Can Sebastian Vettel be caught? That’s certainly going to be the question on everyone’s lips as the Formula 1 circus kicks off the final sequence of flayaway races as the 2013 season draws to a close.
The German is a two-time and defending race-winner around the Marina Bay circuit, and given how strong his Red Bull Racing package is looking of late, it’s no surprise that the wunderkind is an unbackable favourite.
But there could be more to this than meets the eye. Check out our Singapore Grand Prix Preview…
2013 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX
|Date:||20-22 September 2013|
|Venue:||Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore|
|Race Lap Record:||1:45.599, Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari F2008) – 2008|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 18:00-19:30|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 21:30-23:00|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 18:00-19:00|
|Race (61 laps, 308.828km)||Sun 20:00-22:00|
|Past Ten Winners:||Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB8)||2012|
|Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull Racing Renault RB7)*||2011|
|Fernando Alonso (Ferrari F10 Italia)*||2010|
|Lewis Hamilton (McLaren Mercedes MP4-24)*||2009|
|Fernando Alonso (Renault R28)||2008|
* Denotes victory from pole position
All event times are quoted in SGT (GMT +8).
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 might be inclined to disagree with that statement, as the previous five races held here have produced little in the way of passing opportunities (the last four have all been won from pole) and serious wheel-to-wheel racing that the previous rounds in Spa and Monza would typically provide in spades.
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.
Let’s take a look at our Marina Bay Circuit Guide:
The History Bit
The Singapore Grand Prix is among the newest venues on the F1 calendar, but some its races have still provided plenty of action and intrigue:
2008: A dramatic and incident-packed inaugural race in 2008 became the home of the disgraceful ‘Crashgate’ scandal, where Nelson Piquet Jr conspired with Renault team management to deliberately crash his Renault during the race, shortly after team-mate Fernando Alonso (who’d had a disastrous qualifying session and was starting midfield) had made his first pit stop. The ensuing safety car triggered a raft of pit stops by the cars in front, vaulting the Spaniard up the field and into a lead he wouldn’t surrender. The scandal wasn’t uncovered until almost a year later, with the sport’s greatest act of cheating rocking it to the very core…
2009: Won by Lewis Hamilton, the 2009 race was one of strategy and good set-up, with the Briton blasting into an early lead from pole. His run was threatened by Nico Rosberg, who delivered a surprise performance in his Williams. The German looked set to claim a (then) career-best finish until he came unstuck exiting the pit lane after a tyre change, earning himself a drive-through penalty.
2010: An outstanding win by Fernando Alonso, who withstood race-long pressure from Sebastian Vettel to claim the sport’s first Grand Chelem – leading the entire race from pole and setting fastest lap – since the 2004 Hungarian Grand Prix. The race features plenty of incidents up and down the field – Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton collided to virtually finish Hamilton’s championship hopes – with the most spectacular being Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus catching fire on the last lap.
Singapore Stat Attack
Here are some fast facts about this year’s Singapore Grand Prix:
Four different constructors have claimed victory at the Singapore Grand Prix, with Red Bull Racing being the only multiple winner with back-to-back victories in 2011-2012.
Sebastian Vettel (2011, 2012) and Fernando Alonso (2008, 2010) are the only multiple race-winners at the Singapore Grand Prix.
Fernando Alonso will make his 210th Grand Prix race start on Sunday; he will move to equal-eighth on the all-time starters list, drawing level with Gerhard Berger.
Mark Webber will make his 208th Grand Prix race start on Sunday, moving him to tenth outright on the all-time starters list, ahead of Andrea de Cesaris.
Sergio Pérez will make his 50th Grand Prix race start on Sunday; he will become the 125th driver to achieve this feat.
Singapore Talking Points
So what do the Richard’sF1.com readers and contributors think will happen this weekend?
“Force India desperately needs a big points haul this weekend if it, as claimed by Team Principal Vijay Mallya, wants to remain in with a shout of snatching back fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship from McLaren. The Silverstone team has undoubtedly been the hardest hit by the mid-season tyre changes, which took away a key piece of ammunition: its ability to make its tyres last longer than anyone else. Now the VJM06 can’t get enough temperature into the tyres to enjoy its obvious design advantage. Despite that, Singapore is the type of venue where a good qualifying position or clever strategy – rather than sheer pace – can being some big benefits. Paul di Resta finished a brilliant fourth here last year on the back of a canny strategy, so let’s see if the team can repeat history in 2013.” – Geoff Burke, RichardsF1.com Journalist
“Sebastian Vettel is running away with this championship, and nobody appears able to stop him. With quite a large number of races left, I wonder if Bernie is at all worried about the TV Ratings much like he was at the height of Michael Schumacher’s dominance about a decade ago – such is the level Vettel is at right now, having not been off the podium since Great Britain and winning three of the last four. Alonso hasn’t won since Spain. On another note, the decision to change that three-pronged chicane in Singapore (Turn 10), for me personally is being met with a bit of sadness, as yes it was a silly corner but it is clearly one of the iconic aspects of the circuit, an aspect which is now decidedly lacking with nothing to replace it.” – Matt Lennon, RichardsF1.com IndyCar Series Journalist
“So we’re off to Singapore where the scenery is usually more exciting than the race itself. This year sees a newly modified track to shorten the lap time and hopefully bring the race in under 2 hours so it can run full distance for a change. However, if there happens to be any rain we’re most likely to still see the race finishing at the 2-hour limit. With Vettel running away with the championship lead and winner for the last two years here, I will be looking off-track for some interest. Many will be waiting to see if any of the teams with spaces still to fill will make an announcement this weekend now the Kimi move is all sewn up. I’m enthusiastic to see who Lotus will fill in what has to be the best seat left with my hopes it will go to Hulkenberg over Massa.” – Jen Smith, RichardsF1.com Features Writer
The Form Guide
“Not since the futile hunt for Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction have the public been missold something on such a scale as the Singapore Grand Prix,” a fellow journalist – who shall remain nameless – once cynically quipped.
Perhaps they’re right. Sure, it’s another race in the Far East and a street circuit to boot – a feature that’s rather lacking in 21st-century Formula 1. So the spectacle of precision driving mixed with the occasional bingle in the barriers is not to be understated.
But it’s an opportunity missed. It rivals the execrable Valencia street circuit in terms of the sheer number of twists and turns per lap, and like its Spanish cousin, overtaking is impossible were it not for the advent of DRS.
Racing under lights is more of a gimmick than anything else, with all of the drivers remarking that the visibility is better than any daytime Grand Prix.
Every Singapore Grand Prix has run to, or over, the maximum two-hour limit. All have been interrupted by umpteen safety cars. Bar the opening event in 2008 – which was subject to one of the biggest frauds in motorsport history – all of the races have been won from pole.
So it’s safe to assume that your polesitter will be victorious on Sunday night. But points are to be had if you can make a clear passage around the inevitable carnage and keep your tyres going until the final ten laps, at which point this traditionally dull event suddenly bursts into life.
By that point it’s quite likely that Sebastian Vettel – who is an unbackable even-money favourite to claim three wins in a row at Singapore – will have skipped off into the distance and further cemented his prospects of a fourth Drivers’ Championship title.
The German’s greatest challenge is likely to come from the Mercedes camp. If we’re to use Monaco as a comparison, the Silver Arrows were mighty around a similar style of circuit, so expect Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg to feature at the sharp end of the field.
While Fernando Alonso may hold slim hopes of taking the fight to Vettel’s championship lead, the two-time Singapore winner could also pose a threat to claiming his first race win since the Spanish Grand Prix in May, but he’ll need to qualify well up the grid in order to make that a reality, which is not something that this year’s F138 has shown it’s capable of doing every weekend.
The battle for the minor placings looks like being a tight scrap between Lotus, Sauber, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Force India, and you could throw a blanket over the lot of them given how close the competition is likely to be between them.
Williams could also do well this weekend. The much-criticised Pastor Maldonado tends to perform very well on street circuits – as he did here in 2012 – and he could be in with a shout of doubling the team’s 2013 points tally. He simply needs to finish tenth to do that…
Don’t forget to enter your F1 Predictions!
This weekend’s round of our 2013 RichardsF1.com F1 Predictions Competition is now open for business, and you can enter and edit your predictions for the 2013 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix right up until five minutes before qualifying!
Entry is open to all of our readers, and it’s so easy to submit your predictions! All you’ll need to do is correctly guess:
- which driver will win pole position and the race
- which two teams will earn the best finishes in the race
- which eight drivers will finish in the top-eight positions
- who will post the fastest lap of the race
- who will gain the most positions relative to their starting position
You can also choose to ‘double up’ your points tally for the Singapore Grand Prix – but be careful, you can only do this twice per season!
To view the current points standings, click here.
To enter your 2013 Singapore Grand Prix Predictions, click here.
As always, RichardsF1.com will be bringing you the best of the on- and off-track action this weekend, so make sure we’re your first port of call for your Singapore Grand Prix fix!