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Singapore GP: Preview - McLaren

NEWS STORY
14/09/2015

The Singapore Grand Prix is Formula 1's only true night race. It starts two hours after sunset, at 8pm local time, and it takes the drivers nearly two hours to complete the 309km/192-mile race under the dazzling lights that surround the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

To quote McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso, who has won through the streets of Singapore on two occasions, "the race is a modern-day classic". It's only in its eighth year, yet already the event is one of the most prestigious on the World Championship calendar.

The 5.065km/3.148-mile street circuit has 23 corners, of which 10 are taken in first or second gear. It has an average speed of 170km/h (106mph), which makes it the second slowest circuit of the season after Monaco; but despite the relatively slow speeds, the race remains one of the biggest physical challenges for the drivers. Cockpit temperatures regularly exceed 50 degrees and there are few straights along which to cool down.

The track weaves its way through downtown Singapore and passes many of the city-state's most famous landmarks. It's narrow and there are some unexpected hazards to be aware of, such as the underground electrical current near the Anderson Bridge that can sometimes play havoc with the cars' electrics. But it's the unique nature of this race that makes it such an enticing challenge.

The asphalt around the Marina Bay circuit is slippery, so Pirelli is taking its two softest tyre compounds to the race - the Supersoft (Option) and the Soft (Prime). This combination was last used at the Austrian Grand Prix and provides rapid warm-up and good mechanical grip.

McLaren has won the Singapore Grand Prix once before, in 2009, and both of its drivers have enjoyed success through the streets. Fernando Alonso has won the race twice and Jenson Button has finished second on two occasions.

It's all about the race

Start time: 2000 (local) / 1300 BST)
Race distance: 61 laps (full world championship points awarded after 75 per cent distance/45 laps)
2014 winner: Lewis Hamilton 60 laps in 2h:00m04.795s
2014 pole position: Lewis Hamilton 1m45.681s 172.538km/h (107.210mph)
2014 fastest lap: Lewis Hamilton 1m50.417 165.138km/h (102.612mph)
Safety Car likelihood: High. There has been at least one Safety Car period in every Singapore Grand Prix
Don't put the kettle on: On laps 13, 26 or 52, which would be a conventional three-stop strategy. Last year's race was won with a three-stop strategy, although several front-running drivers made it to the end with two stops.
Weather forecast: Hot and humid. The 30-degree heat and 70 per cent humidity make this race one of the toughest physical challenges of the year for the drivers

It's all about the track

First race: 2008
Circuit length: 5.065km/3.148 miles
Run to Turn One: 200 metres/0.124 miles
Longest straight: 832 metres/0.517 miles, on the approach to Turn Seven
Top speed: 305km/h/190mph on the approach to Turn One
DRS zones: Two - on the approach to Turn One and, again, on the approach to Turn Seven
Key corner: Turn Five, a 90-degree right-hander. It's vital to get the power down cleanly because the following straight is home to the second DRS zone and the best overtaking opportunity on the lap
Pitlane length: 420 metres (0.3 miles), which is long. A pitstop takes about 29s
Major changes for 2015: None

It's all about the car

Fuel consumption: 1.9kg per lap, one of the highest of the season
Full throttle: 45 per cent. The track has a stop-start nature, with the longest uninterrupted period of full throttle being just 9s
Brake wear: High. There are 16 braking events around the lap, with few cooling opportunities between each
Gear changes: 80 per lap/4,880 per race

Tim Goss, technical director: "Singapore has a quirky little technical problem that's specific to the Marina Bay Street Circuit. Near the Anderson Bridge the cars pass over something underground - we've never ascertained what it is - that creates electrical interference on the cars. Sensors start showing some strange readings and the actuators that control the throttle position and the clutch start moving and are no longer under the control of the driver.

"It lasts for a very short period of time, but the worrying thing is that if we get that little burst of electrical interference just as the car is making a gear change, it can upset the delicate timing of the throttle, the clutch and the gear change barrel. It can actually upset the shift and cause a gear to break.

"The first time we went to Singapore it was quite a serious problem because we'd never experienced it before, but we now know what countermeasures to take, such as electrical shielding on the car and a few other software changes."

Fernando Alonso: "Singapore is an incredible place for a race. It's really unique in every way, and as a driver it's a privilege to be part of such an amazing night show under the spotlights. It's a grand prix that many people look forward to and I'm really excited to go back there.

"The heat and humidity make it tough for the drivers and everyone in the garage. It's a very challenging race physically, so it's important that we train properly and prepare effectively to keep ourselves on top form all weekend. It's a really fun circuit to drive, so I'm looking forward to getting to Marina Bay and soaking up the amazing atmosphere.

"I've won twice in Singapore and I love racing there, so with my engineers we'll be focussing on setting up the car as best we can for this circuit as soon as we arrive. It'll be interesting to see how our car responds to the high-downforce setup there and I hope we can have a more positive weekend."

Jenson Button: "Singapore is always such a special race. It's quickly become one of the most famous races on the calendar and it's easy to see why. The whole setup is really special and racing under lights creates an amazing atmosphere that's totally different from any other grand prix. There's a real buzz about the place from the moment you step off the plane.

"There's always a lot of anticipation in the build-up to this race, and for us it's no different. We've had a couple of really challenging races, but we've said for a while that some of the circuits we go to towards the end of the season should be a bit better-suited to the stronger elements of our package.

"There's no denying it'll be hard work, and we aren't expecting miracles overnight. But, Singapore is a fantastic circuit, it's one of the longest races of the season in terms of time, and we quite often we see a Safety Car there. So, anything can happen; we're hoping to learn a lot about how our car works in this configuration, and take as many positives from the weekend as we can."

Eric Boullier, Racing director: "Singapore marks the start of the final 'fly-away' leg of the season, and a set of new and different challenges for the whole team. It's a relentless time of year which demands a lot from every team member, but we're focussed on the challenge and working hard to complete the last third of the season on a more positive note.

"There is no denying that Spa and Monza were incredibly tough races for McLaren-Honda. We expected it, and it was no surprise when the results came, but it doesn't make it any easier to bear. Saying that, we are entering a phase of the season where the circuits rely less on pure power and more on balance, characteristics that tend to suit our package better.

"Together, McLaren and Honda are constantly striving to improve our package and we have faith in our collective abilities to analyse our weaker areas and continue pushing forward. We won't make any promises or predictions, but we love this circuit and hope to put on the best show possible under the incredible floodlights of Singapore. It is truly a spectacular location to host a grand prix and fully deserves its status as one of the flagship races on the Formula 1 calendar."

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport: "From Singapore, we now start our second round of fly-away races. After the classic circuits of Europe, a night race on the complex street circuit of Singapore will be a big change for the team, in both the preparation for the race and adjusting our body clocks.

"Our engineers are preparing to reach the ideal power unit set-up for the track's slippery and tight corners. The car's overall balance between power unit and chassis will be the key to a good weekend, so we hope to provide a good package for the drivers for the race."

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