Formula 1 is heading to another new venue – The Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore. The added excitment is the fact that the Singapore GP will be the first ever Formula 1 night race. The new track, the unknowns of the F1 racing under artificial lighting combined with predictably unpredictable tropical weather may be the perfect mix for another surprise result. Or maybe not.
The main attention will again focus on the title fight. Following yesterday FIA ruling the gap betweem Hamilton and Massa remains at only 1 point. There are still 6 drivers who can in theory win the 2008 title – Hamilton, Massa, Kubica, Raikkonen, Heidfeld and Kovalainen. Realistically however only Ferrari still has both drivers really in the title fight and even that may not be the case after Singapore GP. Ferrari camp would probably hope the track stays dry, McLaren perhaps would not mind a bit of rain. But it should also be remembered that there were occassions when even Hamilton lost it in the wet … So can it rain ? Well this time of the year in Singapore often rains after sunset, it however hasn’t rained that much this year (at least that is what my sources in Singapore have been saying).
The track itself is a mix of public roads and purposely built sections (from around the Singapore flyer to turns 1,2,3). It comprises of 23 corners, several high speed straigts (the longest is the Raffles Boulevard section). The narrowest part of the track is the historical Anderson Bridge, only 10 metres wide. You can see the development of the track in these four photo posts:
Walk around the Singapore Track Part 1 and Part 2 (December 2007)
Walk around the Singapore Track Part 3 (June 2008)
Latest Photos – taken this week
If for any reason the video in the above player does not load quickly enough, you may also watch it in the video collection at the F1WolfClub !
And here is the Video preview of the 2008 Singapore F1 GP.
Track technical info (ING Renault data):
The 5.1km Singapore street circuit looks like being one of the slowest of the season, with teams likely to run with high downforce and projected lap times in the 1m45s region. As a step into the unknown, the team has been running computer simulations to get a rough idea of the ideal set-up required. In reality, though, it won’t be until the cars take to the track on Friday morning that the team will get a proper understanding of the demands of the track.
Much like Monaco, grip levels are likely to be low at the new Singapore street circuit. Therefore Bridgestone will supply the soft and super-soft compounds from its 2008 range, the very same compounds that were taken to Monaco, Budapest and Valencia. This will offer good grip on what is expected to be a very green track surface at the beginning of the weekend. However, like any temporary circuit, grip levels will ramp up as the track evolves across the weekend and rubber is laid down (unless it gets washed away overnight ).
After Monaco, Singapore looks like being the second slowest circuit of the season. The team will therefore run with a high downforce package to give the car good stability under braking and to push the car into the ground in the corner exits to maximise traction and ensure good acceleration.
Initial simulations suggest that the circuit will be quite demanding on the brakes with wear rates being similar to somewhere like Melbourne. It is not the severity of the braking but rather the regularity that makes it so demanding as the brakes will get little respite. Efficient brake cooling is therefore a must.
Suspension set-up is one of the most difficult things to predict when planning for a new circuit. However, for any street circuit with a high percentage of low-speed corners, mechanical grip is always valuable and the team will work hard to ensure they give the drivers a supple enough suspension to get good clean exits out of the slow corners and a car that can ride the bumps and any changes of camber.
Engine and gearbox
Street circuits tend to be less severe on the engine due to the low percentage of the lap spent at full throttle, but the engine can still be under stress as it will be used in a very stop-start fashion. Closely-spaced gears ratios will be used at this circuit in order to optimise acceleration, and get the most from the engine at low speeds, while the engine team will work on the mapping to ensure the engine delivers good torque from low revs, allowing early throttle application.
And here is the track analysis with Pat Symonds (Renault)
The Singapore street circuit will be a maximum downforce track with a low average speed of just under 170 km/h and most corners taken in second gear. Like any street circuit, the existing surface is expected to be quite low grip and bumpy, and so getting the car to ride well will be all-important although 20% of the track is newly surfaced and probably therefore smoother. There will also be the usual distractions of road markings and white lines, which could become hazardous if it rains.
Before we get to Singapore and walk the track, it is difficult to pick out potential overtaking opportunities because we don’t know exactly what the track surface is like or the width of the circuit. The Anderson Bridge, for example, looks to be very narrow, whereas other parts of the lap are run on dual carriageway. The overtaking opportunities will depend on whether we are using the full width of these roads.
Turns 5 and 6
The fastest part of the circuit is the section on Raffles Boulevard, where the cars will reach a maximum speed of somewhere between 290 and 300 km/h. It’s not quite a straight as there is a right kink (turn 6), but the cars will take this easily flat at around 280 km/h. It will be important to get a good exit out of turn 5, a second gear right hander, in order to carry good speed on the approach to turn 7, which on paper looks like being the best overtaking opportunity on the circuit.
Turns 10 through to 14
A challenging part of the lap is the section after St. Andrews Road, past the cricket club and on towards the Anderson Bridge. The tight chicane of turns which we believe will be numbered 10 and 11 on the FIA map are almost one corner, which will be pretty much straight-lined, with the first part taken in third gear before dropping down to second and then decreasing in speed all the way through to turn 12, which is likely to be taken at just under 90km/h. From there it’s onto the spectacular Anderson Bridge and the approach to turn 14, which looks like being the slowest corner on the circuit, taken at about 70 km/h.
Turns 19 and 20
Another interesting section is turns 19 and 20 towards the end of the lap after Raffles Avenue. Turns 17 and 18 consist of a right-left chicane, and then 19 and 20 are a left-right chicane, which will take the cars through a tunnel and back onto Raffles Avenue. This could be especially challenging if we get some wet weather leaving the undercover sections dry.
For the history fans, here is the link to Singapore GPs of the past.