Tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix will be a long, hot, and very tough race for the drivers. Lewis Hamilton has already suggested the track is tougher than Monaco to race on:
It’s a very physical circuit – more than I expected, actually. You need to put a lot of work into the car to get a good lap – I’d say it requires double the energy of Monaco over a single lap. One lap around here is like two laps of Monaco.
With an estimated race duration not far off the two hour mark, how well will the drivers cope? Is Singapore now F1’s hardest race?
Weather and time conditions
Even at night conditions at Singapore are similar to those in Malaysia – high temperatures and high humidity, making for an energy-sapping combination.
On top of that, by Sunday the drivers will have been trying to live for several days on European time in an Asian country, in an effort to ensure they are in peak condition for the race.
The race lasts for 61 laps. Massa’s pole position time was 1’44.801. So even if he runs at and average pace equal to his pole position time that translates to a race duration of 1hr 46 minutes.
And that’s before you consider the possibility of a safety car period, which is especially likely on a barrier-lined track such as this.
The drivers have been quite vocal about how bumpy the tracks is, particularly on the exit of turn six where there is a purpose-built section of track. Mark Webber described how he tried to avoid putting his tongue between his teeth to avoid biting it off.
As well as the punishment they dish out to the drivers (and cars) bumpy braking zones can coax them into driving mistakes. There’s not much space to turn an F1 car around in the run-off areas and, with cars suffering from the high temperatures as well, not much time either.
Many of the teams have stopped using wheel shrouds on their wheels to allow their brakes to cool better. But will they be up to 61 punishing laps of the Marine Bay circuit?
Walls, kerbs – and that first corner
Already this weekend we’ve seen Mark Webber and Giancarlo Fisichella hit the barriers, and pretty much every driver has gone off the track at one point or another. In free practice three Fisichella was launched into the air by the infamous kerbs at turn 10 and from there it was a short trip into the barrier.
At the start the drivers will charge into the first corner for the first time. The left/right/left combination has plenty of run-off but the second braking zone in particular could well be a source of trouble.
Another potential problem is the pit lane entrance, where drivers turning into the pits will be slowing down near the racing line.
Safety car periods
With all these hazards, safety car periods are quite likely. The efficiency of the marshalling has also been a cause for concern and could prolong such periods.
And with the championship hanging in the balance such an interruption could make a vital difference between the title leaders.