The 2018 Formula 1 season enters its final stretch with a hectic run of seven Grands Prix over the next ten weekends to decide the World Championship fight. The first of these races takes under the floodlights on the streets of Singapore, Formula 1’s original night race and one of the toughest events on the calendar.
|Formula 1 2018 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix – Event Schedule|
|Dates||14-16 September 2018||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 16:30-18:00|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 20:30-22:00||Free Practice Session 3||Sat 18:00-19:00|
|Qualifying||Sat 21:00-22:00||Race (61 laps)
Session times quoted in Singapore Standard Time (GMT +08:00)
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 drive…
The Hermann Tilke designed circuit happens to sit in the camp of his tracks that the drivers actually like. Past races held here have mixed amounts of wheel-to-wheel racing, although the advent of DRS has helped that enormously. That being said, seven of the ten Singapore Grands Prix held to-date have been won from pole position.
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 are a throwback to 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 typical to see cars that performed well in Monaco – those with good traction in particular – 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.
Rewind to 2017
Last year’s Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings with victory in a race that saw pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel collide with teammate Kimi Räikkönen as the starting lights went out.
The Mercedes driver started from fifth position on the grid but found himself in the lead of the race by the fourth turn, which he held until the chequered flag. He crossed the finish line 4.5 seconds clear of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo, with Valtteri Bottas completing the podium.
On a track dampened by a heavy shower before the race, it was Räikkönen who made the best getaway from fourth place as the lights went out. The Finn jinked left to lunge up the inside of Max Verstappen at the same time that pole-sitter Vettel veered left to cover the Dutch driver on the run to Turn 1.
The two Ferraris succeeded in pincering Verstappen, with Räikkönen tipped into the side of Vettel. Räikkönen’s car was out of control, and he slid haplessly into Verstappen a second time at the apex of Turn 1 before the pair clobbered an innocent Alonso who had made a mighty getaway from eighth on the grid.
Vettel held the lead through the first three turns ahead of Hamilton, Ricciardo and Hülkenberg, but unknown to Vettel, his left radiator was punctured and appeared to be leaking fluid on his left rear tyre.
Whether it was the leaking coolant, cold tyres or perhaps a dose of karma, Vettel suddenly speared into the wall between Turns 3 and 4 before sliding backwards to the right-hander as the rest of the field scrambled to find a way past his terminally wounded car.
For Hamilton, Christmas had come early at a circuit where he had openly admitted he would need a miracle to avoid losing his three-point lead to Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship standings after the Ferrari driver had stormed to pole position the night before.
By the end of Sunday’s 61-lap race under lights, Hamilton’s championship lead had swelled to 28 points thanks to his win and Vettel’s non-score. Just a few races later, the Englishman would clinch his fourth World Championship title.
- This is the eleventh running of the Singapore Grand Prix as a round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The race made its inaugural appearance in 2008 and has remained on the calendar ever since.
- Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver at the Singapore Grand Prix with four victories to his name. The German scored a hat-trick of race wins between 2011 and 2013 while racing for Red Bull Racing, and later won with Ferrari in 2015. Other race-winners on this year’s grid include Lewis Hamilton (the winner in 2009 with McLaren, and with Mercedes in 2014 and 2017) and Fernando Alonso (who won in 2008 with Renault and in 2010 with Ferrari).
- Red Bull Racing and Mercedes are the most successful teams in Singapore with three Grand Prix victories apiece. Red Bull Racing’s three wins came at the hands of Sebastian Vettel in 2011-13, while Mercedes’ wins came with Lewis Hamilton in 2014 and 2017, as well as Nico Rosberg in 2016. Ferrari (2010 and 2015) have twice won here, while Renault (2008) and McLaren (2009) have one win apiece at Marina Bay.
- No team has ever claimed a 1-2 finish in the Singapore Grand Prix’s history.
- Nico Hülkenberg will make his 150th Grand Prix start of his career this weekend. He is the 36th driver in Formula 1 history to achieve 150 race starts and the sixth German driver to do so. He is the third most experienced driver in F1 history to have never claimed a Grand Prix victory – behind only Andrea de Cesaris (208 race starts) and Nick Heidfeld (183) – and he also holds the unfortunate record of the most race starts without a podium finish.
- Carlos Sainz Jr., Kevin Magnussen and Max Verstappen will all make their 75th Grand Prix race starts at this weekend’s race.
- Kimi Räikkönen achieved the 100th podium finish of his Formula 1 racing career last time out at the Italian Grand Prix. He is the fifth driver in the sport’s history to achieve a century of podium finishes and is ranked behind Michael Schumacher (155), Lewis Hamilton (128 and counting), Sebastian Vettel (107 and counting), and Alain Prost (106).
The Singapore Form Guide
This year’s battle for the World Championship crown remains an open fight between Mercedes and Ferrari, although the balance has certainly shifted in favour of the former thanks to Ferrari throwing away certain shots at victory in the recent Hungarian and Italian Grands Prix.
Losing the Italian Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton – a race, on paper, that the Englishman ought not to have won – came by dint of Ferrari being outfoxed on strategy by its rivals and its sole championship protagonist Sebastian Vettel once again crumbling under pressure with another driving error.
The points gap between the two drivers now sits at 30 in Hamilton’s favour, the biggest margin that has existed to-date between these two prize fighters this season. While the gap is not insurmountable, Vettel is really going to have to rely on some serious misfortune to strike his Mercedes rival – and soon.
On paper at least, the Marina Bay Circuit is not expected to play to Mercedes’ strengths at all, while Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are expected to have the upper hand. This was also the prediction heading into Hungary and look what happened there…
Despite this not being considered as a Mercedes track, the Silver Arrows have won three of the last four Grands Prix here, proving that predictions count for little in the year’s most physically demanding race.
|2018 Singapore Grand Prix Weather Forecast|
|Friday||26°C – 31°C||Saturday||26°C – 30°C||Sunday||26°C – 29°C|
Images via FIA, LAT, Red Bull Racing