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2018 Singapore Grand Prix – Team Previews
Posted on 12 September 2018
By Stuart Sykes
‘It’s pretty awesome’: F1 looks at Singapore
Best to begin at the beginning: the man who heads the team that heads the World Championship, Toto Wolff of Mercedes, knows better than most the challenge that Singapore presents – especially when your team is gunning for the drivers’ and constructors’ titles.
‘The short straights, the slow, tight corners and the bumpy surface all make the Marina Bay Street Circuit one of the trickiest tracks of the season for us,’ says Wolff, whose team arrives at Marina Bay with a 25-point cushion over Ferrari. ‘On paper, the track should favour the Ferraris, but the Championship fight is so close that predictions are almost meaningless.
‘One thing that’s guaranteed in Singapore,’ adds Wolff, ‘is a great spectacle; the track under the lights looks stunning both for the TV audience and the fans in the grandstands.’
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo is hoping his special relationship with Singapore might just put him up there with Mercedes and Ferrari again, and after being stunned in 2011 by the physical intensity of the race he has come to terms with its demands.
‘I have learnt to love the challenge of Singapore,’ says the 29-year-old Australian. ‘In a strange way, the pain has become pleasure over the years. As everyone knows, I love street circuits. The feeling of driving on the edge, so close to the walls, is something you just can’t get enough of. It’s a place where I also have good races and finish pretty strong. I’ve had four podiums and three second places in a row there, so it’s about time I win the damn thing.’
Further down the 2018 field, Romain Grosjean hits the mark when he sums up racing in Singapore by saying simply, ‘It’s pretty awesome’. The combative Grosjean loves the challenge posed by Singapore: heat, humidity, and a high-concentration circuit with 23 corners. And the night…
‘I do like competing in the night, it’s pretty good fun,’ says the 29-year-old Haas driver. ‘It makes some great footage, and clearly Singapore is one of the most beautiful races you can have by night. It’s pretty awesome. It provides something a bit different on the calendar.’
Nico Hülkenberg of Renault couldn’t agree more. ‘It’s a unique Grand Prix in more ways than one,’ says the German, who will make it doubly special when he competes in his 150th F1 race at Marina Bay on Sunday.
‘Racing under artificial lighting does take a little getting used to,’ he adds, ‘but Singapore has been on the calendar for so long now, it feels pretty normal. The facilities in Singapore are really good, and it’s a very enjoyable venue for a Grand Prix.’
Even drivers who haven’t raced here look forward to their baptism by floodlight. Take Pierre Gasly, the Toro Rosso driver who will graduate to the full Red Bull Racing squad in 2019. ‘Marina Bay is one of my favourite tracks to drive on the videogames, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the real thing,’ says the French youngster who expects Singapore’s night music to be right up his street.
‘Even if I’ve never driven the track, looking at the layout, I can see it’s the sort of circuit I like where you can get into a rhythm with a lot of corners. It turns a lot and it’s very technical.’
Fellow French-speaker Charles Leclerc, who comes from the city that hosts the world’s other great F1 street race, Monaco, is on the same wavelength. ‘It will be a special experience to drive there in real life,’ says the 20-year-old Sauber driver whose move to Ferrari for 2019 was announced on Tuesday.
‘It is one of the most renowned and popular Grands Prix on the calendar, and it will be a pleasure to meet the fans there. The track looks interesting and the city vibrant – I can’t wait for this race weekend to begin.’
Wise words all round, but perhaps it’s best to finish with something from a man of few words. That’s Grosjean’s Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen, on course for his best points haul in a season so far.
The 25-year-old Dane captures the Singapore experience perfectly when he says, ‘It’s a different weekend to the rest of the calendar.’