Nico Rosberg returns this weekend to the scene of what some suggest was morally his first victory in Formula 1 – and he reveals that he is hoping to get Williams' 2009 season firmly back on-track again under the spotlights of Singapore.
The young German finished a career-best second in F1's inaugural night race this time last year, behind Fernando Alonso – but the 'Singapore-gate' scandal and subsequent FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) hearing into the Renault race-fixing conspiracy has somewhat tarnished the Spaniard's triumph, leading many to claim that Rosberg is in fact the rightful winner.
Though he does not expect a similar result this time around, the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg – seemingly a man in demand for 2010, with McLaren-Mercedes and Brawn GP both reportedly courting his services – is buoyant about his prospects of putting a poor two-race run for the former multiple world champions in Belgium and Italy firmly behind them around a circuit that should on paper be far more to the Toyota-powered FW31's liking.
“It was a great weekend last year,” enthused the 24-year-old of Singapore. “I really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was just fantastic, and the fact that it was a night race worked really well. The actual track was good fun to drive and a real challenge.
“The toughest thing about Singapore is the heat and the number of corners – there are 23, so there's never an opportunity to relax. The circuit is challenging, but it's a high-downforce track which suits our car, so I'm hoping that we will have a better result there than we had in Monza.
“[The fact that the grand prix takes place under spotlights] is just a little more difficult because the visibility is generally compromised a little bit as it is darker, but you get used to it quite quickly and there are obviously masses of light. I think it would become really challenging if it rains, though. The only thing that was a bit hard last year was seeing so little daylight, as we stay on European time.”
Those sentiments were broadly corroborated by Williams team-mate Kazuki Nakajima, who is endeavouring to finally break his 2009 points duck around the demanding, slow-speed Marina Bay street circuit where humidity and smog levels are extremely high and overtaking opportunities very much at a premium – with only Rosberg really providing the exception to the rule in that regard last year by dint of a supreme display of confidence and bravery.
“The whole event is great,” remarked the Japanese ace, under pressure to hold onto his seat at the Oxfordshire concern next season, “and this is one of my favourite trips of the year. The circuit is very challenging, the location is really glamorous – as Formula 1 should be – and it's an interesting place to visit. I don't tend to go out much over a race weekend, but last year I went out for a few nice dinners and I hope to do the same this year.
“In the week after Monza I spent lots of time in the factory on the simulator, preparing for Singapore and Japan because of the back-to-back. I continued my usual training and then caught up with everything I needed to at home. I arrived in Singapore on Sunday, so I am in the city for the whole week leading up to the grand prix. This will give me a chance to acclimatise to the temperatures and humidity and, although we stay on European time, it will help me get used to staying up late!
“Once you get used to the light and you've sorted out your visor, it really feels like normal. There were some corners where it was a little bit too dark last year, but I'm sure they will have sorted that out for this year. Singapore is a very technical track because of all the different elements you have to contend with. It's a street circuit, so it's quite slippery at the start of the weekend; it has few run-off areas and minimal overtaking opportunities.
“It is also really bumpy, particularly between turns five and seven. Combined with the high temperatures and humidity, it's going to be a very challenging race for the drivers and the cars. Because of the number of low-speed corners, it is a very high-downforce circuit, but that is good for us as our car works well on this kind of track.”