Singapore Grand Prix Prix Preview: Formula 1 heads under the lights
14 September 2023
The route to the end of the 2023 season begins this weekend as Formula 1 commences its elongated end-of-year ‘flyaway’ events with Singapore. The city state, a famous trading post perched on the Malay peninsula, joined Formula 1’s circus in 2008 as the championship looked eastwards to fresh markets.
Singapore quickly established itself as one of the most popular events on the calendar as the vibrant city embraced Formula 1 and became a key weekend in the commercial landscape too.
One key attribute was Singapore opting to hold its event at night – becoming the first grand prix to take place beneath floodlights. Several other grands prix have since followed suit – all the Middle East events plus new-for-2023 Las Vegas – but Singapore remains the original night race. It means schedules are shifted through the weekend, with the paddock effectively remaining on a European time zone, and breakfast after midday and dinner in the wee hours.
A slight tweak for 2023
Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit winds its way through the city’s Downtown Core, along its Nicoll Highway and Raffles Boulevard, and is a punishing and bumpy circuit – a challenge accentuated by the excessive humidity for which the region is known.
The circuit has had minor revisions since its debut in 2008 and for 2023 another enforced change has taken place.
Construction work around The Float grandstand means the section of track which looped in front of and beneath it – the old Turns 16 to 19 – has been removed, creating a longer full-throttle section between Turn 14 and what is now Turn 16, the penultimate complex which will now have a significantly higher entry speed. That has removed four corners from the lap, reduced the lap distance by around 150 metres, and means lap times will be faster – while adding two extra laps to the overall race length.
Verstappen chasing first Singapore win
Max Verstappen has been destroying records for fun in 2023 and his victory in Italy ensured he became the first driver in history to win 10 races in succession. He has a 145-point advantage over Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez in the standings, with 12 wins to his teammate’s two, and could clinch the title at the following round in Japan.
But Marina Bay is the only circuit on the calendar at which he has raced multiple times and is yet to win.
Last year a messy qualifying set the tone for an atypically scrappy display by the World Champion in which he claimed only sixth in a wet/dry race won in commanding style by Perez.
And while Red Bull has not been weak anywhere in 2023 medium-speed street-style tracks, such as Melbourne and Montreal, is where it has been less strong.
However, Verstappen still heads into the event as a firm favourite, on account of his staggering success in 2023.
Perez’s victory last year meant he became only Singapore’s fifth different victor and first non-champion winner, with Sebastian Vettel (5), Lewis Hamilton (4), Fernando Alonso (2) and Nico Rosberg (1) the only other drivers to have savoured success at the circuit. Red Bull can mathematically wrap up its second successive Constructors’ title, and sixth overall, in Singapore but it needs to out-score Mercedes by an improbable 42 points.
Watch out for the Safety Car
All 13 Singapore races have featured Safety Car periods and they can have a transformative impact on the pecking order owing to the benefits of minimising time loss when pitting. Singapore isn’t quite Monaco when it comes to a procession but overtaking is tricky at Marina Bay so track position is important.
And when it rains in Singapore it absolutely deluges down. Don’t expect track activity to take place if it does rain – owing to the intensity – but once it stops the track surface tends to remain wet for a prolonged period because of the humidity and lack of sunlight.
14 September 2023