Singapore GP Atmosphere

With two of the most historic races on the calendar – Spa-Francorchamps and Monza – now dispensed with, the Formula 1 circus now moves out of its European heartland for the final leg of the 2010 season.

With five offshore races to run until season’s end, the first stop sees the wandering sideshow land in Singapore, which in time might find itself held in similar regard to its much more established sister venues.

Well-organised, popular with drivers and fans, the event carries a huge novelty factor in that it hosts the only true night race on the F1 calendar.

Add to the mix the potential threat of rain this weekend – a first-time possibility at the Marina Bay circuit – and we could be in for a very action-packed weekend.

Let’s have a look at the form guide and our exclusive predictions for the weekend…

 

The Circuit

2010 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIXSingapore
Date: 26 September 2010 No. Laps 61
Lap Length: 5.073km Race Distance: 309.316km

Lap Record: 1:45.559 – Kimi Räikkönen (2008, Ferrari)

With evident enthusiasm on the part of Bernie Ecclestone to explore the burgeoning markets in the Far East, in stepped Singapore to offer a night race spectacular on a 5-kilometre street circuit in the island state’s Marina Bay district.

Run under thousands of spotlights, the tight and twisty track is so well illuminated that it’s almost reminiscent of a day race in terms of light quality, but it’s anything but your typical Sunday afternoon drive…

The Hermann Tilke designed circuit happens to sit in the camp of his tracks that the drivers actually like. This author would tend to disagree with that statement, as the previous two races held here have produced little in the way of passing opportunities and serious wheel-to-wheel racing that the previous rounds in Spa and Monza would typically provide in spades.

Singapore's kerbs have proven quite the car-breaker However, the technical challenge of the circuit is certainly one to be appreciated. A particularly bumpy track (although the surface has been somewhat smoothed out), the sparks flying from the bottoms of the cars reminded me very much of the 1980s and 1990s period of F1.

The atmosphere is also second-to-none, with dramatic backdrops such as the Anderson Bridge, Raffles Hotel and Singapore Flyer simply adding to the spectacle.

This is a circuit that rewards a good set-up rather than outright pace, and it would be logical to assume that the cars that performed well in Monaco – those with good traction in particular – could do similarly well here.

One aspect that this circuit surprisingly takes a toll on – particularly given its relatively low average lap-speed – is brakes, and past races have seen several driver retirements and accidents when the brake pedal suddenly went soft on the driver.

 

The History Bit

Although a new venue in relative terms, the history of the Singapore Grand Prix has still proven to be particularly interesting.

A dramatic and incident-packed inaugural race in 2008 was the site of the infamous Nelson Piquet Jr conspired to be involved in the 'Crashgate' affair that marred the 2008 race‘Crashgate’ scandal, where Nelson Piquet Jr conspired with team management to deliberately crash his Renault during the race, so as to provide team-mate Fernando Alonso with a significant strategic advantage. While the scandal wasn’t uncovered until almost a year later, it rocked the sport to the core to find out that the Spaniard’s surprise win had in fact been as a result of such collusion and despicable acts.

Alonso was cleared of any wrongdoing in the affair which led to the lengthy bans dished out to team bosses Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, but the Renault team seemed to respond brilliantly at Singapore next time around, with an excellent – and honestly-earned! – podium finish, which Alonso then cheekily dedicated to Briatore!

Hamilton took a comfortable win in 2009 The 2009 race – won excellently by Lewis Hamilton – was again a race of strategy and good set-up, with the Briton blasting away from pole to ensure he had the rest of the field in check thereon.

Nico Rosberg was really the only driver to threaten Hamilton that weekend, and the young German looked on course for his best-ever result until he came unstuck exiting the pit lane, overdoing it under acceleration and crossing the white safety line to earn himself a drive-through penalty.

 

What to expect?

In its two previous runs at hosting the event, the race around Marina Bay has been won by a driver not in contention to take the championship crown. Could we see a hat trick?

Perhaps not.

All of the main championship contenders will be looking to take away the maximum points haul this weekend to keep their championship aspirations going, and when you look at them individually, you’d perhaps be foolish to bet against anyone else entering the mix too much.

Red Bull’s pairing of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have picked up wins at the previous street circuit rounds – Monaco and Valencia. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton is the defending race winner at Marina Bay, and will be looking to keep his championship push going after a first-lap retirement in Italy; while Jenson Button had an excellent weekend in Monza (despite no win), and will also be looking to keep the momentum going.

Fernando Alonso has out-scored all other drivers in the last four races (including his rubbish weekend at Spa) and the Ferrari is starting to look a more serious prospect. Similarly, Felipe Massa will be keen to get revenge on his demons at Marina Bay stemming from 2008, when he lost a potential race win with a bungled fuel stop during that infamous ‘Crashgate’ safety car period.

With these three teams having monopolised the race wins in 2010, this round could perhaps present Renault’s best chance since Monaco to take a surprise win. Robert Kubica has very much led the outfit’s recovery with the assistance of the new team management, and with the R30’s inherent pace at Monaco, the Pole could well be a podium contender (at least) here.

Mercedes GP was considered as the only other team potentially capable of snatching a race win in 2010, but their form has waned in the last few rounds as focus switches to their 2011 campaigner. Therefore, don’t expect either Nico Rosberg or Michael Schumacher (who will be competing in his first-ever F1 night race) to feature much other than the lower points’ regions, unless they can work a surprise strategy gamble…

Another driver of interest this weekend will be Nick Heidfeld, who has been given the none-too-easy task of driving his first laps in anger in almost a year, having been brought into Sauber to replace Pedro de la Rosa.

Hugely familiar with the team – having driven two stints with them over his 11-year career – the German will slot in well and be hoping his experience will help to give the squad a more competitive showing and perhaps spring a surprise of its own.

But with this being one of the closest and most exciting championship battles in years, many eyes are going to be at the pointy end of the field. Singapore is a venue that punishes and magnifies silly mistakes, and all of the contenders will be desperately hoping that they don’t rule themselves out of the running this weekend.

The Singapore race also marks a special milestone for the Richard’s F1 website, which made its first tentative steps into web publishing at last year’s race. In this time, we have achieved a vast readership across nearly 150 countries, and had the great pleasure of interviewing close to twenty current and former F1 drivers and personalities. It has certainly been an amazingly enjoyable ride in our first year, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to you, the readers, for your enthusiastic support.

 

[Original images via AUTOSPORT, GP Update and The Cahier Archive]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.

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