Formula 1 Preview: Singapore Grand Prix
Written by Marcus Woodhouse, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
Formula 1 is finally back after a three-week hiatus due to the cancellation of the Russian Grand Prix, and it will take place on the stunning streets of Singapore. A memorable track for many reasons, Singapore is best known for the sheer challenge of getting through a 61 lap race there, all while driving under the mesmerising lights piercing through the night sky. We’ve seen plenty of drama in years before, along with a whole heap of superb performances, in a circuit that really separates the men from the boys, so hopefully we will see more of the same this weekend.
The Marina Bay Street Circuit was opened in 2008, and was based on a design by none other than the renowned Hermann Tilke. It was a regular fixture on the F1 calendar until 2019, but the outbreak of COVID-19 means that this weekend’s Grand Prix will be its first since before the global pandemic. Accidents and crashes are commonplace, with the circuit’s unforgiving nature giving it the unique record of having at least one safety car appearance in every F1 race there, with a whopping 21 deployments in 12 races. It hosted the first night race in F1 history when it burst onto the calendar in 2008, and since then has drawn almost the same level of anticipation and trepidation from the drivers as Monaco has.
In terms of the features of this challenging track, its 5.063km includes a highly bumpy street surface along with humid conditions to further get on the drivers’ nerves, if the 23 high-speed corners didn’t already. The conditions are so extreme that drivers can often lose up to 3kg just from completing the race. The floodlights lead to a special sight from those lucky enough to view it from above, while Turn 18 allows drivers to drive directly under a grandstand. With 3 DRS (Drag Reduction System) zones around the lap, overtaking is by no means impossible either, but crashes akin to the opening lap incident in 2017 are also possible. Only three of the current drivers have tasted victory in Singapore: Fernando Alonso twice, Lewis Hamilton four times, and Sebastian Vettel an impressive five times, although his machinery this time around is somewhat inferior.
The 2019 Singapore Grand Prix was a thriller, with Sebastian Vettel taking a much-needed victory, much to the disappointment of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc. Despite the 1-2 finish, that would be the Prancing Horse’s last opportunity to step on the top spot of a podium until the beginning of this season. The race led to talking points up and down the field as well, with Antonio Giovinazzi leading the race at one point, the first time since 1983 that Alfa Romeo had led a race. Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen collided to cause a disappointing result for both of them, as well as a collision between George Russell and Romain Grosjean. Those two incidents combined with Sergio Perez stopping on track meant there were an astonishing three safety car periods throughout the race, leading to three extra, dramatic restarts that bunched the pack back up. All in all, it was an entertaining race, and a turning point of the season for the Scuderia.
Last time out in Italy, it was a comfortable win for Max Verstappen, to continue the trend of the Dutchman’s dominance this year. If all goes to plan, he could even wrap up the title this weekend, with five races left to go, but Leclerc and Ferrari will be hoping to delay his celebrations at least until Japan. There were no major shocks in Monza, as grid penalties shook up the grid and forced the likes of Verstappen, Hamilton, and Perez to make recovery drives, but even with his penalty, Verstappen looked unstoppable and Leclerc could only be happy with second place in the end. Despite their impressive result at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 2019, Ferrari don’t seem to have the pace to match Red Bull and that is unlikely to change much this weekend, so it may be another walk-over for Verstappen. However, the Prancing Horse won’t go down without a fight, so it should still be a good watch.
The victory in Singapore is still very much there for the taking, and it will be intriguing to see who comes out on top, but Red Bull very much have the momentum. Ferrari, as well as Mercedes, will need to bring the best of their abilities if they want to challenge the juggernaut that has been Red Bull and Verstappen in 2022.