16 September 2013
Singapore Grand Prix: Concentration and qualifying key for Sauber
Singapore not only provides a very different circuit to Monza, it also presents a very different physical and mental challenge for teams and drivers.
The Sauber team may still be on something of a high after Nico Hulkenberg's fifth place in the recent Italian Grand Prix, but knows that that will count for nothing when the F1 series touches down in Singapore this weekend.
While Hulkenberg put himself firmly in the 'silly season' shop window with his performance at Monza, he knows that both he and the team could use further top ten showings, but are also aware that Singapore's Marina Bay circuit is far from the easiest place to bring home points, particularly for a midfield team.
The track has completely different downforce characteristics to Monza, with the Sauber cars returning to the highest downforce level since Monaco. The team will also bring further updates to Singapore to continue the momentum gained in Monza and, hopefully, fight for championship points after more than doubling its previous total with Hulkenberg's ten-point haul in Italy.
“Singapore requires a totally different set-up philosophy compared to Monza,” head of track engineering Tom McCullough confirmed, “The track is dominated by tight, low-speed corners and this is the area that the mechanical and aero set-up is optimised around.
“It is imperative to qualify strongly on Saturday evening, as overtaking on this track is difficult. The race tends to cross the two-hour mark and there is a high chance of a safety car at any time, which means this will keep the strategy engineers' attention throughout the whole race. The ambient conditions make it tough for the drivers and crew throughout the weekend.”
Despite the tight nature of the street circuit, Hulkenberg admits to enjoying the whole Singapore experience.
“Being in the paddock when it's dark is something quite special,” he explained, “It's the only total night race on the calendar and racing in a mega city like Singapore is unique. It's a huge hub in many respects, and to have a track like that is pretty spectacular.
“The grand prix is one of the toughest races of the year, with the high temperatures, humidity and the race almost always reaching the two-hour mark. It's a challenging circuit with a lot of corners but, because it's a night race, we stay on European time for the whole weekend as it's important to get into the right rhythm with your sleep from the beginning.”
For rookie team-mate Esteban Gutierrez, this weekend's race will represent a competitive Singapore debut at F1 level, although the Mexican has prior experience of Marina Bay from his time in GP2, which joined the headline event on the bill last season, and as Sauber's official reserve.
“I like the track - it has a lot of corners and it's quite long, which makes it fun,” he reported, “My favourite part used to be the 'Singapore Sling', a left-right-left combination, but that has been changed to a long medium-speed corner for this year….
“It's a tough circuit in terms of how it affects the driver physically. The humidity is very high, so there is less oxygen in the air, and that's challenging. However, I'm quite used to racing in hot conditions, especially at the beginning of my career competing in Mexico at 45 degrees. The difference in Singapore is the humidity, [which] impacts on concentration. That means preparation is very important, [although] there is nothing that you can do or train specifically for that!”
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