with many first- and second-gear corners resulting in low average speeds, so we will be running the car in a high aerodynamic downforce configuration."
Points leader Jenson Button spoke for many when he said: "As last year, we will stay on European timing for the race weekend which means staying awake throughout the night and sleeping most of the day to ensure that we are alert and the body is ready to react in the right way for the evening timetable.
"I spent some time at the factory last week driving the circuit on our simulator which helps with the track layout, gears and downforce levels, so we are well prepared and looking forward to arriving in Singapore and getting the weekend underway."
Lewis Hamilton is also hopeful of a strong performance, with McLaren's final upgrade of the season.
"Last year's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was a real example of how to host a new Formula One race - fantastic facilities, slick organisation and a unique and interesting track that was not only fun and demanding but also really forced you to push to the limit and take a few risks to get the best from the car," he says. "I remember my race in Singapore last year was all about damage limitation - I was driving with one eye on the world championship and wasn't going to take too many risks. I was happy to finish on the podium. This year, it's very different. I know I'm out of the title hunt and I want to attack these last four races, pushing for as many victories as I can."
Ferrari are quietly hoping the F60 will be quick here, while last year's controversial winner for Renault, Fernando Alonso, says: "I like Singapore because it's quite challenging and there are some interesting corners like the high-speed chicane at Turn 10 where you have to carry a lot of speed and use the curbs. Overtaking isn't easy here, but there are some opportunities. How will the R29 perform this weekend? The car is working well at most circuits so I believe we are competitive enough to get close to the podium, which has to be my target this weekend."
The drivers will all try to stay on European time, and Friday's opening free practice session will start at 1800 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.