The 2012 GP2 season reaches its climax this weekend in Singapore when the teams and drivers arrive at the Marina Bay circuit for their first ever race on this demanding 5.067 Km street circuit.
Once again Leimer must be considered a favourite for the race win that has eluded him all season despite being one of the fastest and most consistent drivers of the year.
Nathanaël Berthon must also be viewed as a potential winner following his pace in recent races where, as his confidence and experience has grown, he has been very fast and, if it wasn’t for a sequence of bad luck beyond his control, he might well have taken several more podium finishes.
For this weekend Pirelli will be supplying the P Zero Yellow soft and P Zero Red supersoft tyres to the teams. The Marina Bay circuit does not result in much tyre wear but the high ambient temperatures can cause a high level of thermal degradation. Additionally the high temperatures in conjunction with similarly high levels of humidity mean a punishing race for both the drivers and their cars.
Below Thomas Couyotopoulo, Sporting Director of Racing Engineering, looks forward to Singapore:
It's the first time that the Singapore Marina Bay Circuit is on GP2's calendar. How does the team prepare for such an event? The fact that the race on a new track actually makes things quite interesting, it doesn't change the way we prepare for a race weekend in particular as we have to use different references.
Under normal circumstances, the engineers focus on the technical side of the preparation of the car and driving aspects. But for Singapore it's different as no GP2 car has ever run there, therefore the work consists in gathering and adapting as much information as possible from the 2011 Formula 1 race.
Racing on a new track might help the rookies a bit at the beginning as, in theory, it puts all drivers back to the same level as they all have the same knowledge of the circuit. Nevertheless, it will be crucial to adapt to the layout and conditions as quickly as possible.
What are the challenges of racing on a new track with such a particular layout? Apart from the track itself being completely new for all the GP2 teams, the circuit is a street circuit and we will also race on it, in qualifying, during the night. Overall the circuit can be considered as slow compared to the average layout of the season so far.
Also the grip should be less than on a permanent race track due to the surface of the streets and tyre wear will have to be correctly anticipated. Additionally, the heat and humidity will make it a demanding event for the drivers and teams alike.
With a total of 23 corners, it is definitely not the easiest circuit for drivers to learn in such a short period of time and the layout leaves very little margin for mistakes as the guardrails are very close and surround the entire track.
The track is new for both drivers, Nathanaël Berthon and Fabio Leimer. To what extent does this influence the preparation and weekend itself? As GP2 is new to this circuit, the drivers, just like the teams, have no record and information to look at from previous years.
The drivers will have to set their braking and turning reference points as quickly and precisely as possible. Qualifying will be very important to obtain a good result in the races and we hope both drivers are getting it right.
The circuit walk will be even more important than on other tracks as drivers and engineers will look out for all the details to anticipate possible issues and search for the best driving solutions in terms of lines, braking, etc.
Physically it will certainly be one of the most difficult races of the season for the drivers due to the high temperatures and the humidity.
But also, due to the mental aspect, it will be intense for the drivers as the track is very demanding, leaving little space to "rest" in the car with so few straight lines. This means the drivers will be under a lot of physical stress while having to be very focused during each session.
Source: The Racing Engineering team