Thursday, 19 September 2013

Singapore Grand Prix Preview

This weekend sees the Formula 1 circus begin its second flyaway leg of the 2013 season, and one of my favourite races - the Singapore Grand Prix. Since the introduction of a night race onto the calendar, the sight of the Formula 1 cars sending sparks flying from every bump in the road surface, the exhausts firing blue flames during the braking zones, and the immaculate paint schemes intensified by the powerful lights that illuminate the circuit has highlighted the art in motion of Formula 1. High downforce is back after the bare minimum placed on the cars at Monza, and so Lewis Hamilton will be looking to pick up where he left off in Hungary, the last high downforce circuit raced, and to take the maximum points in order to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

The Singapore Grand Prix is a tricky race for the strategists along the grid, with a variety of options open to the teams, and a high amount of luck required to take the victory after 61 laps of this gruelling street race. The time lost completing a pit stop is the largest of the season so expect those who can complete the race with a pit stop less than their rivals to prosper, especially Lotus on early season form. Amongst other concerns for those trying to piece the perfect race strategy together is the chance that the safety car will be deployed, having been required a total of 8 times within the 5 races held here. The most prominent example of the effect that the safety car has upon the strategies of the drivers took place at the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix, where Nelson Piquet Jnr's Renault crashed now infamously at the exit of turn 17, handing the lead of the race (and subsequently the race victory) to team mate Fernando Alonso having pitted earlier than usual for fresh tyres and fuel. This later turned out to be scripted coincidence, and thus tarnished the reputations of the team, drivers, and Team Principles alike.

Despite the race being run during the night time, the humidity and temperatures are still some of the highest recorded in the season, and can cause the drivers to lose up to 3Kg of fluid within the race duration. Coupled with the bumpy nature of the road surface, and the concentration levels required when the circuit is lined with concrete walls to punish even the slightest mistake, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the most physically exerting races of the season. 2 drivers in particular thrive around this circuit, with both Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso taking victory twice each, and between them having led nearly two thirds of all laps raced in the history of the Singapore Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton is the only other driver to have won at this circuit, and looked in control of the race last year before retiring due to gearbox troubles in his McLaren. He was also in contention for the win back in 2010, but a collision with Mark Webber at Memorial Corner caused another retirement from a strong position yet again.