There are many who believe that racing in Singapore is a waste of time due to the fact that the fan base is not huge and it is an unnecessary time away from home for engineers and teams as a whole. However, for those who have been to Singapore they will testify that racing around this winding, enclosed and unforgivably bumpy track tests the racers to the absolute limit and this is why Sunday’s race could be spectacular.
First though, let’s explore the basics.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit features close walls and as a result close wheel to wheel racing. Every single Singapore Grand Prix has required a Safety Car to come out at least once on to the track during the race. Whether it be the 2008 ‘crash’ of Nelson Piquet Jr, the 2017 smash of the Ferraris either side of a fast moving Red Bull or the blisteringly quick 2018 dash to the line by Lewis Hamilton – Singapore always delivers eventful racing.
This year, to make the excitement even greater on a track which already is known for overtaking, Formula 1 racing’s governing body, the FIA, have added a third DRS zone to the Marina Bay Street Circuit. This is a very unpredictable sequence of events and it remains to be seen as to how the racers handle the change. The precise information from the FIA being:
The new DRS zone for 2019 will be between Turns 13 and 14 – with the detection point 102 metres before Turn 13, and the activation zone starting 78 metres after Turn 13.
Naysayers will claim this third DRS zone to be a waste of time as the distance is too short but why criticize something before it comes to pass? We should be pleased to see such active improvements to the track by the FIA. F1 can be a processional sport at times, as anyone who witnessed this year’s French Grand Prix would surely testify, so any action to assist with the wheel to wheel racing gets my approval and hopefully that of many other race fans. However, the real proof shall surface on Sunday so let’s wait and see.
As for the sport not being well known, let’s not forget that Singapore is an island city-state off southern Malaysia known for being a global financial center with a tropical climate and multicultural population. The population of which amounts to just over 5.6 million people. Whether ardent race goers or not, the crowd certainly amasses in Singapore for a festival vibe of live music, great food, night racing and exotic nightlife. This year, Fatboy Slim, Gwen Stefani, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Muse get top billing on the main stage blaring out the tunes whilst the cars navigate the track – a spectacular scene indeed.
Monza was an outstanding race and because of it F1 is certainly in a sweet spot of popularity following the defiance of Charles Leclerc holding off a pair of charging Silver Arrows. Now, in Singapore, a completely different challenge awaits. The feat ahead of the drivers was outlined by Renault F1 Team’s Chief Race Engineer Ciaron Pilbeam:
Singapore is a street circuit with almost entirely slow corners and close barriers and the cars will all run maximum downforce. The circuit layout is hard on tyres, with high braking and traction demands rear tyre overheating often a problem, especially in the last sector where there is a series of right-left and left-right chicanes. This is the longest race of the year and the heat and humidity make it a severe physical challenge for the drivers.
Such a challenge, that a victorious Lewis Hamilton in 2018 struggled to raise his winner’s trophy above his head - such was his level of exhaustion.
So, instead of wondering why Singapore should excite you…start wondering how exciting F1 would be – without it!