Marina Bay Street Circuit: The Inside Line

Marina Bay Street Circuit: The Inside Line

Paddy's Perspective

"As a team we were incredibly happy with the result in Monza. It’s one of the great circuits of the season and a challenging one to take a win, let alone achieve a one-two finish, so that was extremely satisfying. They were fantastic drives from both Lewis and Nico and it was a welcome return to winning ways. Singapore is a race that I’m sure the whole paddock looks forward to. It’s a glamorous event with a fantastic atmosphere – to the extent that standing on the starting grid under the thousands of spotlights feels much like being on stage, waiting for the theatre to begin. It really is a unique weekend – not least because of the peculiar timings. The circuit itself could not stand as more of a contrast to Monza, with a lot of low-speed corner content. The demands on the car are still very high in terms of braking, steering and also the engine. It’s also a long race – often running to the full two hour limit and frequently characterised by safety cars. It’s a tricky one to manage no matter what position you might be in, with fortune playing a part depending on the nature and timing of any issues which may arise. It’s always an action-packed, incident-filled race, with the nature of the track and the heat playing a role in retirements – both mechanical and by human error. We’ll be aiming to steer clear of any drama and come away with another strong result as the season enters its final third."

Singapore: On The Pit Wall

Street Circuit
Whilst there is certainly more room in which to manoeuvre the car and avoid contact with the walls than in Monaco, drivers are nonetheless running mere centimetres from the barriers in a number of places around the Marina Bay circuit. This has been allayed somewhat following a restructuring of the kerbs – particularly around the reshaped Turn 10 – however there is still very little margin for error. Similar to Monte Carlo, it is important for drivers to maximise track time during the practice sessions to build a good rhythm through the weekend. With that in mind, those who are approaching the limit in terms of engine allocation will potentially struggle. While preserving the life of a Power Unit through reduced running in practice may not have a dramatic effect at some circuits, in Singapore the drivers really do need to be putting in lap after lap with these new cars to both understand their behaviour and explore the limits. Those who are restricted in terms of running time could well find themselves compromised – and it could prove a fine line. Nobody will want to take an engine penalty in Singapore but, with engines being recycled from previous race weekends and approaching the limits of their usable window, mechanical failures may occur.

Track Surface
Sparking – where the plank of the car makes contact with the tarmac – is a frequent sight around the Singapore circuit. Not only due to the darkness, but the uneven nature of the track surface. Resurfacing work was carried out last year which did improve this – but it nonetheless remains the most extreme circuit of the year in terms of surface ripples. Contact with the ground serves only to upset the car on corner entry, so a compromise must be found for the optimal setup. Maximising the potential of the car around a lap whilst minimising the risk of errors is a tough balance to find – and all the more challenging since the removal of certain suspension tools.

Circuit Peculiarities
Unusually for most circuits, the cars cross a bridge around the Singapore circuit, which is magnetic due to the immense amount of power cabling running underneath – particularly that used to power the tram line. This creates a lot of electrical disturbance, which can cause car data systems to drop out and can even affect some car components.

The soft and supersoft compounds have been nominated for this race – a standard allocation for the Marina Bay circuit. As proven in Monaco, this should not create any issues and a similar scenario to that of last season can therefore be expected. What is interesting about Singapore is that, when the sun sets, track temperature stabilises at ambient temperature – usually around 30 degrees at this time of year. Although this is not a particularly high figure, tyre overheating is a common occurrence. This is brought about by continuous sets of corners putting high amounts of energy through the rubber, coupled with minimal time spent travelling in a straight line to allow the surface to cool. This is another reason why downforce is crucial around Singapore – the more of it a car has, the better it will manage tyre overheating.

Safety Cars
Once again, the tight nature of the circuit increases the likelihood of incidents and also makes it difficult to clear stricken cars away when they do stop on track. As a relatively new venue on the calendar compared to, say, Melbourne, the Singapore marshals are also not quite as experienced in dealing with such scenarios. Although they do a fine job, it can take a little longer for racing to resume here than at comparable circuits. There are also not as many access points as you might find in Monaco, for example. Each of these factors can contribute to lengthy safety car periods and, as a consequence, a race which often runs right up to the two hour limit.

Singapore is a prime event for upgrades – standing as one of the main weekends where most teams will bring a significant update package as opposed to the smaller, more regular tweaks. With the last two low downforce circuits now out of the way in Spa and Monza, and with updates to competitors’ high downforce packages having had plenty of development time, it makes sense to introduce it at the circuit that will be most sensitive to that package. Suzuka is a bit of a balancing act – but such a package can certainly then be carried through the remaining races.

Since the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, there has not been a single wet session to date. It has come close to being so on at least once occasion – but has thus far failed to materialise. This is unlikely to change, as the weather profile in Singapore is such that rain tends to arrive during the late afternoon, which does not clash with track running time. However, this therefore presents a significant unknown factor – one that must be carefully prepared for during a calmer period rather than being dealt with in the heat of the moment should it occur. From visor choices to steering wheel screens and pit stop procedures – anything which may be able to help the driver adapt to wet running could prove crucial. It is also worth noting, once again, that temperatures tend to stay constant at around 30 degrees – both day and night. Add to that an intense humidity, and both the drivers and crew face a battle to remain in peak condition.

Offset Hours
Handling the offset schedule of Singapore in the most effective manner possible is a topic often discussed – and one that does hold some significance. There are a few schools of thought on this – the first being to tackle the change head on come race day. Then, there’s the more progressive approach – making the adjustment as early as possible and staging it over a few days. Whichever philosophy is adopted, the end result is very much the same in that team members must wake at around lunch time and head home as the sun rises the next day. Although it may seem a simple transition to the outside world, the fact remains that this is fundamentally confusing to the human body – which very much operates on the principles of daylight being the time to remain awake. For everybody involved, maintaining peak performance and avoiding mistakes during hours in which the body is used to resting is not as simple as it may seem.

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