Singapore’s street race under night lights has been a dazzling addition to the calendar though the track is more a test of endurance than skill. It boasts 23 turns which are almost all slow and the majority of them are right-angled. Like Baku, Sochi and – of course – Monaco, this is more a tour bus route than a track.
That isn’t to say it can’t catch drivers out. The combination of frequent bumps and braking zones, unforgiving walls and energy-sapping humidity make this one of the toughest races on the calendar along with Malaysia. And for the first time this year drivers will have to contend with both those races within two weeks of each other.
The longest race in the F1 calendar at almost two hours, one of the hardest on brakes, with a 100% record of a safety car, a long slow pit stop and a choice of the softest tyres which cannot do the 308km marathon in one stop, the Singapore Grand Prix is always a strategy challenge.
Track Length : 5.073 kilometres.
Race Distance : 61 laps (309.316 kilometres).
Corners : 23 corners in total.
Aerodynamic Setup : High downforce.
Top Speed : 305km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 290km/h without.
Full Throttle : 45.5% of the lap time (low).
Time Spent Braking : 21% of lap.
Number Of Brake Zones : 16.
Brake Wear : Very high. Toughest race of season for brakes as no cooling opportunities.
Total Time Needed For Pit stop : 29 seconds (very high).
Lap Record : 1:48.574 - S Vettel (2013).
Weather conditions throughout the Singapore Grand Prix week will be predominately dictated by the presence of the SouthWest monsoon, according to UBIMET, official meteorological service provider to the FIA. For the majority of the week the mornings will begin mostly dry and sunny with cloud building rapidly to thundery showers between late morning and early afternoon.
As is common in the tropics, these showers may be heavy at times accompanied with the hazard of strong rain and gusty winds. The highest temperatures will range from 30 to 34 degrees. Evenings and nights will remain mostly dry with temperatures not below 25 degrees. As the race, practice and qualifying sessions take place after sunset, the chance of dry weather conditions is high. However, thundery showers cannot be excluded completely.
The night race featured just one zone in 2011 and 2012, but moved to two from 2013; the first area is situated on the long stretch from Turns 5 to 7, known as Raffles Boulevard, with the second on the start-finish straight.
Separate detection points control the two zones – the first just after Turn 4 and the second before Turn 22.
For the only true night race of the calendar, held on the stunning streets of Singapore, Pirelli's P Zero Purple ultrasoft tyres make a return for the first race since Austria, alongside the supersoft and soft. The three softest tyres in the P Zero range have been selected to cater for the unique demands of the Marina Bay street circuit: a long lap, fluctuating track temperatures, and a physically demanding race for both drivers and cars. With the barriers so close to the side of the track, no mistakes go unpunished during this two-hour marathon held in humid conditions.
Singapore has the highest number of corners of any circuit all year (23) but is the second-slowest lap after Monaco: placing demands on tyres in terms of cornering, braking and traction. The surface is typically bumpy, also with street furniture such as painted lines and manholes. Being run at night, track temperatures don't evolve in the usual way seen at a daytime race.
Ambient temperatures still remain high though, meaning drivers have to manage degradation. A long race and high safety car probability open up many different tyre strategy opportunities. Low downforce means all the mechanical grip comes from tyres: the left-rear works hardest. Pit stop time is long due to a lower speed limit and long pit lane: a key strategic consideration. Ferrari has gone for the most aggressive tyre choice, with a maximum allocation of ultrasoft. Following some minor changes to the circuit in 2015, there are no big alterations this year.
Yellow soft: the hardest set available this weekend, capable of long stints at Marina Bay.
Red supersoft: a versatile compound, which proved to be a key element of last year's race.
Purple ultrasoft: designed to offer a considerable pace advantage: will be used in qualifying.
Because the track is lined with walls, making it difficult for marshals to clear debris, the chance of a Safety Car at Singapore is 100% ! There has been at least one Safety Car at every Singapore GP so far with an average of 6 laps spent under Safety Car.
Mercedes has had it pretty much its own way this season, apart from a blip in Spain, where the drivers hit each other on the opening lap. This weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix offers a chance for their rivals to take a win, with Red Bull and Ferrari looking to exploit any weakness in the Mercedes weekend.
Red Bull’s car should be ideally suited to the 5km Marina Bay circuit, while Ferrari won the race last year with Sebastian Vettel and benefits from an updated engine from the last race in Monza. Vettel is also a Singapore specialist with four wins and three poles. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finished second last season at the F1 Night race and after his stunning performance in Monaco with pole and what should have been a race win, but for a botched strategy and pit stop, he starts as many people’s favourite for the event. But the execution will have to be perfect.
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