A step in the dark at Singapore
Formula 1 continues to break boundaries as it travels to the Republic of Singapore for Asia’s first street race and the first night race in the history of the sport. The anti-clockwise, 5.067km track will wind through the heart of one of the world’s most striking and energetic cities. The drivers will race on public roads past landmarks such as the historic Anderson Bridge, St Andrews Road and Raffles Boulevard.
The Singapore event is the second Grand Prix of the season to take place in a city state, Monaco being the other location. However, unlike the tight, twisting Monte Carlo track, the Asian street circuit is wider and significantly faster. An average speed of about 175km/h was calculated for this track. The average speed during qualifying in Monaco this year was about 160km/h. The drivers are expected to reach top speeds of approximately 290km/h along the main straight.
The temporary lighting system is in itself a feat of engineering. 108,423 meters of power cables, 240 steel pylons and around 1,500 light projectors are installed, creating light that is four times brighter than that used at sports stadiums.
The drivers will take to the track for the first time for Friday’s opening free practice at 19:00hrs. Qualifying is the latest session of the weekend, kicking off at 22:00hrs, with the race starting at 20:00hrs on Sunday. Vodafone McLaren Mercedes will be adopting a bespoke nighttime work program, to ensure the drivers and all other team members are able to function to their optimum level during the night. Usually the acclimatization process is vital for the fly-away races that are in significantly different time zones to Europe, however for the Singapore Grand Prix the opposite is true.
What are you looking forward to in Singapore?
"I’m looking forward to visiting the country, trying the food, seeing what the track is like, seeing what it will be like to race on. It is going to be an exciting weekend. The race will be quite a fun challenge, and I like a challenge! I’ve never raced at night before, but I don’t think it is going to be a problem. It doesn’t seem to be a problem in other sports and there have been huge preparations for this, so I think it will be great. We are racing on another street circuit, which are a particular favorite of mine. From what I understand it is wide and fairly flowing in nature, which is not what you usually expect from a street circuit, but it sounds like it will be pretty spectacular."
Have your physical preparations changed in any way for this race?
"Singapore is going to be a unique challenge for every member of the team. Our doctor has prepared a very precise schedule for the drivers to stick to because all the sessions are so late in the day. Essentially we must not acclimatize to the local time, which is totally different to how we normally operate. Our training programs ensure that over a race weekend we are at peak performance during the afternoons and as a result we are going to be staying in European time so this doesn’t get disrupted. Apparently not acclimatizing is much harder than adapting, because your body naturally wants to change. For the drivers, our meal, waking and sleeping rhythms will all be in European time, for example we will get up early afternoon for breakfast, have supper at 1am and go to bed at around 3am. It will be very different preparation to any other race but we’ll try and do the best job we can."
Have you raced at night before?
"The Race of Champions was in the evening, in the stadium with the lights, but the races weren’t long or serious so it’s going to be all new. It will be interesting to see how it feels; how it’s different, whether it’s good or bad. Coming from Finland where we have 24hours of darkness in the winter, I don’t think I will have any problems, I am used to that! The circuit looks fantastic, there seem to be a few overtaking opportunities, so hopefully it will be a good race. Races in cities always have a great atmosphere, so I am looking forward to it."
Can you outline your fitness and sleeping regime?
"The main thing to consider is that we remain sharp at a later time in the day. We need to keep the rhythm correct and sleep well. This is all taken care of by the team, but it’s still a big challenge. The team is taking every measure possible to ensure the timings of the weekend have no impact on our performance, to make sure we are physically ready. For example, the hotel rooms will be blacked out so we can sleep late into the day, special arrangements will be put in place to make sure the cleaners don’t come into the room, as they would not expect people to be sleeping until early afternoon. The telephones will not ring, all those kind of things. We will essentially be isolated from the normal workings of the hotel. It is a much more demanding task to make sure you don’t switch to the local time, because your body automatically wants to change, external factors such as light, temperature, humidity are all encouraging it. As with any flyaway race, the process will start from when we land in Singapore, we will stay up until early morning on the day we land."