Singapore GP: the toughest race in F1?

David Coulthard crosses the treacherous bumps at turn 10

David Coulthard crosses the treacherous bumps at turn 10

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.

Duration

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.

Bumps

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.

Brakes

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.

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17 comments on Singapore GP: the toughest race in F1?

  1. SkinBintin said on 27th September 2008, 19:09

    Sounds like we are all going to be in for an interesting Grand Prix. This Championship fight is going to be an epic end to the season, just like last years. Although it will be nice to see either Hamilton or Massa win their first Championship, being a McLaren supporter all my life means my support is for Hamilton first and foremost.

    I just wish I was able to watch this one live. I guess thats the price I pay by working Sunday nights.

  2. beneboy said on 27th September 2008, 19:09

    Heiki’s brakes where smoking like mad when he came into the pits during qualifying, it’s normal for this to happen towards the end of a race but unusual for a qualy session since it changed to the new 3 session format.

    The cars also looked quite hard to get round the circuit when they filled them up with fuel. A few drivers, Lewis included, looked like they were fighting to keep the car out of the barriers.

    So combine the two, heavy brake wear & a difficult to control car, and it gives the drivers a fairly hard challange.

    When you throw in the temperature, race length & time of the race I think this could well be one of the toughest races for the drivers.

    I wouldn’t be surprosed if we saw a few cars going into the barriers tomorrow and the resulting safety car period that follows could be a big factor on the overall result.

    As we all know, McLaren aren’t that good when the race becomes unpredictable for the reasons stated above. Hopefuly they don’t give Lewis too much trouble as I doubt he’ll have enough time for an extra pit stop in this race.

  3. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 27th September 2008, 19:28

    Thoughts from Heidfeld on the conditions:

    I think it will be the hardest race of the season physically. If you look at the drivers, they all sweat like ****. It is incredible. I thought it would be okay because we drive around at night, but if you walk around like this (in a shirt and shorts) then it is okay. If you have the overalls on you still feel like it is 30 degrees. It is horrible.

  4. Sooooperpigdog said on 27th September 2008, 19:39

    Sounds like they’re earning their highly inflated wages then, the poor kittens.

  5. My bet is less than 8 cars finishing.

    This is also based on law of averages. We had a surprisingly high number of finishes at Spa and Monza inspite of the torrential rain.

    Everyone is due a mistake ;-)

  6. beneboy said on 27th September 2008, 19:44

    Kimi reckons it’s not a physical circuit:

    “I think it’s just hot and humid, that’s the only difference.

    It’s not very physical: the corners are quite slow and there are not any quick corners really.

    It’s quite bumpy in some places, that’s probably the only negative thing here and maybe for next year they can fix it.

    Apart from that, it’s a very nice place and a nice circuit to drive.”

  7. Like i was saying in qualy, there’s got to be at least one SC period and after that i think the fittest drivers and maybe younger drivers will do really well.

  8. Unpredictable race – Loooong time since I’ve seen a first corner crash!

    Should be an amazing physical test for the drivers and indeed the cars as well!

  9. Beneboy I’m not sure what you’re talking about regarding McLaren being no good in adversity. Perhaps it’s more down to Hamilton but looking back on Lewis’ wins in Formula One, the majority of them have come in races that were injected with incidents. His maiden win in Canada last year, along with Fuji in torrential conditions. Melbourne, Monaco, Silverstone and Hockenheim have either been wet or interrupted by the safety car.

    If I were a Ferrari fan I would be more worried as this season they have made a mess of things on the pit wall and their drivers have more often than not been mediocre during those chaotic races.

  10. beneboy said on 27th September 2008, 20:45

    Matt, I am a Ferrari fan and I am worried about our Pit wall, they haven’t been he same since Ross Brawn left.

    I’m referring to the multiple mistakes McLaren have made in the last couple of years – Tyres at China in 2007, Hockenheim this season where Lewis got the team out of a bad mistake for example.

    Trying to be impartial (hard as it is) I think both Ferrari & McLaren have got into a bad way as far as the pit wall is concerned & any more mistakes from either could end up costing their drivers some very important points.

    I’m not trying to snipe at McLaren, I genuinly want them to give Lewis a good car & stratergy for the rest of the season to give Felipe a good push for his first DWC (hopefuly ;~>).

  11. Another thing about the circuit that I just realised that will make it tougher for the drivers is the fact that it is an anti-clockwise circuit.

  12. If it is so bumpee with a new asphalt what about he next years when it will be wrecking like montreal

  13. Nick Caulfield said on 27th September 2008, 23:17

    Talking about the toughness of the circuit, I see from Planet-F1 that McLaren have now used their Joker engine as a precaution for Heikki. Ron previously expressed surprise at Ferrari doing the same in a recent race for Felipe

  14. I like the big curbs- as much as I don’t want to see the cars just plain break or cause a dangerous wreck, I do like the notion that the drivers and machines are punished if the corners are taken incorrectly.

  15. doctorvee- I forgot about the conuter-clockwise layout, I know there are not many in use on the current schedule so that alone must present a change-of-routine factor for the drivers. My main question in that case is if this circuit produces as much G forces as other anti-clockwise layouts, such as Istambul.

    SkinBintin- Great to see another McLaren fan on here, even though I just gained an interest in the sport less than a year ago! I work on Sunday afternoons, so while I can catch all the GPs, I do miss a good chunk of games in my other favorite sport, the NFL. As a result, I feel your pain on that one:(

    Daks- Thinking about first-corner incidents, perhaps the layout at Indy can be at the top of the list for such incidents. For those of you who like such action, perhaps there is something good about Indy after all….

    The thing that suprises me the most about the reports from Singapore so far is the heat/humidity- I thought they would get a bit of a break with the GP running at night. Other than that, the circuit dose appear to be a challenge to drive, so I think we’re in for quite a treat tomorrow.

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