This weekend’s race in Singapore promises to be one of the most difficult of the season from a strategic perspective.
The Marina Bay Circuit offers a combination of challenges to teams with the track surface gradually cleaned throughout the weekend offering vastly different characteristics at the start of the weekend to the end of the race.
The nature of the track layout also offers challenges to teams and drivers with the rear tyres receiving the brunt of wear due to the constant accelerating and braking throughout the lap. As a result it is very easy to overheat the rear tyres while conversely with all corners seeing relatively low apex speeds it is quite difficult for drivers to “load” the front tyres and generate sufficient heat to get the front tyres into their optimum operating window.
With the Singapore Grand Prix set to last for just under two hours drivers set off from the grid with exceptionally heavy fuel loads, approximately 170kg the highest of the year. This will place a tremendous strain on the tyres and with the nature of the track already causing extreme wear on the rear tyres it is clear that the opening stint of this Grand Prix could be exceptionally short as drivers are forced to deal with a severe lack of rear grip.
These factors will give the cars that are gentle on their rear tyres, the likes of Sauber, Ferrari and McLaren, a significant advantage on two fronts. They will have fresher rubber for the majority of the race but much more importantly these teams will limit the potential of a safety car hampering their pace in the race.
The possibility of the safety car being deployed is quite high in Singapore with each of the three previous races having seen accidents cause the deployment. As a result teams will do their utmost to ensure that they are in a position to make a “free” pitstop under a neutral track. This plays into the hands of the likes of Sauber and Toro Rosso who will do their utmost to make just a single pitstop as they try to move through the order from rows five, six of seven on the gird.
One of the most surprising elements of races inSingaporehas been that once a car gets falls into the midfield it is all but impossible for them to get back to the front of the field, regardless of the speed of their car. This was illustrated perfectly by Felipe Massa in 2008. The Ferrari driver came into the pits for a scheduled stop in the lead but after a disastrous stop that saw him leave the pits with the fuel hose still connected the Brazilian found himself in the midfield and unable to finish better than eighth.
Due to this difficultly, and the 24s pit time, teams will do their best to limit the amount of time spent in pitlane and will do their best to be as flexible in case the safety car is deployed.