McLaren Honda drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne share their thoughts on this weekend’s Singapore GP at the Marina Bay Circuit.
“We knew the double-header of Spa and Monza would be difficult for us, but three DNFs out of four was still really disappointing. Still, we showed better pace than we anticipated, even though we couldn't convert that into points.
“We’ve now put the European season behind us and we turn our attention to the fly-aways which signal the final chapter of the season. Singapore is a great place to start, as it’s one of the circuits on the calendar that suits our package better than others, and gives us a real chance for a more positive result.
“Singapore is a bit like the Monaco of the East. It’s a glamorous street circuit right in the centre of the city and the atmosphere is incredible. It’s tough – hot and humid, and hard on the cars and drivers. It’s really fun though: bumpy, tight and challenging, but exhilarating when you get it right. You need a car with good traction on the slower corners and a high downforce set-up, so we definitely have a better chance there – we just need to make sure we also have the reliability.”
“I’ve never raced in Singapore, but I’ve experienced the whole weekend alongside the team over the past couple of years. Living on European time and going to bed at 6am is surreal, and it’s part of what makes this grand prix one of the really special ones. Singapore is such a cool place and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city this year.
“Of the grands prix I haven’t yet done, Singapore is one of the races that I’ve been most excited about all year. It’s a completely different experience to the other races and I think the whole atmosphere will feel pretty unique – racing under the floodlights in the middle of the city sounds really cool. The grands prix here have been some of the longest on the calendar, so it’ll take a lot of stamina in the high temperatures and humidity, but I feel well prepared.
“We’ve had a tough couple of races as a team, but from my side I’ve also been encouraged by the performances we’ve put in across the course of each weekend. In every session we’ve been able to take away positives – even if we haven’t managed to get the cars to the end of the race or finish with a good result. I’m pretty sure we’re due some better luck, so I hope in Singapore we’ll be able to maximise the strengths of our package over the whole weekend, and finish the all-important race day on a high on Sunday afternoon.”
Circuit name: Marina Bay Circuit
First race: 2008
The Singapore Grand Prix celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. First run in 2008, the race takes place at night and sees the cars run through downtown Singapore under floodlights. It’s a breathtaking spectacle. But motor racing isn’t new to the city-state; there was a non-championship Singapore Grand Prix on the Thomson Road street circuit between 1961 and ’73.
What makes the race special?
It’s Formula 1’s original night race. It gets underway at 8pm local time, two hours after sunset, and the circuit is lit up by more than 1,500 trackside lamps.
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It’s the longest race of the year in terms of time. In three of the last five years, the race duration has exceeded the FIA’s two-hour time limit.
The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008 had several crazy moments. First there was the incident that became known as ‘crashgate’, when Nelson Piquet had a deliberate accident in his Renault; then there was the moment when Felipe Massa exited his pit box while his Ferrari was still being re-fuelled and he dragged the fuel hose down the pitlane.
What we love
The spectacle is second-to-none. But we also love the nocturnal timetable. Going to bed at 6am and getting up at lunchtime has a novelty factor. “It’s like being a student,” says Stoffel.
2009, when Lewis Hamilton dominated the race from pole position in the MP4-23. It was his second win of the season.
The combined efforts of the Singapore and Malaysian Grands Prix have hugely increased Formula 1’s popularity in South East Asia. The Singapore race has attracted healthy crowds every year, with 50 per cent of the spectators coming from oversees.
Did you know?
The Marina Bay Circuit has the second-slowest average speed of the year, yet it’s one of the toughest physical challenges for the drivers. The combination of 50-degree cockpit temperatures, 80 per cent humidity and a long lap with 23 corners results in them losing up to three kilos in sweat during the race.
McLaren has one victory, two poles and one fastest lap at the Singapore Grand Prix.