By day Singapore is buzzing with life and soul, but when the F1 circus arrives it’s the night that really heats up. Officially called the Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix due to their sponsor SingTel, the circuit is one of the most challenging on the calendar and is a vibrant and unique event to attend.
The city state is the only country in the world to host a Formula 1 race which takes place during the night. It is a truly unique experience where the whole city comes to life, and the track is paved by lights. The black skyline is boosted by vibrant lighting and fireworks which bang and pop, all be it slightly quieter than the cars on track.
Located in and around the Marina of Singapore, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is a street track with a difference. The F1 cars fly over bridges, pass under motorways and zoom along the bay front; all under the black backdrop of the night’s sky.
The whole F1 paddock is living on European time, with breakfast time averaging at around 1pm. Lunch time comes around while the rest of Singapore are tucking into their evening meal, and the driver’s don’t get to do the same until 2 or 3 AM. Bed time matches the sun rise at 5AM, and its back to the normal cycle. This challenging schedule has to be kept up for a good 4-5 days.
Singapore F1 Circuit
The circuit was originally designed by Hermann Tilke, the “F1 architect” if you will. His original idea was modified by KBR Inc. who then officialised the design and started work. The pit building is situated on a plot of land off Republic Boulevard and sits next to the Singapore Flyer, basically Singapore’s equivalent to the London Eye. The track winds around real city roads which creates a bumpy surface, which is quite narrow in places.
After the relatively short pit straight, the cars are flung into the tricky turn 1, 2 and 3 complexes. After the left, right, left comes Turn 4 (which is barely there) before a short break.
Then comes turn 5 which is an important corner as it leads on to the long Raffles Boulevard straight. Since 2011, this has been where the DRS zone is situated and is key for boosting overtaking on the tight circuit.
Turn 6 splits the straight up, while turn 7 is the best overtaking opportunity.
After that tight left comes another equally 90 degree right, before a similar turn 9. This leads on to St Andrews road which creates a sling shot for the controversial turn 10. Dubbed the “Singapore sling”, it features 3 high kerbs which can effectively be straight lined. It’s one of those corners which is sort of a chicane, sort of a straight and sort of a corner. The kerbs were the main problem, with drivers often being pitched high into the air. After the drivers voiced their concern for the 2009 race, the high kerbing which was described as “hitting a little tortoise” was lowered. Despite these changes, we still saw drivers being launched; most recently Kamui Kobayashi who did it twice in 1 Grand Prix weekend.
After turn 10 comes a gentle chicane which leads the cars over the Anderson Bridge and into a tight hairpin. Traction out of turn 13 is key for the long(ish) straight which follows it. The cars then brake down from 280KPH and turn left onto Raffles avenue.
The circuit gets quite narrow from here, limiting overtaking. 15, 16 and 17 come up fast, weaving around a temporary grand stand. The circuit then unusually dips under the grandstand, which has been called the “floating platform”. After that chicane comes another, but in the opposite direction of right, left.
The final 2 corners, basically a single apex left which is followed by another apex that the drivers avoid, lead on to the pit straight and past the iconic Singapore flyer.
Singapore F1 Grand Prix Races
The first race held on the street circuit was eventually won by Fernando Alonso, driving for the Renault team. The race itself was not particularly spectacular, but it was not until a year later where the result really caught the attention of the F1 media.
It soon emerged that Renault had instructed their 2nd driver, Nelson Piquet Jnr, to crash on purpose so the safety car would be deployed. This played into the hands of Fernando Alonso, who pitted straight away and jumped into the lead.
The 2010 race was different, with the action and excitement actually happening on track. The race was won by Fernando Alonso again, but the battles behind were intense.
A fight between Webber and Hamilton eventually led to contact, where the Brit retired. There were also crashes for Kobayashi and Senna at turn 18, while Heikki Kovalainen’s race came to a spectacular end a few laps shy of the flag after his engine caught fire on the pit straight. The finish was close too, with Vettel missing out on a win by 2 tenths of a second.
With the race being held in the middle of the city, there is always something to do when F1 isn’t occupying the tracks. Go out to eat in the trendy restaurants, shop in Singapore’s famed retain stretch Orchard Road or take a relaxed stroll around Singapore’s stunning botanic gardens. Let’s face it, that stroll may be the only peace that you get over the weekend.