Friday noticebook - Singapore GP

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F1 Grand Prix, GP Singapore, Marina Bay Street Circuitsg

Following the epic battle between Ferrari and Mercedes at Monza two weeks ago, Formula One left the old continent to continue its exciting show in Singapore. The street circuit with its buzzing atmosphere represents arguably the toughest challenge in the sport due to the heat, humidity and very complicated layout.

The daunting slow-speed corners - After the last two races were dominated by Ferrari, it seems that in Singapore the balance of power has swung back to what was the norm a couple of months ago. As on many other occasions this year, Ferrari found itself in trouble to keep up with the cornering speeds of its main rivals, Mercedes and Red Bull. The Scuderia’s SF90 was the fastest on the straights once again, but Mercedes excelled in the corners. The W10 was once again the most dominant in the slow-speed corners followed by Red Bull and Ferrari. As on other occasions, for example in Hungary, Red Bull presented the benchmark in the medium-speed bends followed by Mercedes and Ferrari. In the high-speed corners of the Marina Bay Circuit, Mercedes and Red Bull were neck on neck while McLaren was the third fastest car. Overall, the biggest chunk of Ferrari’s deficit comes in the slow-speed turns.

The punishing bumps - Although Red Bull were in good shape on the opening day of the Singapore race weekend, their car was quite difficult to handle over the high bumps of the Marina Bay Circuit. On many parts of the demanding track, drivers are faced with big bumps in braking zones which requires good braking stability and mechanical grip from the car. The general characteristics and the aggressive rake setup of the RB15 made it hard for the team’s drivers to build up confidence which is necessary around the tricky and challenging Singapore track. Red Bull’s new recruit Alexander Albon had a few lock ups during the practice sessions and he even found himself in the barriers following his biggest lock-up. His teammate Max Verstappen also admitted that the bumps were causing problems through the sessions. “It’s not an easy track to understand and it is very bumpy out there but with a competitive car it’s really enjoyable to drive,” said the Dutchman.

Tyre usage – In the search for grip, Pirelli brought its three softest compounds to Singapore. During the second free practice session, most of the teams were keen to try out all the compounds. Racing Point was the only team which used just one compound over the whole session. Both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll completed their qualifying and race runs with the red-banded soft compound. When it came to the tyre performance, Sebastian Vettel gave away the information that most of the teams would most likely strive for a one-stop strategy which would require extensive tyre saving in the opening laps of the 61-lap long race. The German also said that the difference between the soft and the medium compound over was marginal a distance.

Grosjean as good developer – During FIA’s official press conference, Romain Grosjean was asked to comment on his contract extension with the Haas outfit which left many in the paddock puzzled after the Frenchman’s average 2019 season. “It’s great, obviously great news. I will be with team for a fifth consecutive season,” said the former GP2 champion. Many questioned the decision of Günther Steiner because other highly respected drivers were available on the market including Nico Hülkenberg. According to the paddock rumours, there were different driving forces behind the contract extensions. The American team was in serious talks with Hülkenberg, but the German demanded a much higher salary than what the team’s current drivers receive. On the other hand, Steiner believes that Grosjean has made great contribution to the car development with his precise feedback. “We looked at ourselves and in the moment the drivers are not our issue, it’s the car,” he said.

The naughty boy – Sergio Perez was given a reprimand following an incident with Kevin Magnussen which occurred during the second practice session. At 21:09 local time, both drivers were setting up for a fast lap and were following the two Mercedes. At the exit of Turn 21, Perez took a line slightly to the inside of the racing line and Magnussen reasonably assumed that Perez was going to pit. However, as Magnussen made a move to pass Perez on the right, Perez who was receiving setup instructions on the radio, started to speed up to follow the Mercedes in front of him and closed the gap between himself and the wall causing Magnussen to strike the wall in order to avoid a collision with Perez. This reprimand was the first one for the Mexican driver this year and drivers are given a ten-place grid penalty after their third reprimand.