Nico Rosberg has confessed that he cannot wait to get out on-track again around the circuit that has delivered him the best finish of his F1 career to-date in the forthcoming Singapore Grand Prix, as he and Mercedes Grand Prix team-mate Michael Schumacher get set for what the younger German describes as 'one of the highlights of the year'.
Two years ago, Rosberg overcame a stop-go penalty for refuelling whilst the pit-lane was still closed to take the chequered flag a superb second in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix for Williams, a result he has yet to better. Twelve months on, the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg qualified an excellent third under the spotlights of the Far-Eastern city-state, and ran second in the race until he again picked up a penalty for erroneously crossing the white line upon exiting the pits, dashing his hopes of back-to-back podium finishes there.
Always a fan of street circuits, Marina Bay is one of the 25-year-old's favourite tracks on the calendar, and buoyed by competitive top six finishes at both Spa-Francorchamps and Monza since the mid-summer break, he is hopeful of keeping that run going this weekend.
“Singapore is one of the highlights of the year, and I really enjoyed the last two races,” Rosberg enthused. “The atmosphere is fantastic, and the concept of a night race works really well once you get into the routine of staying on European time. I had the best finish of my career so far in Singapore in 2008 when I finished second, so the race has good memories for me.
“The track is good fun to drive and a real challenge. It feels like a proper street circuit, very narrow and enclosed, with a stop-start nature that never gives you the chance to relax. We've had decent results in the last two races, so we will be hoping to continue our run of points finishes in Singapore.”
For compatriot Schumacher, meanwhile, the floodlit spectacular will represent an all-new challenge, with the record-breaking seven-time F1 World Champion having never raced there before – and the 41-year-old is coming under increasing pressure to rack up some results between now and season's end to avoid his much-hyped comeback being slated as a flop.
“I have always been fond of getting to know new circuits, and Singapore will definitely be an exciting adventure,” 'Schumi' confessed. “I have three reasons to look forward to the weekend – it is a new circuit for me, it is a city race and it will be my first night race. Driving a new track has never been too complicated for me, and I am usually very quick to learn and find the rhythm. As a team, we would like to perform strongly and we will give our maximum to deliver as good a show as possible.”
One key goal for Mercedes over the final five outings of the campaign is to remain in front of a resurgent Renault in the constructors' rankings, as just 31 points separate the two rivals in the title chase with 215 still to fight for – and a significant degree of pride, not to mention prize money, at stake.
“Over the past two years, F1's night race in Singapore has proved to be a fantastic occasion enjoyed by drivers, teams and fans alike,” stated the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn. “The weekend creates a great spectacle to showcase our sport, and with the championship battle getting closer, we can hope to see another exciting race.
“From our team's perspective, we have some refinements to our existing upgrades for Singapore and the high downforce set-up required for this low-speed street circuit. We have achieved decent results within the performance limitations of our car at the past two races, and we hope to have a strong end to the season during the final 'flyaway' races.”
“Singapore's night race is a very special grand prix on the F1 calendar, which has quickly established itself as a favourite,” concurred Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug. “The atmosphere around the illuminated circuit is unique amongst the 19 race venues that we visit, as are the images of F1 generated from the night racing. Although we are focussing on the design of our 2011 car, we do have some technical developments for Singapore and as at the last two races, we will aim to achieve the best possible results with Michael and Nico.”