The last leg of the season gets underway with a trip to Singapore for a doubly new experience: a new circuit and a night race. Last week, both Scudera Ferrari Marlboro drivers went to the Fiat Research Centre in Turin to experience the new Singapore circuit on the simulator.
However, whereas for Valencia, the other new venue on this year's calendar, there was some reference points, as other race series had run prior to the Grand Prix, in the case of Singapore there is only theoretical data to work with. First impressions were of a street circuit that lies somewhere between Valencia and Monaco in terms of speed, while the track is much wider and indeed longer than the famous Principality track. As is usually the case with circuits in cities, there is not much in the way of run-off areas and it has several changes of direction. As regards the artificial lighting, in the dry this should pose no problems, however, there is a question mark over visibility in the wet and, being close to the Equator, heavy storms on a daily basis are a feature of the weather in this part of the world: each day should be dry in the morning, until convective clouds gather, bringing a risk of thunderstorms. Even though the race will take place at night, operating temperature should not be an issue as night time should only see a drop of around five degrees from the daytime highs of around thirty.
Both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are keen to see what this new experience of night racing will bring. One difficulty everyone will face is adapting to a working day that will typically run from mid-afternoon to the early hours of the morning, which brings with it problems that night-shift workers are well used to, in this case combined with the added hardship of jet lag, affecting team personnel coming from Europe. Felipe actually arrived on Tuesday, with Kimi flying in on Wednesday from Abu Dhabi, where he has been taking part in promotional events for Mubadala and Etihad on Tuesday. Keeping to European time is considered the best way to tackle the different timing of this race and all meetings at the track will follow the normal European schedule, only several hours later. The only concession to post practice and qualifying debriefs is that the meetings might take place with less time in between them. The MotoGP series staged its opening round of this season at night, in Qatar and their experience shows that there were no particular issues with having to work unusual hours.
Last week, the Scuderia had three very productive days testing in Mugello, which included evaluation of some new aerodynamic components for Singapore and the other remaining races. The team also looked in detail at set-up work, especially in the wet conditions prevailing when Felipe was driving on the final day. Some useful solutions were found, which will be helpful for the remaining races, if they are rain affected. The team analysed data from the Monza weekend very carefully, which revealed that the main issue that hampered the performance of the F2008 in the rain-affected Italian GP was the difficulty in getting the brakes up to the correct operating temperature. Unable to use the brakes properly, this had the knock on effect of preventing the tyres then getting up to their optimal temperature range. This was particularly noticeable in the first few laps following the fitment of the intermediate tyres. Furthermore, this situation was exacerbated when the cars were running in traffic. It is clear that, especially in the transitional phases when the track goes from wet to dry or dry to wet, there is a window when the Ferraris have an edge over their main competitor and vice versa. The result of set up work carried out at Mugello means that a situation similar to the one in Monza should not be repeated, for example if it was to rain in Japan or China. While there is also a chance of rain in both Singapore and Brazil, the ambient and track temperatures at these two venues are generally still high even in the wet.
On Wednesday night in Singapore, both Kimi and Felipe will attend the local launch of the new California road car, which was unveiled for the first time in Maranello almost a week ago. Similar events are planned in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sao Paolo. "We come to Singapore on the back of a profitable three day test which saw us make progress with the F2008 package that should ensure we are competitive at the highest level over the remaining four races," said Team Principal of the Gestione Sportiva, Stefano Domenicali. "The fight for the two titles will be very close and, at the Maranello launch of the California, Kimi and Felipe met President Montezemolo, who made it very clear that, as usual Ferrari's simple target come the end of the season is to win both titles. Both drivers will be working towards this target over the remaining four races, knowing that, as always for the Scuderia, the good of the team comes first."