Off To A Great Start
20 September 2010, Singapore - The track barriers are in position, the lighting projectors are being tested, and the FORMULA ONE teams are arriving at the Marina Bay Street Circuit for the 2010 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX.
Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing leads the title race and enjoys the Lion City although he has yet to score a point here. "I like Singapore; it's unique as we race at night," says the Australian. "You get the impression the crowd is pretty close to the track in most sections, so it's certainly cosy. I'm hoping to improve on last year's result, as it's a high down-force street circuit that should suit our car. It's got some similarities to Monaco and Budapest and we did well at both those circuits."
Lewis Hamilton, who won the 2009 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, is just five points behind Webber and ready for the renewed challenge. "Winning in Singapore last year was one of the most satisfying victories of my Formula 1 career," says Hamilton. "It's difficult to say accurately how competitive we'll be in Singapore but the engineers are positive that we've made some good progress, so I'm looking forward to getting out on track and sampling the changes for real. The race should give us a clearer indication of exactly where we stand."
Teammate Jenson Button agrees: "The Singapore Grand Prix will be a very interesting weekend because I think it'll give us a clearer idea of the destiny of the world championship," says the man Hamilton succeeded as title-winner. "Singapore will be interesting for all of us -- we'll not only get an idea of the speed of the Ferrari and Red Bull, 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."
Among the half-dozen Singapore first-timers is seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who retired at the end of 2006 but has returned to FORMULA ONE this year. "I have three reasons to look forward to the weekend," says the German. "It is a new circuit for me, it is a city race and it will be my first night race. Driving a new track has never been too complicated for me and I am usually very quick to learn and find the rhythm."
AT & T Williams' Nico Hulkenberg is equally undaunted. "It will be my first time there, but I have been using the simulator so at least I know the layout already and I like street circuits. Everybody speaks very positively about this race, many people say it is the highlight of the year, so I really just want to go and find out for myself!"
BMW Sauber announced earlier this month that Nick Heidfeld will replace Pedro de la Rosa for the remaining five races of the season. "I can't wait to get back in the race car. 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 favourites," says 'Quick Nick'.
Singapore also occupies a special place in the hearts of some of Formula One's most senior and respected figures. One is Mercedes GP Team Principal Ross Brawn, mastermind of world title-winning campaigns with Benetton, Ferrari and Brawn GP.
"Over the past two years," says Brawn, "Formula One's night race in Singapore has proved to be a fantastic occasion enjoyed by drivers, teams and fans alike. The weekend creates a great spectacle to showcase our sport and with the championship battle getting closer, we can hope to see another exciting race. From our team's perspective, we have some refinements to our existing upgrades for Singapore and the high downforce set-up required for this low-speed street circuit."
His counterpart at Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, Martin Whitmarsh, echoes those feelings: "In just two years, the Singapore Grand Prix has become one of the highlights of the Formula 1 calendar. The broadcast footage of the cars racing around in the fading evening light, against the glittering backdrop of the city, has set new standards in televised sport.
"I believe this race has shown the sport how it needs to move forward, and I'm sure that any new venue that joins the grand prix calendar will be able to learn and benefit from the levels of excellence set by the Singapore organisers."
Race promoter Singapore GP has also made several updates to the track to address the feedback from the drivers. The 5.073km track has been resurfaced to reduce the bumpiness between Turns 3 and 7 as well as at Turns 14 and 19.
The pit lane, which has been lowered by 1cm since last year's race, has also been resurfaced to enable the cars to rejoin the track more smoothly.
The Singapore Sling (Turn 10) has also been tweaked slightly. The kerbs have been adjusted to a more gradual curve in order for the drivers to make safer exits from the chicane.
Singapore GP has also gone a step further this year, by introducing a refreshing burst of colour around the track. The track walls have been painted blue, green and yellow, marking the different zones within the Marina Bay Street Circuit. The run-off areas will also be painted red, white and yellow.
Off the track, the stage is set to complement the action on the track with what is arguably the largest outdoor entertainment event in Singapore's calendar.
One of the 10 stages on the circuit, the LG Live at 2010 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX stage at the Padang will have Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, Adam Lambert and Daughtry as headlining acts over the race weekend.
The S$600,000 stage, which is about the size of a basketball court, is one of the largest outdoor stages ever constructed for a concert in Singapore. The stage had to be specially imported from overseas and has been used by other international stars like Robbie Williams and Korean popstar Rain.