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Renault prepare for Singapore night fever 21 Sep 2010

Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 25 September 2009 Renault R29 from the Singapore Flyer.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 27 September 2009 Robert Kubica (POL) Renault R30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 12, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 31 July 2010 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Saturday, 26 September 2009 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R29.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 27 September 2009

This year’s Singapore Grand Prix may be third time the Formula One circus has descended on the tiny island city-state, but its night race status and quirky timetable still make it a novelty for the teams. It’s a change from the normal routine and, as such, has become one of the most popular races of the year.

Ironically, the night race means that although the teams have to work night shifts, they can remain on a European time zone, as Renault’ sporting director Steve Nielsen explains: “Although there’s a seven-hour time difference to Europe, we can step off the plane and remain on European time. Travelling to Singapore therefore impacts on us much less than a race like China because we don’t have the jet lag.”

Sticking to a European schedule also means the team can travel out later to Singapore than for a typical flyaway race. “We would normally allow an extra day when travelling to Asia to give the team time to acclimatise to the time difference, but for Singapore it’s not an issue and that’s why we can travel out a day later,” confirms Nielsen.

So what are the normal working hours in Singapore? Well, all the usual European race timings are offset by about seven or eight hours. So instead of arriving at the circuit at 8:00 am, the working day begins at around 3:00 pm and ends in the small hours of the morning. “Sometimes we see the sun rising as we walk home,” says Nielsen. “So it really is a proper night shift for us.”

Of course, hosting a night race really only works in a place like Singapore, which lends itself perfectly to the occasion. And as a 24-hour city, you won’t struggle to find a restaurant open in the middle of the night. Similarly, the hotels work around the team, with a special breakfast service arranged between 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm each afternoon.

As for the artificial lighting, it’s as close to daylight as you can get, so there’s no need for the teams to bring extra lighting. “Before the first Singapore Grand Prix we thought we might need to fit miners’ lamps on the pit crew helmets,” reveals Nielsen. “But in reality the ambient light level is so high and so well dispersed that no extra precautions are required. Unless you look up above you into the night sky, you almost forget you’re working at night at all.”

In fact, the light reading values show that the Singapore pit lane has a lighting level of 2,200 lux, which is brighter than the levels expected in a typical TV studio (normally 1000 lux). The garage lighting generates about 800 lux, which is more than double the lighting level of a well-lit office (400 lux). The main straight and Turn One have lighting values of 1,600 lux.

In terms of the challenge facing the drivers this weekend, their biggest concern is unlikely to be the schedule, but rather the high humidity, as Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli explains: “Even though the race is at night, it’s still very humid, which makes it difficult for the drivers to stay cool. That’s because the sweat stays on the surface of the skin, rather than evaporating and cooling down the body. So the driver’s body temperature becomes very high and they can overheat, which leads to loss of energy, loss of concentration and slower reaction times.”

And when you combine the humidity with the unforgiving confines of the Marina Bay street circuit, it’s clear to see why Singapore is regarded as one of the toughest tests of the season. “It’s a bit like combining the mental challenge of Monaco with the physical endurance needed for Sepang,” concludes Ceccarelli.

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