Singapore - mental challenge of Monaco, physical challenge of Sepang

Start, Singapore GP 2009

Start, Singapore GP 2009 

 © The Cahier Archive

The Singapore Grand Prix provides the F1 community with some unique challenges, as much related to the circuit layout and the humidity as the night-time schedule.

The 'night shifting' says Renault's sporting director Steve Nielsen, is relatively easy to cope with and, in fact, easier than other far eastern races because, staying in the European time zones, jet lag is not a factor.

"Basically, all the usual European race timings are offset by about seven or eight hours," Nielsen explains. "So, instead of arriving at the circuit at 8:00am, the working day begins at around 3:00pm and ends in the small hours of the morning. Sometimes we see the sun rising as we walk home, so it really is a proper night shift for us.

"Hosting a night race really only works in a place like Singapore, which lends itself perfectly because, as a 24-hour city, you don't struggle to find a restaurant open in the middle of the night. Similarly, the hotels work around the team, with a special breakfast service arranged between 2:00pm and 4:00pm each afternoon.

The lighting, Nielsen says, is also relatively easy to adapt to: "It's as close to daylight as you can get, so there's no need for the teams to bring extra lighting. Before the first race we thought we might need to fit miners' lamps to the pit crew helmets but in reality the ambient light level is so high and so well dispersed that no extra precautions are required. Unless you look up into the night sky, you almost forget you're working at night at all.

In fact, the light reading values show that the Singapore pit lane has a lighting level of 2,200 lux, which is brighter than the levels expected in a typical TV studio (normally 1000 lux). The garage lighting generates about 800 lux, which is more than double the lighting level of a well lit office (400 lux). The main straight and turn one have lighting values of 1,600 lux.

But, explains Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, one of F1's most experienced medics, the biggest concern facing drivers is the high humidity.

"Even though the race is at night, it's still very humid, which makes it difficult for the drivers to stay cool. That's because the sweat stays on the surface of the skin, rather than evaporating and cooling down the body. So the driver's body temperature becomes very high and they can overheat, which leads to loss of energy, loss of concentration and slower reaction times."

That, combined with the bumpy, unforgiving confines of the Marina Bay circuit, add up to one of the toughest tests of the season. "It's a bit like combining the mental challenge of Monaco with the physical endurance needed for Sepang," concludes Ceccarelli.

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