x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Drivers are set for the unknown

Singapore is putting the final touches on its preparations for Sunday's inaugural race and for F1 teams.

An aerial view shows part of the illuminated street circuit of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix circuit ahead of Sunday's inaugural 61-lap night race in the city.
An aerial view shows part of the illuminated street circuit of the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix circuit ahead of Sunday's inaugural 61-lap night race in the city.

SINGAPORE // Singapore is putting the final touches on its preparations for Sunday's inaugural race and for Formula One's drivers, manufacturers and its tyre supplier, the sport's first night grand prix represents a new kind of challenge. The Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima is more concerned by the weather conditions than the demanding 5-km street circuit that winds its way around the city state's business district and marina.

"I am not really worried about the fact we are racing at night," the Japanese racer said. "I have driven in 24-hour races in Japan and believe it will be fine here in Singapore. My biggest concern is the weather as I am not sure what will happen if it rains. "There may be reflection from the track due to the lights. But it's the same for everybody and if the conditions are crazy with a bit of luck we can get a good result."

Nakajima, who has picked up eight points in his first full season, has yet to see the Singapore circuit ahead of today's first practice session. Like all the other drivers, he has prepared for the race on a simulator. "It's a little bit like a computer game but you sit in a dummy car and use a real steering wheel," he said. "However, it's very accurate and also very useful for learning a circuit for the first time. We did about 100 laps over six or seven hours so it should have helped us."

Ferrari's team director Stefano Domenicali is happy to see the series break new ground with races like the one in Singapore, but feels the heat will be a major factor in the setup of the cars. "We know that it is normally hot here, even at night," the Italian said. "The average air temperature is between 25-27 degrees Celsius so we also need to understand the average temperature of the tarmac and how much a difference that will make.

"Then we have to make sure that our car is performing its best under those conditions and with the [soft compound] tyres we have. "But we're happy. The night race represents a new challenge and is good for the spectators and television audiences." The Formula One's sole tyre provider, Bridgestone, have studied the track conditions and opted for "soft" and "super soft" compounds, as well as ways to make the tyres more visible in the dark.

"It's a very smooth street circuit which has never been raced on before," Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone's director of motorsport tyre development said. "The heavy braking and low-speed corners mean grip will be a premium. However, it has reasonable straights so low aerodynamics could be used by some teams, meaning mechanical grip will also be relied upon. "We have also had to make the white stripe around the tyre highly reflective so it is easier seen at night."

* Reuters