x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Button questions distance of Singapore Grand Prix

Jenson Button is concerned with the gruelling distance of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Jenson Button, in Singapore yesterday, is concerned by how long the race at Marina Bay Circuit lasts.
Jenson Button, in Singapore yesterday, is concerned by how long the race at Marina Bay Circuit lasts.

SINGAPORE // As any commuter who drives between Dubai and Abu Dhabi will testify, sitting behind the wheel for long periods of time can be exhausting. Doing so at night even more so.

For Formula One drivers, competing at speeds of around 300kph is always exhausting - and doing so at night can be downright draining.

This weekend at the 5.073km Marina Bay Circuit inSingapore, the 24 F1 drivers will embark on the longest grand prix of the season, racing for what has traditionally in its three years of existence lasted around the two hour mark - the maximum duration a grand prix can run to.

With the race taking place in high humidity and with drivers' body clocks needing to quickly adjust to Singapore Standard Time, Jenson Button, the McLaren-Mercedes driver, said earlier this week he would rather see the race shortened, complaining that after the event drivers feel their bodies are "in pieces" physically.

"Mentally, it's very tiring because it's low speed with the barriers so close to the circuit, very bumpy, dark, so it's very demanding for the drivers," the 2009 world champion said.

"We find it very tough, and after the race you are shattered. It's one of the races we actually think is a little too long; that they need to maybe shorten."

If Button required further proof he could point to the fact the safety car has been forced out of the pits five times in the Garden City's three races since the inaugural 2008 event.

However, Sebastian Vettel, who has 18 race victories in his career, but none in Singapore, with his best result being his second place finish here last year, said racing must remain challenging and he would be reluctant to change the calendar's only night race.

"I think it's fine as it is," the German said "It's the usual distance. Sure the speed is slow here because the average cornering speed is quite slow, so we need a lot of time to manage the 61 laps in the race. It's one of the biggest challenges we have, so the focus has to be extremely high throughout the race.

"It's very hot, the humidity is very high, it's very tough for the drivers, the whole thing happens at night, it's more difficult for your eyes but it deserves to be a tough challenge. It's long, but it's OK."

Timo Glock, the Virgin Racing driver, said he is used to such long stints because of his history racing in the ChampCar World Series in the United States, where he raced in 2005.

"Every race was nearly up to two hours," the German said. "If you do Milwaukee Oval race and you have 225 laps to do, that's a long one.

"But I have to say, last year here was one of the toughest races for me; some of the hardest [laps] I have ever had to drive.

"It's all about staying focused because if you make a mistake, it's over.

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