New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Rencken: Enchanted Singapore

2011-09-21 14:12


The Formula 1 calendar has only two truly glamorous events: Monaco and Singapore. First-named has starred for almost as long as the 61-year old World championship has existed; Asia’s event is now in its fourth year yet has already achieved cult status.

The reason is simple: it is the series’ only night race, and a floodlit Singapore is a simply enchanting place, particularly when F1 cars are speeding through bumpy and twisty streets for almost two hours at over 300 km/h. Without headlights; within inches of unforgiving barriers. After sunset…


All three editions held to date featured Safety Cars, averaging 6,7 laps per race. Thus in three grands prix Safety Car driver Bernd Mayländer headed the field for 20 laps – more than all others save for 2008/10 winner Fernando Alonso (93 lead laps), whose victories sandwiched Lewis Hamilton (57) single win.

The nature of the Marina Bay Circuit makes at least one repeat visit of the silver Mercedes SLS highly likely, particularly as rain is predicted during the race and Formula 1 has no previous experience of racing on wet tarmac under the reflective glare of spotlights.

The 5.703km circuit is illuminated by 1500 projector lamps receiving power from 12 twin-power generators around the circuit, with the reason for twinning being obvious: to provide back-up in the event of power failure. The lamps deliver 3000 lux levels – four times the intensity demanded by traditional sports stadia.


However, even should race evening skies prove dry, drivers will be soaked – through sweating in extreme humidity under sultry evening skies and the exertion of changing gear 70-odd times per lap (over 4300 shifts in total) and braking at full pressure a thousand times in around 100 minutes – once every six seconds. Eight corners of the rather angular layout’s 23 turns (11L and 12R) are taken at speeds below 100 km/h, while the final sector sees drivers negotiate 10 corners in the space of 1500m.

In fact, Singapore has the second-highest number of corners of any circuit (Valencia has 25), and the final sector is reckoned to be the most technical of the entire season.

SINGAPORE SNAKE: The Formula 1 track that runs through the centre of the island state is lit by 1500 super-powerful projector lights.

Pirelli’s (yellow) soft tyres and supersoft (red), too, are in for a tough race, for the track has ‘depth’ in temperature to it, having baked all day at 35 degrees ambient, then barely cooling before qualifying and the 61-lap race start at 8pm (2pm SAST) on Saturday and Sunday respectively in expected 28-ish temperatures. Plus it could rain…

Adding further to the event’s notoriety is the fact that in 2008 the circuit was the scene of ‘Crashgate’ – Nelson Piquet purposely crashed his Renault to deploy a pace car at a strategic point in the race to enable his unwitting team mate Fernando Alonso to win.
Having won eight of the season’s 13 races so far – including the previous two, plus Monaco – Red Bull Racing’s reigning champion and current points’ leader Sebastian Vettel will be in Singapore with a second consecutive World crown virtually on his head – and is thus within reach of becoming the youngest double World champion.

The 24-year-old is 112 points up on Alonso (Ferrari) and a further five points clear of team mate Mark Webber and McLaren’s Jenson Button – the only three drivers with any hope of depriving Vettel of back-to-back titles – and, with 150 points (six races at 25 points each) still to play for, needs to leave Singapore with a 125-point advantage over his closest challenger.

Thus, all he need do is grab 13 points – equal to third place. Only once this year did he place worse...

That said, 2008/10 Singapore winner Alonso makes no bones about going all out to spoil what he calls ‘Vettel’s party’, while Webber is burning to win a race, particularly as the Australian has failed to do so this season despite having the same kit as Vettel, so the points’ leader is unlikely to have it his own way.


McLaren’s Silver Bears Button and Hamilton, the latter fifth in the title hunt, are anxious to add to their two wins each, so are clearly danger men, while Felipe Massa at Ferrari is another who has yet to win in 2011 despite his team mate having done so. The Brazilian is getting his season together, and would love to make amends for his 2008 disappointment, when Ferrari sent him down Singapore’s narrow pits lane with the fuel hose attached – arguably costing him that year’s title.

Also worth keeping an eye on for lower placings are the Mercedes twins Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher and Renault’s black/gold-bedecked pairing of Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov. Schumacher is expected to come in for stick during Friday’s drivers’ briefing after blocking Hamilton’s every move in Monza a fortnight ago – post-race Derek Daly, the driver-steward opined that he should have been penalised for unsporting behaviour – so the seven-times champion’s demeanour will be interesting.

After the fourth Singapore GP ends at 10pm local the 12 teams will hotfoot it to Suzuka for the 15th race (of 19) in the 2011 FIA Formula 1 World championship, the Japanese Grand Prix on October 9. The Korean Grand Prix will be a week later.

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