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Since arriving on the Formula 1 calendar back in 2008, Singapore has established itself as one of THE highlights of every season. Why? It’s the combination of a fantastic location, the unique weekend format running under the lights – and the substantial challenge that the circuit poses every team and driver.
As a spectacle, Singapore stands out on the F1 calendar as the only street circuit race run under the lights. The sport’s first ever night race is made possible by 1,600 lighting projectors around the circuit that effectively transform night into day. The race itself runs close to the two-hour time limit from the moment the lights go out just after 8pm local time – and the entire weekend is offset as a result. This means the team arrives at works in the early to mid-afternoon, and the end-of-day curfew begins in the early morning local time.
Special races require extraordinary preperation
Working on European time requires some adjustments from the team and drivers to cope – and to ensure everybody is delivering peak performance. We ensure the hotels include blackout curtains to improve sleep quality, block out entire floors to ensure housekeeping doesn’t inadvertently wake somebody who has just gone to sleep in the Singapore morning – and shift the meal times to remain in sync with Europe. Eating dinner at half past midnight is always a strange experience – while in our “evening”, the only places that remain open are the local food courts!
Likewise, the climatic conditions are demanding, with high levels of heat and humidity; we monitor fluid intake for all team members to avoid dehydration and ensure they are using electrolyte drinks to replace the minerals lost through sweating. In the cockpit, the drivers can lose up to 3kg of weight across the race distance owing to the length of the race and the physical demands.
A winding city course
From the technical standpoint, Singapore is just as demanding. It’s a street circuit that is not used for racing at any other time of the year. The track surface is continuously gaining grip and ramps up by three seconds or more per lap from first practice to qualifying; this means it’s critical to have a smooth weekend, maximise track time and ensure the drivers have enough laps – on the right tyre compounds – to find the rhythm of the track. The circuit has a total of 23 corners, the most of any circuit on the calendar, and a very bumpy surface in places; finding the limit is not easy, overstepping it is.
Added into the mix is the fact that this is one of the hardest circuits on which to overtake – so track position often comes down to catching Safety Car periods in the right way (there hasn’t been a single race so far where it wasn’t deployed) and split-second timing of pit stops. That further adds to the pressure – and helps explain why no team has ever scored a one-two finish in the history of the event so far.
Formula 1 in Singapore – a good place for Mercedes?
At Mercedes, we have won this Formula 1 race in Singapore in four of the last five years – but it doesn’t feel that way. It has always been one of our weakest circuits in terms of relative performance to the other teams – and not until last year did it feel like we had really got on top of its challenges. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons that we managed to do so in 2018 was that we took nothing at all for granted – and turned over every stone in the hunt for more performance.
We are travelling to Singapore with the same mindset this weekend: there have been no home runs in this championship so far, and the level of competition continues to get closer and closer. Ferrari have the momentum of their two recent wins – and Red Bull will be eyeing this race as one where their car can perform strongly. We will need to be at our very best if we want to see our drivers standing on the top steps of the podium on Sunday evening!