Posts Tagged ‘Singapore’

Formula 1’s first night race in Singapore has been a massive success. In a season of great Grands Prix, this was another classic race. Once again it turned on a safety car and showed the importance of race strategy in determining the outcome. And as far as the championship is concerned it showed that the team which makes the fewest mistakes will win the title.

Ferrari had the pace to get a 1-2 finish here and before Nelson Piquet’s accident triggered a safety car on lap 16, it looked very much as though Kimi Raikkonen would jump Lewis Hamilton in the pit stop and back his team mate Massa up to the finish. The Ferrari was half a second a lap faster than the McLaren in the opening stint and Lewis was looking down the barrel of a whooping from Ferrari. Without the pit stop foul-up for Massa, Lewis would have left here three points behind the Brazilian with three races to go.

But the safety car and the subsequent dash for the pits changed everything. It wrecked Kubica’s race because he had to pit for fuel when the pit lane was closed and then when Massa and Hamilton pitted together, in their haste to get Massa out ahead, they released him with the fuel hose still attached. [ … ]

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We’ve had a great day here in Singapore, it’s stayed dry and the cars did loads of laps. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to something new, even when it as completely different as this is.

It’s clear that the track is very challenging and there is little margin for error. It will be a very tough race because it’s 61 laps and it’s a long lap at 1m 45 secs so you are looking at an hour and three quarters. It will be very physical because of all the corners and the humidity, so I’d expect some shunts. There are two or three corners where it is very easy to make a mistake and hit the wall. It’s very bumpy and some cars are really struggling with that, especially Honda and Toyota. The McLaren and Ferrari look very stable over the bumps and are the fastest cars out there, as you’d expect. Although Alonso topped the times in practice two it was another low fuel special, but nevertheless he looks in good shape for the weekend and should be best of the rest behind the top three teams. In the battle for P4 in the constructors championship it looks like Renault will outscore Toyota this weekend.

It’s looking like a tough track on brakes, especially if you are carrying a heavy fuel load so some teams may not have the option of a one stop strategy. Red Bull and Toro Rosso both looked as though the brakes were getting pretty hot.

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We’ve had our first session here in Singapore and there was plenty of spectacular action and a few near misses out on the track as the drivers get used to it. At the end, Hamilton very nearly hit Fisichella who had spun in one of the blind corners and was across the track. Lewis was fastest, by a few hundredths from Massa and Raikkonen. Kovalainen had a huge moment at the final corner, as did Vettel. Luckily for bthe there is plenty of run off area there.

Mark Webber hit the wall on the outside of the corner which passes under the grandstands early on, so Red Bull lost a lot of set up time, which is not ideal on a new track.

It’s very dusty out there, as you’d expect, but also very bumpy and the cars look very lively out there. They move around a lot, buck and jump over the bumps and generally look as though they are on the edge. Perhaps the artificial lights exacerbate that too. Lewis describes it as a ‘very busy lap’ and there are plenty of traps lying in wait for drivers if they lose concentration for a split second. Even if we don’t get much overtaking I think we will have an eventful race on Sunday with a high chance of a safety car because someone will go into the wall at some point.

The controversial chicane where the oversized Tic Tacs had to be removed, is not in fact a chicane, the cars go straight through it and then turn left. It’s a road narrowing device to ensure that the cars will be in single file for the Anderson bridge. The problem with this is that in the race it will spread the field out massively, so overtaking will be made more difficult and it will mean that qualifying at the front is absolutely critical, because if you are running around in fifth place in the opening laps, as Raikkonen has s few times lately, you will be 20 seconds behind the leader by the time of the first pit stops and totally out of it.

Last night we were all woken up by what sounded like a giant bomb going off. It was a thunderstorm, which lasted a few hours, with torrential rain. If that happened on Sunday there is no way they could start the race.

The track is not as bright as I’d expected it to be and the cars are not as illuminated as you’ll be expecting when you see them on TV. It’s 8-45pm here now and I’m off for lunch…weird.

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As this is such a new event and there is so much interest, I thought I would pen an occasional blog over the course of the weekend with extra information and behind the scenes insight.

It’s Thursday night and everyone is still at the track, because it’s lunchtime in Europe and most people in F1 are staying on European time. It’s a bit weird going about your daily business at night, but for anyone who has done Le Mans or journalists who have covered night time football matches, it’s fairly normal. My plan is to get to the track around 3pm local time each day and leave around 2am. The problem then is that your body is telling you that it is dinner time, but your watch is saying ‘go to bed’. Some of our TV crew were in the hotel bar last night at 2am (which is fairly normal) and David Coulthard was apparently there, ordering his dinner, as it was the only place still open! He was trying to stay up until 4am. Apparently it is critical that the drivers eat their meals at the right time so that their energy levels are correct at the times that matter.

I’ve been here since this morning and the whole set up here is fantastic. The people are so enthusiastic and the work they have done is impressive. The people who built the track are the same ones who did Melbourne and they know what they are doing.

As I write, the safety car is doing laps, so the driver can learn the track and also to give the TV cameras a chance to follow him and make an adjustments they might need to positions and so on. It looks great at night on TV, even though to the naked eye the track is not as brightly illuminated as I thought it might be. I had heard it would be three times as bright as a football stadium, but it doesn’t feel that way. It’s bright enough and there are no shadows to speak of. As part of the test they have switched off the lights in one of the fast corners and there is enough ambient light around for the drivers to see where they are going. I’m sure that if we had a total failure of all the generators powering the lights, there would not be an accident. The drivers would be able to slow down without hitting each other or anything else.

I’m very excited about this event. It will move F1 on a great deal. It’s exactly the kind of innovation the sport needs and it brings it into the 21st century. It will make going to places like the Nurburgring seem very dull and old fashioned!

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