Singapore Grand Prix Preview

Below is my race preview I wrote for Final Sector’s Singapore Grand Prix preview ezine. Click the image to see the full content.

Round 14 of the FIA Formula 1 world championship in Singapore sees the paddock go all nocturnal for the race weekend as 1,500 halogen lights illuminate the street circuit as F1 gears up for its first and only night race. The Marina Bay street circuit has seen more than its fair share of controversy since its inclusion to the calendar in 2008, but this year it could see the re-crowning of Sebastian Vettel as World champion. With Red Bulls’ chief rivals, McLaren and Ferrari, all but admitting defeat and turning their focus towards their 2012 cars, only Vettel’s team-mate, Mark Webber, can realistically prolong his wait for the title. Aussie Webber, however, is involved in a four way fight for second, “I enjoy driving there, so I hope to nail it this year in much the same way that I nailed Valencia earlier this season. In the championship, four of us – me, Fernando, Jenson and Lewis – are separated by just 14 points and none of us is going to give an inch.”

At McLaren, both Hamilton and Button are both looking to add to their tally of two race wins apiece as they look to spit the Red Bull’s in the driver’s championship and to cement the teams second place in the constructors championship. Button is the in-form man at McLaren, with a string of strong performances in recent races. The Frome Flyer has proven time and time again that when it comes to overtaking, he is the ‘pass master’. He admitted after the Italian Grand Prix that he closed his eyes when passing Alonso around the outside into the Ascari chicane and that he’ll do that more often! Team principle, Martin Whitmarsh is looking forward to the unique challenge of the Marina Bay circuit and the chances for his two charges to bag a win, “At Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, the reality is that we’re fortunate enough to have two drivers who are never satisfied to merely sit behind another car; but the addition of DRS means that we should expect some truly electrifying racing this weekend. The track is wide enough to support close and exciting wheel-to-wheel racing and I sincerely hope that’s what we see this weekend.” He added, “In just a few years, the Singapore Grand Prix has become a classic Formula 1 event – the circuit and facilities are truly world-class and the setting and atmosphere of the race make it one of the jewels of the calendar.”

Further down the pit lane, there will be a close eye kept on the Williams hospitality suites after revelations that Adrian Sutil and 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen were spotted at the teams factory in Grove recently, growing speculation that veteran Rubens Barrichello will have to look elsewhere to compete in his 20th season in Formula 1. As Williams on track woes continue, outgoing Technical Director, Sam Michael, is hoping that another batch of upgrades will enable him to leave the team with a strong points finish in Singapore. Michael, who leaves the team after this weekend’s race said, “Singapore has all the challenges, for both the drivers and engineers, of a classic street race, but with the addition of it also being held at night.  There is a large improvement in track grip as the race weekend progresses. There are also more bumps and kerbs to deal with compared to normal and downforce is set to a maximum. Good traction with minimal understeer are always the focus of the car set-up here. We have an upgraded diffuser and a new front wing assembly for the first of the flyaways. We’ll test both of them on Friday.”

The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix will forever be remembered for the crashgate scandal, the ramifications of which still haunt the Renault team. Loss of sponsors, Renault selling the team and the current owners (Genii Capital) struggling to find a competitive budget for next year aren’t helped by the fact that the R31 has struggled on the slower, twisty circuits, characteristics’ shared by the Marina Bay circuit. “Monaco and Hungary were not good races for us and Singapore shares some characteristics of these two circuits,” he said. “We feel we have improved things since then and we have a bit more to deliver for Singapore itself, but it is fair to say that I am apprehensive.” Said Technical Director, James Allison, “However, if we do have a good race then we will be set for good performances in the five races that follow, as we will then have shown improved performance on three very different tracks.”

Pirelli will provide the teams with its soft (yellow) and super soft (red) tyres for the weekend, this combination of tyre choice saw a huge variety in pit stop strategies in Monaco and the rain affected race in Canada. Pirelli Motorsports boss, Paul Hembery said, “As we’ve seen in the past, particularly in Canada, the combination of soft and supersoft tyres provides plenty of opportunities for the teams to put in place some interesting strategies, with the supersoft in particular expected to provide an appreciable performance advantage. The free practice sessions in Singapore will be crucial, as the teams assess the effect of each of our tyres on their set-ups and overall speed.”

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