With tickets selling fast and party suites costing up to $70,000 a night, Singapore is putting the pedal to the metal when it hosts Asia’s first Formula One race this weekend since the pandemic.
Formula One racing makes its return to Singapore from 30 September to 2 October, after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The F1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix will be held for the 13th time as a night race at the floodlit Marina Bay street circuit, and continue to do so until 2028, following a contract extension signed in January this year.
Singapore holds a special place in the imagination of Formula One fans: it was the original night race, the first time F1 cars would dazzle under the floodlights, regaling us with pictures of the shiny machines blasting past Raffles Boulevard and breath-taking aerial shots of the lit up city. It was one of the first, authentic destination races, in which the city is as much part of the show as the action on track: the Little Red Dot, with its inspiring looks, proud history and vision for the future, is the perfect backdrop for racing and a metaphor for F1 itself. In just a short time – the first race was held here in 2008 – Singapore has established itself as a Formula One classic, earning its place in the calendar after historical Monza.
Singapore is a special race for the world of Formula One, too. It’s a peculiar one, a race in which to juggle European times on South-East Asian soil; a race of late wake-ups, even later bed times, heat and humidity. But far from being displeasing, these elements all make Singapore a race like no other: you haven’t really fully been in the sport unless you have a fun Singapore story to share
The bumpy 23-turn 5km-circuit, located in the Marina Bay district, takes Formula 1 drivers past some of Singapore’s famous landmarks, including the National Gallery, the Esplanade Concert Hall, and Singapore Flyer. The floodlit architecture provides a stunning backdrop to one of Formula 1’s most challenging events.
As the Marina Bay Street Circuit holds one of the slowest average lap speeds it frequently makes the grand prix itself the longest of the season. It has occasionally become a timed event under the two-hour regulation, most recently in 2017. Even the fastest Singapore round took 1 hour 51 minutes to complete, around half an hour longer than the average Monza race, making it a tough event physically and mentally for drivers and teams alike, a predicament accentuated by the heat and humidity in the city. Track position and tire preservation are also crucial at a race where passing can be difficult.
Also returning are the entertainment acts on the sideline of the event, as stars such as Green Day, Black Eyed Peas and Westlife are set to thrill their fans amid the rip-roaring action on the race track.
SINGAPORE GP RACE DETAILS
Race date: 30 September to 2 October
Marina Bay circuit length: 5.063 kilometers
Number of laps: 61
Past winners: Sebastian Vettel (2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2019), Lewis Hamilton (2009, 2014, 2017, 2018), Fernando Alonso (2008, 2010), Nico Rosberg (2016).
September 30 race schedule: TSS The Super Series practice session (2.30pm, 3.45pm), F1 first practice session (6pm), W Series practice session (7.45pm), F1 second practice session (9pm)
October 1 race schedule: TSS The Super Series first race (3.10pm), W Series qualifying session (4.45pm), F1 third practice session (6pm), F1 qualifying session (9pm).
October 2 race schedule: TSS The Super Series second race (3.10pm), W Series race (4.45pm), F1 drivers’ track parade (6pm), F1 race (8pm).
Friday, September 30 – FP1 and FP2
After the risk of some daytime light showers, the threat of rain then begins to drop as the evening arrives, though come the start of FP1 at 6:00pm local time, there remains a greater than 50% chance of rain. Even as the sun begins to set for FP1, drivers can still expect to contend with a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius and 67% humidity, with light winds.
After that first hour of practice, the second hour begins at 9:00pm local time, by which point temperatures will have dropped a degree at most, with winds remaining light. Humidity climbs to around 74%, as the chance of rain hovers at around 40%.
Saturday, October 1 – FP3 and qualifying
Like on Friday, Saturday’s action starts at 6:00pm local time with the last hour of practice, for which thundery showers are possible with the threat of rain again at around 40%. With a temperature of 30c and 70% humidity, the challenging conditions will continue for the drivers.
The qualifying action then begins from 9:00pm, for which the threat of catching a downpour remains about the same, while temperatures drop by a degree or two at best. Humidity climbs to around 77%, with any breeze remaining subtle.
Sunday, October 2 – race
It is a local start time of 8:00pm as the spectacle that is the Singapore Grand Prix race day under the lights returns to Formula 1.
In terms of the weather, it is a similar story. There remains a chance of rain, that prospect dipping below 40% come lights out but building slightly again into the 40s as the race progresses.
The winds will remain light, with 76% humidity at the race start, climbing to 78% as the race is scheduled to reach its conclusion.
Fact File: Singapore Grand Prix
The night race in Singapore is made possible by 1,600 lighting projectors illuminating the track.
Because it is a street circuit, track evolution is incredibly high in Singapore. The surface can ramp up by as much as three seconds between first practice on Friday afternoon and Qualifying on Saturday evening.
All 12 of the previous Singapore Grands Prix have featured at least one Safety Car deployment.
The concrete used on the Esplanade Bridge is underpinned by steel beams which are magnetized. The magnetic fields involved are strong enough to interfere with certain sensors on the cars, requiring teams to replace a number of sensors with special versions, less susceptible to interference. Fitting magnetic shields to the gear shift valves has become a normal part of Singapore prep but it has previously caused cars to stop on track, particularly in the first years of running in Singapore.
The Singapore GP is one of the most physically and mentally demanding races of the season, with intense humidity and warm temperatures, alongside being a stop/start track. Drivers can therefore lose around 3kg of weight during the race through sweating alone.
Fluid loss is also a factor for team members so keeping hydrated is vitally important to ensure peak performance across the weekend. On a hot day, the recommended daily fluid intake ranges from three to five liters.
The track is very bumpy, which also adds to the stress being put through the drivers and the cars – even more so this year, with the new generation of cars and typically lower ride heights.
Marina Bay only has a couple of big braking zones, but with 23 corners, the brakes are still put through their paces. The lack of long straights and breaks between turns also put less air through the brakes for cooling, so we have to run the cooling as open as possible.
The stop/start nature of the track also impacts the tires because the surface temperatures can never properly cool down. The tarmac is also aggressive on the tires, increasing wear and degradation.
F1 works on European time in Singapore so the schedule is very unusual, with breakfast typically at midday, lunch around 6pm and dinner taking place at various times from 1am onwards, depending on the day and workload. Because of the unusual schedule, teams ensure accommodation includes blackout curtains or blinds.
Singapore has the third-longest lap time of the year, and it’s the longest race of the season, in terms of total race time. It also has the second-lowest average speed, after Monaco, due to the high number of slow-speed corners and lack of long straights.
It has the biggest fuel effect of the year, which means the amount of time you lose each lap for every kilogram of extra fuel in the car. This is because of the stop-start nature of the track, as you have to constantly re-accelerate that mass and slow it down.
The track also has the highest fuel consumption of the year, alongside being one of the toughest for heat rejection (risk of overheating the car, engine, brakes and driver).
A lap of the Marina Bay track requires 91 gearshifts, the most of any track in F1.
“There’s no specific way to prepare, at least for me. I train as hard as I can, and as I said, Singapore is the race that I think of when I need some motivation to keep pushing in the gym. You can always remind yourself that you’re going to Singapore and that’s going to be a super tough one.
“In addition to the on-track physicality, the race schedule is four hours later in Singapore as we race at night. How exactly does that change your own routine – e.g. when do you wake up and go to sleep – and by race day is your mind and body adjusted or do you continue to feel that you’re eating meals at the wrong time and being allowed a lie-in?
“Often, you try to stay on European time for the weekend. It can be difficult because you have to stay up very late into the night but it’s ok, it actually helps as you don’t need to adjust to the time zone when you get there, you just continue. Of course, we go straight to Japan afterwards, so we will probably move our time zone but not too much as the race is late in the evening on Sunday, so we’ll start adjusting on Monday.”
Pirelli are providing their softest compounds for this event, which is a combination teams last used in Canada. The layout of the circuit means that traction is the biggest demand placed on the tires, and how well each compound deals with this will depend heavily on the track conditions on the day. Teams will need to assess all three compounds on Friday before deciding on the likely race strategy.
MARIO ISOLA – MOTORSPORT DIRECTOR
“With completely different tires to last time in Singapore, it’s almost like a totally new race”
“We’ve missed the spectacular night action of Singapore’s streets! With 18-inch tires that have a completely different compound and structure compared to the ones used three years ago – as well as new asphalt this year – it’s almost like a totally new race. Singapore is all about slow corners – all 23 of them – and maximizing traction. We’ve got the three softest compounds for maximum speed and grip but looking after the rear tires in order to ensure the drive needed will be key. With the tendency of the latest cars to understeer, it will be even more important to find the right set-up balance to ensure a strong front end without compromising acceleration at the rear.”
The three softest compounds have been chosen for Singapore (for the first time since Austria): the P Zero White hard is the C3, the P Zero Yellow medium is the C4, and the P Zero Red soft is the C5. These compounds have been chosen to match the typical street circuit characteristics of the Marina Bay track, ensuring high levels of mechanical grip.
There’s some new asphalt for Singapore this year, laid by Italian firm Dromo. This isn’t as smooth as the asphalt usually seen on street circuits, having been put down with a view to the grand prix. However, as a street circuit, the Marina Bay circuit is used by normal road traffic most of the time – and the surface contains street furniture such as white lines and manhole covers. A high degree of track evolution is expected; also because there are not many support races scheduled, which help to lay down rubber.
With the race starting at 8pm local time (GMT +8) and continuing for about two hours, track temperatures are generally stable for most of the race, while high humidity levels provide a big physical challenge for the drivers, the cars and also for the tires, with thermal degradation.
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