Ferrari preview of Singapore GP
Just over one week ago, Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro said farewell to the European season on a high note, with a win and a third place in its home race at Monza. A good way to face the final part of the championship and now it is time for an event which might boast far less history than the Italian Grand Prix, but with a character all of its own, the Singapore Grand Prix, Formula 1’s only night race.
According to the history books, Singapore staged races on a street circuit dating back to the early Sixties, but these were not Formula 1 events and the blue riband series made its debut at the new Marina Bay track in 2008. The drivers with the best records in that short time are Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, who finished first and third respectively in 2008, switching places last year.
This is yet another race that Felipe Massa missed through injury last year, but in his one Singaporean appearance in 2008, the Brazilian recorded possibly his best ever qualifying performance where he took pole position, lapping well over half a second faster than the rest of the field, although a pit-stop mishap ruined his race the following day.
When the idea of a night race was first put forward, there was concern within all the teams about how the personnel would adapt to this unusual schedule. In fact, by keeping to European time from the moment of arrival in Singapore, waking up in the early afternoon and going to bed around four in the morning, it actually proved quite easy to adapt.
Unlike most venues, where arriving a few days early to adapt to the time difference is the norm, here it is better to touch down on the island as late as possible. For the mechanics and set-up crew who have been in Singapore since the start of the week, conditions are a bit more difficult, because for the first few days, they have to move to local time, with night work not an option, given that their tasks involve liaising with the local populace, who cannot be expected to switch to a “night shift.”
Logistically, the event is not too demanding: the race cars and technical equipment left Maranello last Friday, while the basic equipment required to set up the offices, kitchens and hospitality all went by sea-freight, having made a slower journey from the race venues outside Europe at the start of the season and the whole team can take a short walk to the track from the hotels to start work in the afternoon. Before enjoying that walk on Thursday, Fernando and Felipe will head into the city for the official opening ceremony of Singapore’s new “Ferrari Store.”
Another concern which was soon swept aside was that of driving under artificial light, because the brightness provided by the floodlights actually proved more consistent than for example driving into direct sunlight, which can be a factor in some daylight races. The only aspect of visibility that has not been tested in the two year history of the event is what would happen if there was to be a tropical rainstorm, which is not exactly unknown in this part of the world.
With both championships still very much open, Scuderia Ferrari has not abandoned development of the F10 and for the fifteenth round of the world championship, the cars will line up with modifications mainly on the aerodynamic side, with updates to the front wing and the floor. The 5.067 kilometer track is very tricky, with all the usual demands of a street circuit, even if the corners themselves are not that challenging.
The long lap – Monaco is only 3.340 km by comparison – means it is hard for a driver to get into a rhythm and maintaining total concentration is vital to avoid mistakes that carry a heavy cost, given the proximity of the barriers. Heat and humidity add to the degree of difficulty, although temperatures do drop slightly once the sun goes down. No problems are envisaged on the tire front: by this stage of the championship, the teams having a good understanding of all four Bridgestone compounds, including the Super soft and Medium which will be used this weekend.
The Scuderia firmly believes that the points haul for first and third places in Monza has put it right back in the fight for both titles: Fernando’s 21 point deficit to the leader in the Drivers’ classification represents less than one win, equivalent to a mere 8 points if calculations were made based on last year’s system. However, with just five Grands Prix remaining, there are definitely no more second chances.