Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel are neck-and-neck in the 2017 F1 Championship drivers standings and their rivalry will be renewed this weekend at dusk when in sweltering conditions, the Singapore Grand Prix gets underway.
The floodlight race throws open the Asian leg of the F1 season and with the stakes at an all-time high, motor heads from all around the world are awaiting the lights to go out with bated breath.
But why is the Singapore GP so popular despite it being a relative newcomer to the F1 circuit?
One true night race
Technically, the Abu Dhabi GP is a night race as well, considering it finishes after the sun has set but for all intents and purposes, the Singapore GP is the only night race on the F1 calendar.
Starting at 10 PM Local time, the race finishes well past midnight and the floodlight Marina Bay Street Circuit is a sight to behold.
Monotony has long been the bane of F1 and after a slew of day races, nothing quite like one at night, is it?
Toughest street circuit
Long have drivers complained that the circuit is too difficult, even dangerous.
Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) took note and made a number of revisions to the track layout but ask any driver who has raced on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and they will tell you that Singapore tests their mettle like no other Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton, a two-time winner here, actually stated that “it’s twice as tough as the Monaco Street Circuit”. Now, everyone knows Monaco is the litmus test for any F1 driver and if a triple world champion has declared that Singapore is a much tougher test, then you get the idea.
Unpredictability, thy name is Singapore
Singapore has a record and most drivers will cry in unison that’s not a good thing, but for viewers, the fact that the safety car has been brought out for every race since its inception in 2008 just adds to the alluring factor of the race.
To give the race a little more perspective, Mercedes, the dominant force in recent seasons, are not favourites to win this year’s race and the chasing pack i.e. Ferrari and Red Bull are expected to jostle for the podium spots.
Everything points to an eventful race this time around as well and when the lights turn green on Sunday, expect some manic action, if nothing else.
10 years on and still going strong
It’s the 10th anniversary of the iconic night race and the naysayers have been forced to eat humble pie for the Singapore GP has been nothing short of a resounding success.
Fears over the safety of drivers, understandable at the time considering that none had experience with night race, proved to be unfounded despite pushing racers to their limits.
Thankfully, despite the numerous safety car disruptions, no serious accident or injury has occurred and from a pure racing perspective, there’s no reason why Singapore won’t be a regular fixture in the next few decades.
More downforce=More overtaking
F1 fans want more and more overtaking and most street circuits (Monaco, we’re looking at you) make life difficult for thrilling, edge of the seat action.
In fact, it can be argued that Singapore is probably the only street circuit where overtaking is common, especially in the first sector.
No surprises that aggressive drivers like Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel are expected to be contenders for the top spot this season.
Hamilton just overtook Vettel in the championship rankings after the Belgian GP but looks set to relinquish top spot as the German’s Ferrari is better suited than the Brit’s Mercedes to the Marina Bay Street Circuit.