Held on a tortuous street circuit in the heart of the city-state, the race is undoubtedly a highlight of the season.
After the high-speed demands of Monza two weeks ago, Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit offers a very different challenge. The track has an average speed of just 170km/h (106mph), making it the second-slowest track of the year after Monaco.
Ten of its 23 corners are taken in first or second gear and less than 50 per cent of the lap is spent at full throttle.
But the race is still one of the most demanding on the schedule. The asphalt is very bumpy, there’s little room for error and sweltering weather conditions – 30 degrees/70 per cent humidity – make it very tough for the drivers, who can lose up to three litres in sweat.
I think the impending ban on over-the-radio instructions will be interesting.
This race is also the longest grand prix of the year. Last year’s 61 laps were completed only 47s inside the FIA’s two-hour time limit and the shortest of the six Singapore GPs to date still took 1hr 56m back in 2009.
The longevity of the race has been affected by the presence of the Safety Car, which has been deployed for at least four laps every year. This is something that race strategists need to factor into their calculations.
There are two DRS zones around the 5.065km lap. The first is on the start-finish straight; the second is on the approach to Turn Seven, which is also the fastest section of track, where the cars reach speeds of 300km/h.
With so much emphasis on low-speed traction, Pirelli is taking its two softest tyre compounds – the Soft (Prime) and Supersoft (Option) – to Singapore. This is a new strategy, as last year the company took its Supersoft and Medium compounds, the race being won with a two-stop strategy.
McLaren has won this race once before, with Lewis Hamilton in 2009. Jenson Button has finished second twice and he’s one of only three drivers on the grid to have completed every lap of every Singapore Grand Prix. Kevin Magnussen will be tackling the race for the first time.
Jenson Button: “This is such a special race. The whole weekend feels different – there’s a buzz to the paddock when you first walk in on Thursday afternoon and it never goes away. You can feel the vibe – and the tension and anticipation climb higher and higher as we get closer to the race itself on Sunday night.
“We had a positive showing at Spa and Monza, and we’re continuing to develop and improve the car. As we move back to higher-downforce circuits, it’ll be interesting to see how the pack reshuffles itself – I think we’ll still be able to maintain our forward momentum.
“I also think Monza showed us that this formula is working – we had some fantastically close battles in Italy, and I really hope that we continue that in Singapore. It’s not the easiest of tracks for racing, but I think Monza has shown that the new regulations are in fact making the racing better. I’m really looking forward to getting out on track and seeing what these cars can do.”
Kevin Magnussen: “I’ve been looking forward to this race all year! I’ve never done a night race before, so this is going to be such a special weekend. Racing at night under the spotlights really feels like a show, and I think it’s an incredible and positive thing for the sport as a whole.
“This is also probably going to be one of the physically toughest races of the year – it’ll last for nearly two hours, and there aren’t too many opportunities around the lap to relax. But I like that – I like tracks that are quite intense: I really enjoyed the Hungaroring, which is quite relentless, and this looks pretty similar.
“Finally, I think the impending ban on over-the-radio instructions will be interesting. As with any sudden change to the interpretation of the regulations, it’s going to be tricky to know exactly how best to proceed, but I’m sure we’ll find a way to make it work.”
Eric Boullier - Racing director, McLaren Mercedes: “The start of the fly-aways marks the final chapter of the world championship season. It’s a time when the whole team needs to dig deep as we continue our work to improve the car and carry some positive momentum across the winter and into next year. It’s an important time for everyone – and it will be interesting to see how our car responds to the return to the high-downforce circuits that proliferate for the remainder of the year.
“The Singapore Grand Prix has very quickly become one of Formula 1’s most important, vibrant and glamorous events. It’s a must-see race, and one that shows just what this sport can achieve with an open-minded approach to creating something new, unusual and innovative.
“We are still evaluating the full consequences of the new interpretation of Article 20.1 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, but, as a team, we will of course find a solution that works and which follows this new interpretation. Singapore is a difficult race to manage under normal circumstances, so this will definitely add an extra dimension to our preparations.”
McLaren AMG Mercedes