Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day three

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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In a packed day in Singapore, @DieterRencken talks to the bosses of F1’s newest race, the potential new team on the grid for 2021 – and FIA president Jean Todt.


Permit myself a lie-in; still it’s 5am in grand prix terms given that everything is time-shifted by six hours.

After a stop-off at the SunTec Centre, a large mall adjacent to the circuit, I hit an upmarket burger joint for lunch. It’s only when I tuck in that I recall I’ve been invited to a burger party by Racing Point after the day’s proceedings. But that’s ‘tomorrow’…


I speak at length to Ms Chi, CEO of the Vietnam Grand Prix, the new addition to the 2020 F1 calendar. I believe it’s the first time she’s spoken to a motorsport media outlet.

I’m seriously impressed with her full grasp of an activity that until recently was off her professional radar. Proceedings seem to be progressing well, and I’m seriously looking forward to Vietnam’s inaugural race on 5th April next year.


Next I join a select media group in FIA president Jean Todt’s office. The main topic of discussion is progress on F1’s 2021 package and future calendars. The subject of safety inevitably comes up again after the tragic events in Spa three weeks ago – regular readers will recall Todt gave his views on the subject to us at Monza.

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Lando Norris, McLaren, Singapore, 2019Bump into Jonathan Neale, McLaren Group CEO – as such responsible for the group’s inner workings – and he outlines progress made with the merger and streamlining of various companies and divisions that had operated under a single brand name, but with different shareholder structures.

He’s extremely bullish about McLaren’s future. There are good signs for the team on the track as well, as both orange cars make it through to Q3 again.


Receive call to meet with David Tsurusaki, Exxon Mobil’s global motorsport technology manager, to discuss plans to increase the ‘bio’ content of F1’s 2021 fuel to 10 per cent, doubling it for 2023.

He also outlines the strategy behind the company’s partnership with Porsche in Formula E, pointing out that all vehicles require oils and greases regardless of energy source, and that efficiency is crucial in e-vehicles due to range restrictions. Also, battery cooling is via oil-based liquids.

No sooner done with David, than I sit with Benjamin Durand, team principal of the Panthera Asia F1 Team, panning to enter F1 as revealed here in August. Again, it’s the first interview he’s granted, and as he and partner Michel Orts explain their plans it’s clear that they’re under no illusions about the challenges ahead, which include persuading the FIA and Liberty that they’re credible.

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Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, Singapore, 2019Prepare for post-qualifying interviews, and I draw Toro Rosso twins Pierre Gasly (in a pumping mood) and Daniil Kvyat (opposite), the Red Bull pair and McLaren’s Meet The Team, which features both drivers Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, plus team boss Andreas Seidl and technical honcho James Key – making it a four-in-one.

A theme of all sessions is chatter about changes to the race weekend format from next year, and it’s clear there is much misunderstanding about. While many drivers have been asked for their thoughts on ‘reverse grid races’, no decision has been taken about exactly what format will be introduced, how it will work, or which races it will be tried at. There is a proposal to test a new format at two or three races, potentially one each in Asia, North America and Europe.

As covered here previously, the lurid claims made elsewhere that qualifying races will definitely be part of the 2020 F1 season are wide of the mark, at least for the time being.


Head out the paddock while chatting to a technical director (and readers of this diary) – and thus my suggestion that F1 scrap carbon brakes – and he informs me plans are afoot to introduce carbon ceramic brakes systems, similar to those on high-performance road cars.

He tells me Brembo is currently developing such systems, but that the current challenges are increased weight – and thus higher rotational speeds – and pad wear rates. “But such issues can be overcome,” he says.

Then I cab it to the Burger Joint, taken over by Racing Point for the (early) morning for our dinner party. A great concept, and fun is had by all – particularly as we often struggle to find open restaurants at such hours. Thanks to the team: my jalapeno cheese (double) with onion rings was the best burger I’ve had all day…

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Depart for hotel, after difficulties finding a cab at this hour: It’s shift change, and unless I’m heading in the drivers’ direction of travel, no ride. Eventually one agrees, but what was supposed to be a 10-minute journey takes thrice that.

Still, I’m in bed by 4:30am, having packed ahead of Sunday midday check-out and a (very) late flight out of Singapore after the 8:10pm race.

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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4 comments on “Paddock Diary: Singapore Grand Prix day three”

  1. Sounds like burger heaven in Singapore . Not the first dish you think of when contemplating the city state.

  2. Hey, @dieterrencken is there any news on Rich Energy’s claim (I know, perhaps the worst source) claims that HAAS are in negations to sell up to ‘Saudi Investors’, or is this them just stirring up trouble? Again.

  3. Hopefully the lurid claims about qualifying races, reverse grids to are just that. Thanks for setting that straight.

    Unfortunately there seems to be a lot of “ideas” floating about though so I expect some “changes/trials” next year which fills me with some dread. I guess I’m just getting old

  4. …but that the current challenges are increased weight – and thus higher rotational speeds – and pad wear rates.

    That doesn’t sound quite right: Why would the increased weight of a brake disc result in higher rotational speeds? I can accept the carbon-ceramic discs are heavier and that there’s more disc and brake pad wear when using those materials compared to whatever they’re currently using, but higher rotational speed? Wouldn’t that be the consequence of the wheel diameter? For example planned transition from the 13 inch rim to the 18 inch rim would result in a lower rotational speed.
    Maybe he meant higher rotational momentum, because with increased weight comes increased momentum, meaning it takes more force to slow a spinning wheel down. If that’s what he meant then the change from the 13 inch rim to the 18 inch rim would also be a good time to bring in the carbon-ceramic brake discs, but I’m not sure on the wisdom of bringing in two major changes at the same time.

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