An insight look at the course, the drivers and current race standings ahead of the “Night Race” weekend.
The Singapore Grand Prix “Night Race” returns to the Marina Bay Circuit this weekend. Ahead of 2016 Driver’s Championship Round 15 race, COVERED Asia’s Motoring Editor, Malcolm Yeo sheds some light on what you need to know about the race course, drivers, and their current race standings. Let’s get ready for the world’s most exciting night race!
I have always loved the Singapore Grand Prix because the city comes to life more than any other day. Marina Bay Sands gets lit up with lasers, track lights get tested a week in advance so driving on portions of the circuit feel more special, parties happen through the city centre, pubs and restaurants get into the action with offers and get creative with new dishes etc etc… and of course the race.
Utilizing the great city-scape which Singapore has, as well as notable landmarks such as the Singapore Flyer, the Padang and the old Supreme courts as a back drop, in my opinion, it is on par in terms of looks to the Monaco track. Being a night race, it is also iconic as it is the only night race in the history of all Formula 1 circuits.
The Marina Bay Circuit track layout was designed by auto racer and circuit designer, Hermann Tilke, who also designed many of today’s Formula 1 circuits, namely the Sepang International Circuit, Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit, Bahrain International Circuit and Circuit of the Americas. Even though it is not the fastest of all tracks in the Formula 1 calendar, it is one of the most challenging. With cockpit temperatures reaching up to 60 degrees Celsius, 23 corners, most of them being sharp corners and walls which are less than an inch away from the tyres at some sections, it is described by most drivers as an extremely challenging circuit for both the mind and body.
The great thing about the Singapore GP is that it is the 15th race out of 21 races this year. Tensions between teams and drivers have been built up, teams have made changes to their cars after mid-season testing, new regulations have been made to the cars and controversial topics have been brought up throughout the past races. All this makes for a more exciting race. As it stands, here are the top 5 of the Drivers’ Championships:
Hamilton, who won 6 races this season, leads his teammate Nico Rosberg who has surprisingly won 7 races so far, by only 2 points. Daniel Ricciardo splits the Mercedes and Ferrari teams with 77points behind Rosberg. Vettel and Raikkonen have quite a mountain to climb being left behind by Hamilton by more than a hundred points.
As it is, the season is dominated by Mercedes who have won 13 races and with Max Verstappen winning the Spanish GP for Red Bull Racing. Ferrari are close behind Red Bull Racing with 279 points in the Constructors’ Championships, Red Bull Racing are at 290 but Mercedes are almost untouchable at 498 points.
Come race weekend, Ferrari and many supporters are looking to Sebastian Vettel to try and secure a win at the Singapore GP and securing some well needed points to get ahead of Red Bull Racing. Being one of the few drivers who declared that he loves this track, Vettel has won here more times than any other driver since the circuit first opened in 2008.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton are surely going to go head to head after being at each other’s necks all season and both of them would want to redeem their less than desired performance last year where Nico came in fourth and Lewis had to retire the car after achieving pole position in qualifying, but having gearbox trouble on race day. This year however, Mercedes have been quite solid through most of the season and probably would see that at least one of the cars could have a podium finish.
Red Bull Racing might have something up their sleeves as well. At the age of 18, Max Verstappen has been creating waves this season with his aggressive driving style, brash attitude and podium finishes. He currently holds the record for youngest person to ever win a Formula 1 race, beating previous record holder Sebastian Vettel. Verstappen has not yet dialled in the consistency, but after tasting victory in Spain, he is sure to want more. Daniel Ricciardo however, has been consistent in his podium finishes this season and even without a win this season, he has already surpassed both drivers on the Ferrari team. Having raced in Singapore 3 times, he is more experienced on this circuit than his teammate and might just have what it takes to actually win the race as well.
All in all, the Singapore GP is always full of surprises. Every year without fail, a safety car is deployed at least once and speaking of which, just last year, the safety car was deployed because of 27 year-old Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia, who decided to take a stroll before turn 13. Red Bull Racing’s team principle Christian Horner says, “It looked as though he had come straight out of a nightclub. It shouldn’t be possible to get onto the track. I am sure the FIA will be having a good look to see how the crowd can be prevented from ending up on the circuit. It is not only dangerous for him but very much so for the drivers.”
2016 Season Review
With Mercedes almost perfecting their engines after supplying other teams with their engines and getting much feedback, it is quite clear that they have done their testing and research well with the support of other teams. Ferrari on the other hand, might want to catch up in the remaining 7 races if they want to obtain even a Drivers Championship let alone the Constructors Championship.
Among other changes being made, Felipe Massa unfortunately has announced his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the 2016 season. “Why I chose to announce my Formula 1 retirement at Monza is not an accident,” says Massa, who adds, “Ten years ago in Monza, a driver announced he was leaving too – and he is one more than any other that had an influence on my career: Michael Schumacher.” The peak of his career was in 2008 when he lost the Drivers’ Championship by one point to Lewis Hamilton – the blame placed solely on the unfortunate pit lane accident which took the 2015 Singapore GP which cost him the race, and his championship win.
Another driver which would be leaving is Jenson Button. Not for good, but just for a year. The 36 year-old was quoted saying, “I’ve lived and breathed F1 since I was 19 years old, and I’m 36 now. You go to grands prix on the weekend and everything else is either recovery or preparation for a grand prix.” Fortunately, he mentioned that he will be training and doing simulation work with the Mclaren team as well as attending races in the 2017 season. “I’ll get up when I want, I’ll do what I want, for a lot of the days of the year. I’ll spend more time with my friends, and more importantly my family, who I haven’t properly seen for 17 years!”
Another piece of news to look out for is that the majority share of Formula 1 might be sold off to American Media giant Liberty Media run by multi-billionaire media mogul John Malone. Speculation also suggested that there are other buyers who have placed a bid for the majority share of 35% which is why the sale has not been finalized. What this means is that beloved Bernie Ecclestone, who has been the face of Formula 1, might be out of a jobin the near future. His tried and tested methods of selling broadcasting rights and finding investors may work for the next few years or so, but with him refusing to give in to the internet era, it might cause more problems for the future of Formula 1. However, the BBC was quoted saying, “The smart money in F1 says Liberty will not divest themselves of the 85-year-old’s influence immediately and that Ecclestone will stay on for a while, even if it is only to allow some form of transition. Meanwhile, his remarks to The Times that he will “say adios” if he does not like the “noises” coming from the new bosses are a reminder that he likes to be in control. It is the very essence of the way he has run the sport all these years. But whether Ecclestone is kept on in the interim or not, his time at the top of the sport must surely be running out – if only because of the inevitability of time passing.”