With floodlights shining and sparks flying in Singapore, this week's Grand Prix is one of the most exciting spectacles on the calendar. Here's 6 things to watch out for:
1. The Track
It’s not the most exciting track from a driver’s point of view, but it might be the most grueling. The lap takes more than 1:45 to complete, and contains 23 corners, most of them strength sapping right angles that can really take it out of the drivers during a 2 hour race. Marina Bay is also a street circuit, meaning that the barriers are unforgiving to any driver who makes a mistake, and a bad overtake will often result in a crash.
2. The Spectacle
There are better Grand Prix from an action point of view than Singapore, but only Monaco can rival it for sheer glamour. Watching the cars zoom around floodlit streets illuminated by the metropolis behind is a photographer’s dream, and a phenomenal sight on an HD TV. The drivers also use practically see-through visors, meaning if you look really closely, you might just catch the whites of Alonso’s eyes as he hunts Vettel down. It’s also definitely worth watching Qualifying for this Grand Prix, as the cars will be kicking up sparks on their low fuel qualifying runs, but far more conservative on race-day.
3. A Challenge to Vettel’s Domination
The German has been ruthlessly brilliant of late, and it’s fair to say that if he wins this race it’s basically game over for title rivals Alonso and Hamilton. The two do have form here however, with Hamilton besting Vettel in 2009, and leading last year until his car packed up, and Alonso beating the German fair and square in 2010. Sure, Vettel still has the best car, and arguably, he’s recently shown himself to be the best driver (although Hamilton and Alonso fans are bound to disagree), but as Murray Walker would say, ‘anything can happen in F1… and it usually does’.
4. The Safety Car
It always seems to play a key role at Singapore, most notoriously in the 2008 race, when Renault successfully fixed the race by getting Piquet to crash deliberately into a wall. This ingeniously evil plan (for which they were later heavily punished) caused a safety car, which in turn shuffled teammate Alonso up to the front of the pack. Hopefully we won’t see a repeat of that this year, but the nature of the circuit, with very little run-off, makes a safety car odds-on even without any dirty tricks involved.
5. Nico Hulkenberg
The German surprised pretty much everyone with his pace in Monza, driving what most people would agree with is F1’s equivalent of a clapped out Ford Mondeo (no offense Sauber) and taking it to 3rd on the grid and 5th in the race. It’ll be interesting to see if he can go as well or even better in Singapore, which is a very different challenge, but another track which separates great drivers from merely good ones.
6. Mclaren Vs Force India
With Mclaren’s stated aim before the start of the season to win the world championship, and Force India’s probably to finish 6th behind the ‘big 5’ teams, it’s fair to say the two did not expect to be 5 points apart by this stage of the season. With both teams remaining firmly in the midfield, brits Button (Mclaren) and Di Resta (Force India) will have half an eye on beating one another at this crucial stage of the season.