Technical updates from Singapore

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Singapore, Marina Bay Street Circuitsg

Singapore usually poses a very different challenge compared with usual race tracks. The circuit where F1’s first night race took place in 2008 is very demanding for both the human body and the race cars due to its high humidity, high ambient and track temperatures and the high number of slow-speed corners.

‘Stegosaurus’ fins on Force India’s VJM10

Force India caused a stir in Singapore when it revealed its latest development with the nickname 'stegosaurus'. It a unique configuration of more than 30 fins on the edge of the shark fin engine cover. This set of vanes is part of the high-downforce setup which is required on the narrow, bumpy streets of the Yas Marina Bay Circuit. The Silverstone-based team finished this upgrade before the summer shutdown.

"We call it the Stegosaurus engine cover and it works in conjunction with the T-wing to help that wing perform better," explained technical director Andy Green.

"All our data suggests that it is working as anticipated, so it is staying on the car."

According to Green, the team wants to use the fins in Mexico where the ‘thin’ air forces the teams to use high-downforce setups despite to the very long straights of the track.

New engine units

The 14th round of the 2017 F1 Championship season saw a series of changes in terms of power unit components. Carlos Sainz started the event with a new internal combustion engine, a new turbocharger and a new control electronics. Kimi Räikkönen received a new MGU-H. Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hülkenberg all started the weekend with a new control electronics.

A new MGU-K unit was installed in the car of Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson, Jolyon Palmer, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Felipe Massa, Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen.

With six races to go, these latest changes put for example Kimi Räikkönen, Carlos Sainz, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hülkenberg on the verge of getting penalties for exceeding the maximum allowable power unit sets. However, penalties seem to be looming for some further drivers.

Gearboxes

Daniil Kvyat started the Singapore GP weekend with a new gearbox after the Russian used his previous unit for six consecutive races.

Fernando Alonso and Jolyon Palmer are also using new gearboxes after both drivers retired from the Italian GP in Monza.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez also got new units for the Singapore GP following an unscheduled change during the previous round. That was before the six consecutive races expired, but it did not resulted in penalty as the change involved a spare unit.

Pirelli with relatively low tyre pressure

Pirelli supplied the teams with its softest compounds, the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft. The Milan-based company has often been criticised for its too durable tyres so far this season which is further emphasised by its often extremely high minimum starting tyre pressure. For Singapore, the company which has been supplying F1 with its products since 2011, nominated lower pressure. The minimum value for the front slicks is 18.5 psi while 17.0 psi is for the rear slicks.

Pirelli predict a one-stopper

Formula 1’s sole tyre manufacturer brought the trio of the ultrasoft, supersoft and soft compounds which is the softest combination of its five-compound range. Despite to the heavy accelerations, high track and ambient temperatures and relatively low tyre pressures, even the ultrasoft compounds show very good durability. Many drivers could set identical lap times on their second, third or even fourth hot lap. Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were setting personal best sector and lap times after their first timed lap.

According to Pirelli, the quickest strategy is theoretically a one-stopper. Assuming low degradation: start on ultrasoft for 19 laps, then supersoft to the flag.

With higher degradation, quickest way is still a one-stopper: start on ultrasoft for 14 laps, one stint on soft to the flag.

In case of higher than predicted tyre degradation, the Milan-based company proposes the following strategy: a two-stopper is also interesting. Start on ultrasoft for 13 laps, plus two 24-lap stints on supersoft.

Shark fins and monkey seats

The Formula 1 community was shocked when shark fins and T-wings made a comeback for the 2017 season. With neither element proved to be aesthetically pleasing, the pursue to outlaw the usage of those part started soon. The results of the early technical meetings indicated that F1 will get rid of the shark fin and the even more hated T-wing. However, the latest meetings saw a change as F1 is set to make a U-turn on the shark fin ban.

Some teams argued that the ban of the big engine cover would lead to a loss of a big surface which can be used for advertising purposes. On top of that, since the Spanish GP, F1 teams have had to display bigger race numbers and name on their car to make it easier to the fans to identify drivers which also robbed some advertising place.

However, T-wings are set to leave F1 for next year and so is the monkey seat which is a mini vane around the exhaust tail pipe. This is because FIA had concerns that teams were keen on exploiting the blown effect with the additional wing.