Singapore Grand Prix 2009 Preview


It may only seem like last year's has only just been decided, but it's time for this year's Singapore Grand Prix already.

The unique night setting remains for the second race at the Marina Bay circuit, but organisers have learnt from some of the feedback from last year. This feedback has led to several alterations to the track, re-profiling corners and smoothing the bumps on the public roads the track runs on. However, there have also been more major changes.

The entrance and exit to the pitlane have been significantly altered. Last year the entrance lane sat on the inside, the racing line, of the fast final corner, and the exit led to the apex of the first turn. This year, the pitting cars will leave the track before the penultimate of the 23 turns, and will rejoin on the outside of turn 2.

The fast chicane before the first bridge on the lap – the Anderson Bridge – where Giancarlo Fisichella and Kimi Raikkonen both crashed last year, has been slowed down, and had new kerbs fitted, similar to those found on Monza's chicanes.

And the track will not be the only place where changes are seen this weekend. Of course there will be changes at Renault, as the team start their two years under a suspended ban, and begin life after Briatore and Symonds, with the team's technical director Bob Bell being placed in charge.

But as the F1 circus moves from the low downforce tracks at the end of the European season to a high downforce street circuit, many teams are taking the opportunity with Brawn, Force India and McLaren (who explicitly declare it their “last” upgrade of the year) bringing new packages for the weekend.

These upgrades, as well as the fundamental nature of the track may, again, shuffle the order, with several teams and drivers optimistic of a good weekend. Williams' Sam Michael says the team, who believe their car suits the higher downforce circuits can be back in the points, while BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica looking forward to the race, saying “I am a big fan of street circuits”, while his team are another to be bringing an upgrade for the race.

Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari are less sure, however. The KERS that has been so important the past two races is not going to “make a difference like it did in Spa and Monza” according to Raikkonen, with the team highlighting the relatively short run into the first corner from the grid. Despite this the Finn does still claim the Ferrari is best suited to the Singapore track out of the final four rounds.

The relative unimportance of KERS could mean that overtaking is very restricted, as the narrow, twisting nature of the circuit leaves only a handful of overtaking opportunites. Sam Michael highlights turn 7, while the right hander after the second bridge is likely to see its share of passes. This, of course, means that Saturday's qualifying session will be important, and could force teams into attacking fuel strategies.

These strategies will also have to take into account the tyres, with Bridgestone supplying the two softest compounds for the weekend, with the tyre company expecting low grip, not just because of the track time falling under darkness, but also the temporary nature of the circuit, including the bumps.

Perhaps the strangest of the unique challenges (and the solutions) comes from Red Bull. Last year the team blamed Singapore's underground train network for the failure on Mark Webber's car. Fearful of a repeat failure the team as elected to run a metal plate on the underside of the gearbox.

And Red Bull might just need a train to hit the Brawn cars in order to keep their (already slim) title chances alive. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber sit 26 and 28.5 points behind Jenson Button with a maximum of 40 point still available. More realistically Rubens Barrichello, who currently 14 points adrift of Button, just needs to keep in touch with the Englishman to maintain his championship challenge.

The practice sessions for the Singapore Grand Prix take place on Friday at 6pm and 9:30pm (all times local) and Saturday at 7pm. With qualifying at 10pm on Saturday and the race at 8pm on Sunday.

  • Jon Stromberg

    Great article! Really looking forward to this race!

    Jon Stromberg