Formula One will replace the history and speed of Monza for the bright lights of Singapore this weekend, as the only night race on the calendar takes place.
Racing under 1,600 specially made flood-lights, the 22 best drivers in the world will tackle the tight and tricky Marina Bay Street Circuit.
With no margin for error, the circuit is a true test of both driver and machine. It requires a high downforce setup and strong traction and grip out of the slow chicanes and hairpins.
As reported at formula1blog.com:
The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix was won by Fernando Alonso, but it was more thanks to the team than the Spaniard’s spectacular drive. This is because he had a little bit of help from his teammate Nelson Piquet Jr.
The Brazilian admitted almost a year after the win that he was told to deliberately crash on lap 14 in order for Alonso to benefit from the resulting safety car. Renault was disqualified from F1 on a two-year suspension, should they break any rules again, and several high-profile personnel left the team, including Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds.
Lewis Hamilton won the 2009 round with Alonso winning once again – fair and square this time – in 2010. Sebastian Vettel has taken the last two victories and will be looking to add another one to his tally this weekend.
The water-side track starts on the short start/finish straight that leads to turn one, with the pit exit on the left. This cuts inside the first corner, which is a second gear left that leads quickly to turn two, a gentle right-hander.
The first turn is very tricky on the first lap as it is almost 90 degrees. The pit straight is quite wide and this enables cars to run side by side, but the circuit funnels into turn one and this can sometimes cause a crash or two – although there is plenty of run-off area.
Another second gear left-hander follows before a burst of power through the barely-there kink of turn four. The fifth turn on the circuit is a tricky third gear right that leads on to the longest straight on the track – called Raffles Boulevard. This corner requires a late apex but it can be easy to put the power down too early and clip the barrier.
The straight that follows is broken up by the flat-out turn six. This is where the DRS zone will be over the race weekend, and is the best overtaking opportunity on the circuit. It is extremely bumpy, often a criticism from drivers, which makes the big braking zone for the 90 degree right of turn seven very difficult to perfect.
F1 cars can top 190 mph along this section of the circuit and signals the end of the first sector. The curbs on the exit of turn seven are often used to the maximum with road surface beyond them. However, they are very high and can unsettle the car heavily.
Turn eight arrives after another short tap of acceleration. It is a slow second-gear right taken at around 50 mph. There is some run-off area immediately ahead which saves those who lock up, but if drivers decide to go for it, they have to do so sooner rather than later. This then leads on to the left-hander of turn nine.
The exit of turn nine is even more important in 2013, thanks to the removal of the heavily criticized “Singapore Sling” at turn 10. It has been replaced by a sweeping left-hander that leads to the third gear right of turn 11. That is swiftly followed by a fourth gear right that takes the cars over the Anderson Bridge.
The 13th corner on the circuit is a sharp second gear hairpin that takes the drivers left and on to the long back straight before the big braking zone for turn 14. Traction is key here to propel drivers along the straight, and effective KERS use is also a must. This also signals the end of the second sector as the tight and twisty third and final part of the lap begins.
Turn 14 is a second gear right that is followed by a fourth gear right-hand kink. This is followed almost immediately after by a second gear right-left chicane that leads drivers along the harbor. The following chicane – turns 18 and 19 – takes the drivers under the large grandstand and into the final few corners. The first of these is tricky, as the exit is unsighted and there is very little margin for error.
The 20th and 21st corners on the Marina Bay Street Circuit mirror the chicane of turns 16 and 17, although the second part is taken at slightly higher speed. There is plenty of run-off area ahead before the final two corners. This section is incredibly technical, with precision being key to keep cars out of the barriers.
The pit entry is on the right-hand side and undercuts the final two turns. It was originally criticized for being dangerous, largely due to the speed differential between a driver entering the pit lane and a driver heading off for another lap. That was resolved by extending the pit entry line, meaning drivers had to commit sooner to entering the pits.
Drivers clip the curb of turn 22, a third gear left, before building up the speed through the 23rd and final corner on the circuit. It is important to take as much speed through this corner and use plenty of the exit curb. Use of KERS as soon as you exit the bend is also crucial for the start/finish straight that follows. All of this is done under bright floodlights, passing landmarks such as the City Hall and Singapore Flyer, and in the humidity and nighttime heat of Singapore.
The race will be crucial for Alonso if he wants to remain in the title hunt. The Spaniard needs to finish well ahead of Vettel, and hope for a dose of rare bad luck for the triple World Champion.
Red Bull is renowned for its pace through the high-speed corners. There are a few of these around the Marina Bay Street Circuit and they usually excel for traction, too. Ferrari looked good at high downforce circuits earlier in the season, and Mercedes could also be in contention, as well.
Under the bright lights of Singapore, we could well witness some incredible fireworks.