Maranello, 17 September – Having said farewell to Europe at the high speed Monza circuit, the Formula 1 circus now faces an equally rapid dash from Singapore to Sao Paolo, fitting the final seven races into just ten weeks. It’s a hectic schedule and a logistical challenge, as the championship takes us first to the Far East and then to the Americas via the Middle East. There are only 2.142,189 racing kilometres left on the calendar, but the teams will cover a vast distance to get to them.
The constant travelling is something the Scuderia Ferrari driver pairing is well used to. “The calendar gets quite stressful now with all these races outside Europe,” confirms Fernando Alonso. “I have prepared very well and strongly during the August holiday. I worked very hard to be well prepared physically in order to have a good end to the championship without any problems, given that with all the changes of time zone, it’s going to be very demanding.” Felipe Massa takes a different approach to his team-mate: “I haven’t done any special training for this final part of the season,” says the Brazilian. “I train every day, either at home, or on a journey, or in a hotel – everywhere except on a plane! It’s important to exercise regularly and it also helps to keep your mind sharp. In my opinion Singapore is one of the most tiring races on the calendar, or maybe the most tiring, because it is the longest race of the year, going the full two hours. Conditions are very humid even if we actually race at night. You sweat a lot in the car and you don’t get much air coming through the cockpit as the speeds are low. All in all, it’s the toughest race physically, but also psychologically, with it taking place at night, so that you see less, combined with the fact you are always so close to the barriers. Visibility is good under the lights but it’s not the same as driving in sunlight, which adds to the difficulty. But it’s fun and different to be there at night and makes for a great spectacle for the fans and an interesting event for us drivers.”
Fernando has a good record at the Marina Bay circuit and is looking forward to the weekend, a weekend with an unusual timetable, when breakfast is eaten at one in the afternoon and dinner is served after midnight. “This is a very demanding race from the physical point of view and also mentally, because as it takes place at night, it changes your rhythm a bit over the weekend,” he explains. “It’s a very special race with no room for mistakes, but it’s a track I like and where I have usually gone quite well, getting four podiums from five starts, so again this year, I’m tackling the weekend in a positive frame of mind, with great confidence that I can do well again. As a street circuit, it’s a track with a high risk factor, so the possibility is always there to make a mistake. I’d say the last sector, with Turns 18 and 19 that pass under a grandstand where you can easily make a mistake, is the most critical point on the track, where a small loss of concentration can end your race.”
As with all street circuits, there is no part of the track where drivers can pause for breath. “That means you can’t single out one aspect of the circuit which is more important than another,” reckons Felipe. “Everything counts here. If you make the slightest mistake at a corner, then you pay a high price. You have to take care at every corner and it’s a long track – one lap here is like two at Monaco, so precision and consistency are important, especially in qualifying when you have to put everything together perfectly. In fact, I’d say it’s harder to win at Singapore than Monaco. The track is longer and more complicated, a lap is around 1m 48s while Monaco is much shorter.”
Like its more famous Monegasque cousin, this venue is also tough on brakes, gearbox and suspension and more significantly, the 61 laps of Marina Bay require maximum aerodynamic downforce levels. Therefore, as Fernando said in Monza a fortnight ago, the Singapore Grand Prix will provide a more accurate litmus test than Spa or Monza of how much progress has been made on the F138 development front.