The sea, the bustling city and international artists make the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix a fan favourite, but it’s the season’s biggest test for the drivers, says Stewart Bell
It’s one of the most incredible sporting events. The world’s finest drivers racing the world’s finest cars wheel-to-wheel up to 320 km/h, under lights, with one of the world’s most happening cities as its backdrop. It can only be the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix, the first night F1 race.
The event itself is relatively new to the F1 calendar, having made its debut in 2008, but it’s already made a big impression. “This race is always the highlight of the season,” says reigning F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. “The city looks spectacular under the lights, with the tricky street circuit below – my favourite kind of track to drive on.” It’s not difficult to find others who agree. “It’s a Grand Prix I love. The crowd, the vibe, the ambience – it’s electrifying,” says Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene.
For fans, it’s the complete package, with lots of on-track action and three support categories;
Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific, TCR International Series and Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. After the chequered flag falls, the party continues with international artists performing at the circuit park. Since the event began, almost 20 Grammy Award winners have rocked the crowds – from Beyoncé to Robbie Williams, Linkin Park to The Killers, and Bon Jovi to Maroon 5 and Pharrell Williams.
And this year, it’s no different. American rockers Imagine Dragons will join electropop princess Halsey, global superstar Kylie Minogue, Queen + Adam Lambert, indie pop act Bastille, disco kings KC and the Sunshine Band, and the incredible A Capella group Pentatonix.
The buzz continues beyond the stage at any of the trackside bars and hawker-style eateries, which give the event an authentic flavour and a festive vibe. However, one of the best things about the Singapore Grand Prix is the flexibility it gives fans to enjoy the delights of Singapore in full bloom during the day, before the racing starts at night.
For families, one of the first places to explore is Sentosa Island, which has lots of options for action and adventure. You can head to Universal Studios Singapore, try ziplining, the luge (part gokart, part toboggan) or even indoor skydiving at iFly Singapore. For some local culture, head to Tiong Bahru market.
It’s a fan’s paradise alright, but for the drivers, Singapore is one of the toughest physical challenges on the F1 calendar. Outside, it’s 30°C and 70 per cent humidity, while in the car, cockpit temperatures can reach 55°C at racing speed. As a result, the drivers will lose up to 3 kg of fluid over a two-hour period. Things aren’t made easier with a busy 5-km lap, which includes 23 corners and few places to catch your breath among the concrete barriers.
“Singapore is the toughest physical challenge of the year for a driver,” says Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo. Adding, “A street circuit already requires a high level of concentration – and doing that in Singapore’s humidity is fun but challenging. It’s the one race of the year where you can open your visor to get cool air, and it’s actually worse
because the humidity and heat of the car stays inside the streets, as it doesn’t have anywhere to go.” But it’s not just physically exhausting. “It’s mentally tough too,” says Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, “because street circuits are more unforgiving. The walls are close and you have to get close to them if you want to be quick.”
That’s where serious training and preparation come in. “With this sort of event, the importance of driver fitness becomes very big,” says Jenson Button’s former trainer Phil Young from GP Human Performance. “All their hard work is done before they even get to Singapore. We have a saying that you ‘train up to race down’, so all your hard work is done in the training, and when you get inside the car, the only thing you’ve got to concentrate on is the driving and the racing. You’re not worrying about your fitness.”
That’s all before you factor in the intense sporting battle, which by Singapore is in full swing as the title fight comes into focus. This year, benchmark squad Mercedes is under increasing pressure from rivals Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, as the season moves into its second half. At Mercedes, it’s an all-out war between the team’s drivers, reigning three-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who are fighting tooth and nail for every last point.
Behind the Silver Arrows, Red Bull Racing now leads the chase – with Ferrari not far behind and desperate to close the gap. Indian-owned, British-run squad Force India is also a resurgent force, gunning for fourth in the constructors’ championship, driver Sergio Pérez making the most of a competitive car that helped him score podiums in Monaco and Baku. So, this month (September 16-18), enjoy the thrill of speeding in this bustling city!