Preview: Singapore Grand Prix
With just seven races remaining the Formula 1 roadshow has left Europe behind and descended on Singapore for what is one of the most spectacular races of the year.
Held under floodlights, the Singapore Grand Prix has established itself alongside Monaco as one of the races not to be missed and it is likely to have a big say in the destination of this year’s championship.
With the European season now over, teams are only too aware that they have entered the business end of the season when any mistake, however small, could prove fatal to their championship hopes.
Driving under lights will set its own set of challenges to the drivers and coupled with the potential for thunderstorms makes Singapore one of the toughest and longest on the calendar.
Setanta Ireland has LIVE coverage of all three practice sessions for the Singapore Grand Prix as well as qualifying and the race itself from the Marina Bay Circuit.
Fernando Alonso’s championship was cut slightly in Italy but he still holds a 37 point lead over Lewis Hamilton with Kimi Raikkonen a further point back, while Sebastian Vettel is two points behind the Finn.
Alonso has managed to open up a lead despite not having the fastest car on the grid and he will be hoping to benefit from a major upgrade Ferrari have introduced for Singapore. Alonso, however, is remaining cautious for the races ahead.
“We’ll see in the next couple of races how the teams develop the parts. At the moment McLaren has won the last three Grands Prix and they are in top form,” Alonso said.
“I think from Jerez they won in winter testing, and who was the driver that I respect more, that was Lewis, and we’re still here – 11 or 12 races afterwards we are first and second in the championship. It will be tough until the end.”
Much of the talk following Monza has centred around Hamilton’s future and while he insists he is fully focused on delivering a strong result, the 2008 world champion will do well to ignore the rumours in Singapore.
McLaren are certainly the form team after wins in Hungary, Belgium and Italy and they believe they have a car capable of making it four from four, although the Marina Bay circuit will pose a different challenge to the last two tracks.
“Fernando Alonso is a formidable competitor but we think we can overhaul him. We have a quicker car and we will do our best,” McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh stated ahead of the weekend.
“But Singapore is a high-downforce circuit, totally different to Spa and Monza, so we’ll see what happens this weekend.”
Street circuits appear to suit Red Bull with Mark Webber winning in Monaco and Vettel taking the victory in Singapore 12 months gao.
Both Red Bull drivers will need a good weekend to maintain their challenges, and while Vettel is a big fan of the circuit, he is unlikely to dominate in the same way he did 12 months ago.
“Singapore is one of the highlights on the calendar, because the atmosphere of a night race is amazing,” he says.
“I also like it because the track is really great to race on – which is partly to do with the fact that we race anti-clockwise there. We all stay on European time for the weekend and because the race doesn’t start until 8pm, most of the drivers tend to get up around 2pm – it’s pretty unusual.”
Sergio Perez is one driver to watch after impressing in Italy, just a week after being forced out of Spa on the very first lap. He is enjoying a dream season for Sauber and an update introduced for Singapore could see him take another podium.
Only four drivers have won the Singapore Grand Prix – Alonso in 2008 and 2010, while Hamilton and Vettel have one win apiece – so form around the Marina Bay circuit will be crucial, and it is hard to look beyond one of the championship contenders.
One thing that could upset the formbook is the weather with thunderstorms a genuine threat. While a relatively dry weekend is forecast, there is a risk of thunderstorms, which could force a stoppage.
Friday, September 21
Practice 1: 11.00 – 12.30
Practice 2: 14.30 – 16.00
Saturday, September 22
Practice 3: 11.00 – 12.00
Qualifying: 14.00 – 15.00
Sunday, September 23
The Marina Bay Street Circuit will host its fifth ever Grand Prix this weekend and a number of changes have been made since Vettel’s win 12 months ago.
The track has been resurfaced on the approach to, and at the apex of, Turn 13, while the outer pit lane also has a new surface.
The rubber kerbs have been replaced by fabricated steel sections anchored securely to the ground and the DRS zone is the same as in 2001 – detection point is at Turn 4 and the activation point is after Turn 5.
The race consists of 61 laps, run on a circuit just over 5km long.
Like Monaco, the track is made up of roads generally used by the public and features several fast corners, as well as at least two corners the organisers have purposely made slower.
With barriers closer to the action than most races, the slippery track conditions could prove a problem with the track temperature likely to be cooler than the air temperature.by: Michelle, September 20, 2012