2014 Singapore Grand Prix: Weekend Preview

It may be one of the newest venues on the calender, but the glamour and spectacle of the Singapore Grand Prix rivals the most prestigious races. While the circuit layout may divide opinion, the spotlights can spice up even the dullest of events, yet as with most street races, they are rarely dull affairs and judging by previous races this season, it is likely that this weekends race will be more vintage than vinegar. Can Lewis Hamilton retain the momentum off the back of an excellent win in Italy, or will Nico Rosberg recover from the disappointment of his costly mistakes in Monza?

Singapore F1 Night Race 2012 City Skyline” by chensiyuan
Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

The Facts…

  • The Singapore Grand Prix became the first ever night race when it debuted in 2008. 
  • The race will last for 61 laps, and is the longest of the year, with the Grand Prix coming close to the two hour time limit on a number of occasions.
  • Sebastian Vettel has won at Marina Bay on the previous three visits.
  • Sebastian Vettel holds the lap record of a 1:48.574, (set last season)
  • Sizzling Singapore can cause the drivers to lose up to 3 kilograms of fluid during the race.

Rewind 12 Months

As you have probably deduced from above, Singapore is ‘Seb’s-House’. The German romped to a comfortable victory last season, only conceding the lead once during the race, when Nico Rosberg briefly claimed top spot with a decidedly bold move into turn one, (which is always a site for some drama.) Vettel led Fernando Alonso home by an astonishing 30 seconds, while Mark Webber’s race ended prematurely on the final lap, when his gearbox issue escalated into a rip-roaring fire. In a juxtaposition which somewhat summed up their relationship and respective careers, Webber’s car caught fire right before Vettel claimed the spoils of victory. Meanwhile, more anguish was to follow for the Aussie, who received a grid penalty for hitching a ride from Alonso back to Parc Fermé. The incident had echos of Mansell and Senna from the British Grand Prix in 1991 and was certainly popular with the fans if not so with the stewards.

Missed Calls

We may miss the likes of “Hammer Time”, “Hoggies” and “Magic Paddle” this weekend, as the new stringent monitoring of team radio comes into effect in Singapore. In an effort to isolate the drivers during a race and prevent race engineers from taking up the role of the puppeteer, the FIA have clamped down on what can and cannot be said to a driver while he is on track. Officially, “any radio communication relating to the performance of the driver and the car will be banned”, which includes the use of coded messages.
As Toto Wolff has eluded to, this regulation could cause controversy as it will see a much greater emphasis transferred to the driver to manage the car and his own race. The engineers will be walking a tightrope, as they need to tread carefully when speaking to their respective drivers and break the habits which they have surely become accustomed to. 
Is it good news? It will unquestionably mean that drivers have even more to monitor and manage when in the car as they will not be receiving messages from the team in regards to temperatures, settings or even their fuel range, which can be regarded as a positive. However, my biggest issue with this is that it is another mid-season regulation change. Last year, the tyre construction was altered prior to the summer break and while this was essential on safety grounds, this radio regulation would perhaps have been best suited to a debut in Melbourne next season. This is qualified by the fact that you would imagine that team’s who have designed a steering wheel featuring an LCD display will be in a better position than those without. Even Caterham, who have a smaller screen in comparison to Mercedes or Ferrari, could also be at a disadvantage, with the drivers now having to concentrate on even more aspects of the car for even more of the time. No longer can they delegate as many responsibilities to their engineers.  

Who To Look Out For This Weekend

Red Bull have been looking forward to Singapore for a while now, with several personnel highlighting this round as the one that they could claim victory at even without a Mercedes malfunction. The chassis of the RB10 has always been strong, ever since the pre-season Bahrain test and this is one of the few circuits on the calender that will mask the power deficiencies of the Renault powertrain. Similarly, Lotus will be hoping for a good weekend, since the balance of the E22 does seem to be improving, even if the overall performance is not. Ultimately, this could be the last chance for the Enstone team to add to their disappointing 2014 points tally.
Meanwhile, Pirelli may also be popular once again this weekend, as they have brought the two softest tyre compounds to the circuit. This should cause some intriguing strategies in the race, while also yielding faster times towards the end of the weekend as more emphasis is placed on track evolution.
   

Prediction Corner

As previously mentioned, Red Bull are likely to have their strongest weekend of the season in Singapore. Even without a predicament at Mercedes, be it technical or otherwise, both Ricciardo and Vettel could take the fight to Hamilton and Rosberg. Vettel in particular could enjoy a fruitful outing at a circuit where he has dominated in the past and has a real opportunity to make it four consecutive wins under the spotlights. While I expect a four way fight for victory, I suggest that Lewis Hamilton will maintain the momentum gained after an excellent win at Monza to gain more ground on Rosberg in the championship with a win. 
Be sure to keep abreast of all my opinions throughout the weekend, with daily analysis on this blog as the Singapore Grand Prix weekend unfolds… 
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