2010 Singapore Grand Prix preview For round fifteen of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship, Formula One will be racing on the streets of the Marina Bay Street Circuit during the 2010 Singapore...
2010 Singapore Grand Prix preview
For round fifteen of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) Formula One World Championship, Formula One will be racing on the streets of the Marina Bay Street Circuit during the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix. The Republic of Singapore is the smallest country in South-East Asia and is an island situated at the southern tip of Malaysia, separated from the mainland by the Johor Strait. It is the only night race on the calendar, previous winners were Fernando Alonso who won the race in 2008, and Lewis Hamilton who won the race in 2009. After drivers complained about the bumpiness of the circuit, the track has been updated and has been resurfaced to reduce the bumps between Turn 3 and Turn 7, as well as Turns 14 and 19. The pit lane has also been resurfaced to enable the cars to join the track more smoothly.
The Singapore Sling, Turn 10, has also been changed, the curbs have been adjusted to a more gradual curve which will according to the race promoters ensure a safer exit of the chicane. The circuit has also been painted to give it a new fresh look. The walls have been painted blue, green and yellow, the colors mark the different sections within the Marina Bay Circuit, and the run-off areas have been painted red, white and yellow. The Singapore Grand Prix also hosts the Formula One Rocks entertainment program which is accessible to all ticket holders, top artists like Mariah Carey, Missy Elliot, Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Kingston, Raphael Saadiq and DJ Tiga will perform on a specially constructed central mega stage and on ten other stages around the circuit.
The FIA has appointed four stewards who will make up the F1 Stewards Panel for the race in Singapore: Australian Garry Connelly and Venezuelan Enzo Spano will represent the FIA, Harold Netto will represent the hosting country Singapore and ex-Formula One driver American Daniel 'Danny' Sullivan will represent the drivers.
The 60-year old Sullivan enjoyed a short career in Formula One when he in 1983 joined the Benetton Tyrrell team. He returned to the US in 1984 to compete in the CART championship, and in 1985 he won the Indy 500. His 'spin and win' Indy 500 victory made him famous. He overtook Mario Andretti on lap 120 while fighting for the lead, but made a 360 degree spin at full speed, went off the circuit between Turns One and Two, but he managed to without hitting anything or anyone. He then went into the pits to replace his flat-spotted tyres and overtook Andretti again 20 laps later, thus winning one of the most prestigious races in motorsports. He won the CART championship for Penske in 1988 and retired from racing in 1994 after a big crash at the Michigan International Speedway.
Five title contenders, five races, five chances
With only five races left, the five leaders Mark Webber, Hamilton, Alonso, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, only have five chances to do the right thing -- which is scoring the maximum amount of points, but they also have five chances to ruin their title aspirations. Literally one wheel in the wrong place, as Hamilton experienced at Monza, could spell disaster. In other words: the outcome of the championship is completely unpredictable. Three other drivers are also still in contention for the title, but the numbers 6 to 8 in the championship, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg and Robert Kubica, only have a mathematical chance to win it, and it would be a true miracle if one of them would succeed in doing so.
McLaren is adamant they have overcome their high-downforce problems as they experienced during the Hungarian Grand Prix. McLaren believes the FIA's new flexibility tests have leveled the competition, and therefore Ferrari and Red Bull no longer have an advantage. McLaren will introduce a few new updates, according to the team 'a new front wing and other devices that will look to improve downforce'.
Button is positive about the progress the team has made, "Singapore will be interesting for all of us; we'll not only get an idea of the speed of the Ferrari and Red Bull [referring to the new FIA tests], but we'll get to see for the first time whether all our efforts over the past two months have helped put us back in the ballpark at high-downforce tracks."
Hamilton, who won the race last year, but crashed out of the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago, knows how important this race is. "I've already drawn a line under Monza. I've learnt from the experience and, while it was extremely disappointing, those things are sometimes what you need to sharpen your mind and raise your game and motivation at an extremely crucial time in the season," he said. And he vowed to push even harder to win the title, "I'll keep pushing. I'll take each race as it comes, but I'll also be making sure I get to the finish of the next five races, that's more important than anything. I go to Singapore to win."
Webber has chosen Sydney and Melbourne as his home base for the remaining five races. But he will not have much time to enjoy his stay in Australia, he is on a tight fitness schedule, and is preparing himself for the final push for the title. According to the Australian Herald Sun, with a base in Australia, Webber will be able to commute to Singapore, Korea and Japan without disrupting his pre-race routine.
Webber about the championship, "My sixth place in Monza was enough to get me back into the lead of the points' table, but there's still a long way to go before anyone is crowned world champion." About the effect of the new FIA tests he said, "I'm expecting a tougher weekend in Singapore. But we only need a bit of an advantage to make other people's lives very difficult." Webber retired from the races in 2008 and 2009, but as he said on his website, "I want to put that bad luck to bed on Sunday."
Vettel hasn't given up his title chase either, he is fifth in the championship, 24 points behind the leader. "We are not panicking. We are quietly doing our work. I believe in the title -- that is the most important thing. It will be very close in the finale, but I'm optimistic," the young German commented.
Alonso also knows he must finish the race and score points this weekend, he is 21 points behind leader Webber. "I haven't done the maths, I don't even know how many points I have now, but five podium finishes are a must." Alonso has a different approach to prepare himself for the race, "For the next few days we will continue to live in European time going to bed in the early hours of the morning and having breakfast at the start of the afternoon, for example. For the past two years, that method has worked perfectly."
Running out of time, and running out of engines
Drivers are allowed to use eight engines this season, and with five races still to go, some of them have already ran out of fresh engines. Of the five title contenders, Webber has an engine advantage, he has two Renault engines left and will use a fresh engine in Singapore, Vettel has one fresh engine left. Both Renault drivers also have two engines left, and Williams driver Rubens Barrichello also still has two Cosworth engines available.
Both McLaren drivers have used seven engines and thus one fresh engine left, McLaren is adamant they will not get problems with their engine allocation, as they believe the Mercedes engine has proved to be very reliable. Both drivers of the Mercedes and Force India team also still have one fresh Mercedes engine left. Also both drivers of the Toro Rosso, HRT and Lotus team used seven engines this season, and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi and Williams' Nico Hulkenberg also have used seven engines.
Further down the list, both Massa and Alonso have used eight engines, and will get a 10-place grid penalty if they need a new engine. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said they opted to use their eighth and last fresh engine at Monza, but he expects they can manage the mileage on the used engines for the remaining races and doesn't think they have to use a ninth engine. Nick Heidfeld who replaces Pedro de la Rosa, is at the bottom of this list, his number 22 Sauber car already used 9 engines, and Heidfeld will get a grid penalty if he needs a tenth engine.
Pit stops and tyres
Expected pit stop schedule for Singapore:
For 1 Stop - between laps 39-43
For 2 Stops - between laps 24-28 and 44-47
For 3 Stops - between laps 14-19, 35-39 and 52-58
Bridgestone tyre report
Bridgestone will bring the Medium and Super Soft tyre compounds to Singapore, a circuit with a few straights, but with many 90 degree slow corners which will put a lot of strain on the tyres and brakes.
Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima about the circuit, "Singapore is a street course so we will see a lot of surface evolution and improvement as the track is first cleaned by cars running, then racing rubber is laid, meaning better grip. This makes finding a good set-up difficult as the track condition is a moving target. The first time we visited the circuit was very bumpy, but this was improved for last year. For 2010 it will be interesting for us to learn about the surface again as it is made up of public roads which are used throughout the year for purposes other than a Grand Prix."
Latest news and rumors
A new variant on the 2011 Kubica/Massa swap has emerged through the grapevine, according to the rumors Kubica would go to his dream team Ferrari, Massa will not go to Renault but instead to his former employer Sauber -- who have a Ferrari engine deal, which would mean Renault could keep Vitaly Petrov, and use the Russian money he brings to the team to hire Kimi Raikkonen, who wants to return to Formula One. But rumors are rumors, and both Massa and Kubica have contracts for 2011, and it would be a heck of a job to work out the right conditions for such a driver swap.
Heidfeld is back with his BMW-Sauber team to replace De la Rosa, but 'Quick Nick' has no contract for 2011 with the team, he will only replace the Spaniard for the last five races. "I can't wait to get back in the race car. I'm not just very much looking forward to going racing again, as I regard it as a special bonus that my first race will be the Singapore Grand Prix. Two years ago this race immediately became one of my favorites," the German said about his unforeseen return. Sauber has also appointed Esteban Gutierrez as test and reserve driver. The 19-year old Mexican will be in the Sauber C29 for the test drives following the season final in Abu Dhabi in November. Gutierrez won the 2010 GP3 Series title for the ART racing team.
Singapore will also be an important weekend for Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli. On Friday Lotus will announce the 2011 driver line-up, and team owner Tony Fernandez also hinted he will have some exciting news about the team. It is rumored he will announce the team will officially change their name to the historic "Team Lotus". An AirAsia plane was spotted in Singapore with the new Team Lotus logo on it. It is expected Lotus will also officially confirm their tie-up with Renault, who will be Lotus' new engine supplier.
Michael Schumacher has been testing KTM and Honda racing bikes on the German Sachsenring ahead of the race in Singapore, the same bikes which caused his neck injury early 2009 and prevented him from replacing Massa after his accident in Hungary. Mercedes is not at all worried the German could be injured again, and a Mercedes spokesman said, "Michael has fun riding bikes and knows exactly what he is doing, and we know that too. If Michael can deal with the risk, so can we."
The weather in Singapore
A number of drivers are concerned about a possible downpour during this weekend's Grand Prix, on Wednesday the skies were dark and there were heavy rain showers and more rain is expected on Thursday. More rain has been forecasted for the rest of the weekend, and some drivers fear the combination of rain and artificial light could lead to visibility problems caused by reflections of the wet track surface, which could lead to dangerous situations.
Barrichello, with over 300 Grands Prix under his belt, is the most experienced driver, "I have never driven in the rain at night. I really don't know what to say about that, we will have to wait and see." Vettel shares Barrichello's opinion, "'We've yet to experience any wet running on a floodlit track, so it will be interesting if that happens." Alonso is a bit more worried about the rain, "In the last two races here, we have never had to run in the rain and the forecast for the coming weekend is not particularly encouraging."
Sir Jackie Stewart about the rain on Wednesday, "It was so heavy that rivers of water flooded the track to a point where the tyres can't deal with it. In daylight, we can see beyond the track if we're heading into rain. But here, the light is contained on the circuit and everything else is dark. So it'll be very challenging on the drivers' peripheral vision." Rosberg is also worried about the prospect of rain, "It's going to be rather interesting if it rains, but I hope it doesn't because it will be quite messy."
Whether the rain will be a problem or not for the drivers, or Singapore will turn into a Singa-pour, we will know when the lights will turn to green on Sunday 20.00 hrs Singapore time for yet another exciting episode of the 2010 Formula One Championship.