Singapore Grand Prix 2017: Marina Bay Street Circuit track preview
The night race on the streets of Singapore marks the start of the final flyaway races of the season. Let’s take a look at the circuit and what we can expect this weekend.
Despite having twilight races in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, the Singapore Grand Prix still marks the only real night race on the calendar after pioneering the concept with its 2008 introduction. With 61 laps around this 5km circuit near the equator, the race almost always pushes towards the two hour mark and, with high humidity a constant factor for the drivers, it is surely the most enduring and unforgiving race of the season. Mistakes can easily end up in the wall and cause a safety car period, which we have seen at least once in every race over the last decade (14 deployments in nine races). No wonder, as with 23 corners, the Marina Bay Street Circuit has the most on the F1 calendar.
Even though it’s a street circuit, this doesn’t mean you cannot overtake. The start-finish straight is a rather difficult place to pass, though after lap 2 DRS could make this easier.
You could also see many overtakes on the Raffles Boulevard straight a few corners later, but it doesn’t always go well; take the title deciding clash between title contenders Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton there in 2010 as an example. Back then the McLaren driver tried to pass the Australian around the outside of turn 7 but turned in too early, leaving Webber nowhere to go, which caused the DNF of Hamilton. Back then there was no DRS though, so overtaking on that straight is now a little easier for the drivers.
There are also other opportunities for a lunge to pick up places, like an attempt into turn 14 or 16, or using Turn 7 to prepare a move into 8. The different tyre choices can open up even more chances to gain positions in unexpected places, especially in the final part of the track.
Possible safety car periods will play a big role in the strategy for the race; you will never know when it happens, but looking at the history it surely will, especially in narrow corners like Turn 18 where even top drivers like Daniel Ricciardo can get it wrong, as seen in 2013. A safety car right after the start can easily happen as well and can tempt teams to directly switch to a better tyre compound, depending on track position of course.
Looking at the tyre choices provided by Pirelli we can clearly see that most of the drivers will have ten sets of ultrasoft tyres plus two supersoft and one set of the soft compound. The Haas team is going in a different direction by having less purple coloured tyres in favour of a few more supersofts.
Interestingly, championship contenders Hamilton and Vettel are the only ones besides Wehrlein to choose two sets of the soft compound.
Looking at last year’s strategies both two and three stops can make sense. While Nico Rosberg stayed out on the soft compound at the last stint, second-placed Daniel Ricciardo got another set of supersofts to chase the German down, which almost worked out since he got really close by the final lap.
The difference between the three tyre compounds makes a lot of combinations in terms of usage and stints possible. Rain seems unlikely during the grand prix as it has never happened there before, but you never know if that could also become a factor.