From the long straights of Monza to the twisty streets of Singapore is about as great a contrast as you’ll find on the 2017 F1 calendar.
Track data: Singapore
|Lap length||5.065km (3.147 miles)|
|Grand prix distance||308.965km (191.982 miles)|
|Lap record (race)||1’47.187 (Daniel Ricciardo, 2016)|
|Fastest lap (any session)||1’42.584 (Nico Rosberg, 2016, qualifying three)|
|Tyre compounds||See drivers’ choices|
|2016 Rate the Race||7.11 out of 10|
|2016 Driver of the Weekend||Nico Rosberg|
The venue which is holding its tenth world championship race this year broke new ground in 2008 with F1’s first night race. Concerns about the quality of the lighting were quickly forgotten: Abu Dhabi and Bahrain have since followed by holding their own races under lights.
However it remains to be seen how good visibility would be on a street track in a wet race under artificial lighting.
The track is typical of street circuits. It’s punctuated by many short and sharp corners which bring the average lap speed down and give the brakes a punishing time. With the new generation of F1 cars the brakes zones will be shorter but fiercer this year.
Since its first race the track has been tweaked three times in a bid to improve overtaking opportunities. But it remains a circuit which was clearly designed less as a driving challenge and more as a scenic tour of of the city.
Recovering stranded vehicles is also a problem, which is why every Singapore Grand Prix so far has featured either one or two Safety Car periods. Curiously, these tend to cluster just after the halfway point of the race: last year’s grand prix was the first time since 2009 that laps 30 to 39 were completed with no Safety Car or VSC.
Being a temporary venue the track tends to improve rapidly over the course of the weekend. Lap times can improve by three to four seconds from first practice to qualifying. It is, of course, ultra-soft tyre territory, and most teams have nominated stacks of them.
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A lap of Singapore
Officially, Singapore crams 23 corners into its five kilometres but at least seven of these don’t require significant deceleration. The track begins and ends in a purpose-build section.
Locking the front tyres is easily done at turn one, which leads directly into the next two corners. Turn two curves to the right and driver must use a special route to return to the track if they cut this corner.
“You want to carry through some speed there,” explains Romain Grosjean. “You go into a tight hairpin with a tricky throttle application.”
Turn five brings the cars onto the longest flat-out section on the track. This is a fast, sweeping turn of the type the current generation of cars should be able to tackle much more quickly than last year, which could open up more overtaking opportunities at Memorial corner (turn seven).
From here the track begins to feel more like a typical street circuit with a succession of right-angled turns. The kerb at the exit of turn seven was a trouble spot when track limits were being policed more tightly, but expect the stewards to be more lenient towards drivers going off there now.
Turns eight and nine are similarly slow affairs. Turn ten used to be a three-part chicane, with vicious kerbs, which looked like it belonged on a late-Champ Car street circuit. In 2013 it became another sharp right-hander, albeit a particularly narrow one due to the lack of available run-off.
The next sequences of bends, which takes the cars across the Andersen bridge, was altered more recently. The cars now cross the narrow bridge on the opposite side to before. This has made the preceding turn 11 slower and created a straighter approach to turn 13, but has had little effect on the racing.
Out of turn 13 the drivers and brakes get some brief respite before another hammering. From turn 14 – a sharp, right-handed hairpin – begins the most intense part of the lap as they repeatedly dart right and left through sharp corners.
The approach to turn 16 is trickily curved. At turn 18 they swerve under a grandstand but the run-off is very minimal here and accidents are common. The 90-degree corners keep coming through turns 19, 20 and 21 before the quicker turns 22 and 23 which brings the cars back to the pit straight.