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How the F1 teams will approach the Singapore Grand Prix

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How the F1 teams will approach the Singapore Grand Prix
Sep 19, 2012, 10:17 AM

In just three years the Singapore Grand Prix, F1’s only night race, has established itself alongside Monaco as one of the two most important race...

In just three years the Singapore Grand Prix, F1’s only night race, has established itself alongside Monaco as one of the two most important races on the calendar for the sport, the teams and sponsors.

But the race on the Marina Bay Circuit is also one of the longest and toughest of the year for cars, drivers and strategists. The race can last up to two hours and with high temperatures, humidity and constant braking and turning, it is a real marathon. And there has been a safety car every year to throw all the best paid plans up in the air.

Strategy wise it was a three stop race last season and this year Pirelli is again bringing the soft and supersoft tyres. However we have seen a trend this year of races taking one less stop than in 2011, so two stops will probably be the most common strategy.

Last year there was a problem with tyres getting cut by bolts set into the plastic kerbs, this will have been remedied for this year.

As the track is at sea level, the air pressure is higher, the air is more dense and this means that the fuel consumption is higher. The stop and start nature of the track further adds to this. So the cars start heavier than at many places with around 155 kilos of fuel on board -10 kg more than the average. This adds to the punishment of the tyres in the early stages of the race.

When you have read all about the considerations the strategists will work with, see if you can find the best strategy for the race on our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR, developed in conjunction with F1 team strategists.

Track characteristics

Marina Bay, Singapore – 5.073 kilometres. Race distance - 61 laps = 309.3 kilometres. 23 corners in total.. Street circuit around Singapore’s Marina Bay area.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 305km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) - 290km/h without.

Full throttle – 45.5% of the lap time (low). Total fuel needed for race distance – 155 kilos (average/high). Fuel consumption – 2.26 kg per lap (average)

Time spent braking: 21% of lap. Number of brake zones – 16. Brake wear- Very high. Toughest race of season for brakes as no cooling opportunities.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 24 seconds (very high)

Total time needed for pit stop: 26 seconds (very high)

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.37 seconds (high)

Form Guide

The Singapore Grand Prix is the 14th round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

McLaren has won the last three Grands Prix from pole position, making a total of five wins from 13 races for the team this season. Ferrari were strong in Monza, but that is a low downforce circuit so the carry-over to Singapore cannot be guaranteed. Red Bull has been struggling for qualifying pace lately and must urgently address this to revive the drivers’ championship campaign.

Lotus were strong in Monaco, Hungary and Valencia, which is normally a good indicator for Singapore and were good on the supersofts on Montreal, as were Sauber, with Perez taking a podium.

As far as drivers’ and teams’ form at Singapore is concerned; Alonso won the race in 2008 with Renault and 2010 with Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton won the 2009 edition for McLaren and Sebastian Vettel won last year.

Weather Forecast

The weather forecast for the weekend is for high temperatures, around 31 degrees, with little chance of rain forecast. However in four previous events rain hasn’t affected the race, so we must be due a wet race soon, given the nature of the weather in Singapore.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Singapore: Soft (yellow markings) and Supersoft (red markings). This combination was seen in Monaco and Montreal.

In Singapore the great challenge is to look after the rear tyres, which get damaged by the constant stopping and starting at the circuit’s 23 corners. Pirelli found in its first year that it’s quite an aggressive track and the risk here is overheating the tyres, leading to the thermal degradation we saw in many of the early races this season.

It is one of the hardest races of the season for the brakes, not because of big stops from high to low speeds, but because of the frequent brake use and no straights to cool the brakes. This places an extra strain on the tyres as the red hot brakes inside the wheels cook the tyres from the inside, so tyre management is difficult.

The supersoft is expected to be around 0.8 secs faster on a lap than the soft tyre and is more heat resistant with a higher working temperature range. Last year teams tended to do more stints on the supersoft than the soft, although Ferrari favoured the soft tyre.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year the top four finishers made three stops, with first and last stints on supersofts and the two middle stints on softs.

However Paul Di Resta got a sixth place finish from 10th on the grid by saving a new set of softs from qualifying to start the race on and then doing a two stop strategy with a middle stint on supersofts.

He was able to keep up a good pace on softs and leapfrog several cars who stopped three times. Sauber and Lotus will be in a position to try a similar tactic this year. Perez did something similar in Canada and Italy this year. If they can qualify well they could pose a threat in the race.

A strategy of stopping around lap 17 for new softs and then again on lap 39 for new softs looks like a competitive plan at this stage.

The time needed for a pit stop in Singapore is very long, which helps cars able to make one less stop. A safety car is likely to feature at some point and this can change the game, allowing cars which lost ground to close up and, if deployed around the time of pit stops, can change the order significantly.

Five or six laps behind a safety car also moves teams into a window of making one less stop, by extending the tyre life.

Chance of a Safety Car

The chance of a Safety Car at Singapore is very high. There has been at least one Safety Car at every Singapore GP so far with an average of 6 laps spent under Safety Car. This will further encourage teams hoping to do less stops in the races.

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result. Much can change. In Hungary, for example, only three drivers completed lap 1 in the same position as their grid slot.

As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:

Gained:


+26 Massa *****

+21 Alonso, Glock

+19 Perez***, Kovalainen

+18 Senna * *****

+13 Vergne

+12 Raikkonen

+11 Pic

+8 Karthikeyan

+7 Kobayashi****, Maldonado****

+5 Schumacher* ******, Hulkenberg

+4 Hamilton

+3 Di Resta *****

+2 Button, De la Rosa ****

+1 Petrov*****

Held position: Vettel

Lost:

-3 Grosjean** **** *****, Webber

-6 Rosberg

-14 Ricciardo*

Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start. Belgian GP start is not included as it eliminated many cars, skewing the sample.

* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia

** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap

***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field

**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco

***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start

***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back

****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. The record is a 2.31s stop in the German GP by McLaren.

It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops.

The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Italian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The league positions from the previous race are in brackets.

1. McLaren 20.736secs (1)

2. Ferrari 21.515secs (4)

3. Red Bull 21.556secs (5)

4. Toro Rosso 21.720secs (2)

5. Lotus 21.730secs (3)

6. Williams 21.814secs (11)

7. Mercedes 21.854secs (6)

8. Caterham 21.910secs (9)

9. Marussia 22.046secs (7)

10. Force India 22.190secs (8)

11. Sauber 22.472secs (10)

12. HRT 23.488secs (12)

Now you have read all about the considerations the strategists will work with, see if you can find the best strategy for the race on our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR, developed in conjunction with F1 team strategists.

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from some of the F1 team strategists and from Pirelli.

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