Formula 1: Off to spectacular Singapore

2016-09-14 06:00

THE Formula 1 paddock leaves Europe behind as it sets off the final push for the 2016 season. First on the fly-away schedule is the Marina Bay Circuit in Singapore.

As the first ever night race on the calendar the 2008 debut of the Singapore Grand Prix will forever be shrouded in controversy.

It was during this Grand Prix that the infamous “crashgate” scandal was born as Renault ordered then driver Nelson Piquet Jr to deliberately crash in aid of teammate Fernando Alonso.

Luckily this incident didn’t mar the reputation of the Singapore GP which has become a favourite on the calendar for drivers and fans.

For fans the spectacular vista of Singapore presents a cosmopolitan destination while the novelty of a night race hasn’t yet worn off. The light skimming across the sculpted bodywork of a Formula 1 car continues to be one of the most visceral experiences of the year.

For the drivers, the Marina Bay Circuit is as demanding a track as they are likely to face in the entire season.

In layman’s terms this circuit would be described as busy. Throughout just five kilometres drivers are bombarded with 23 corners with barriers and walls lying in wait to punish the smallest of errors.

The level of concentration required is second to none, along with the added factor of weather conditions.

Though they are supremely fit athletes, drivers easily point out that the level of concentration required and the humidity make Singapore the most physically demanding race of the year.

It’s not a dawdle for the cars either. The nature of this street circuit demands a high downforce setup and it’s tough on brakes too. Here horsepower isn’t as important as a good chassis, which will bring more teams into the mix for the ultimate prize on Sunday.

Twelve months ago Mercedes arrived at the Singapore Grand Prix with the expectation of fighting it out for the front row and ultimately the win. This expectation was completely decimated as both Hamilton and Rosberg struggled through the weekend. While Hamilton eventually retired from the race, Rosberg could only manage a distant fourth.

At the time several conspiracy theories swirled around Mercedes’ sudden loss of pace but in reality it was a change in tyre pressures that stumped Hamilton and Rosberg twelve months ago. While the team is likely to have solved this issue for 2016, victory this weekend isn’t a done deal.

The biggest challenge for the top step of the podium is sure to come from Red Bull. The Austrian team should excel this weekend given its aerodynamic prowess.

Ferrari too will have an eye on a better performance, as it was Sebastian Vettel who won the 2015 Singapore GP. However, despite the fact that Vettel is a bit of a Singapore specialist the 2016 Ferrari isn’t quite the car the team delivered last year.

Mercedes has utterly dominated the 2016 season but despite this, and however preposterous it may appear, Red Bull will be the team to beat this weekend.

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