This weekend's Singapore Grand Prix
will provide a unique challenge for Valtteri Bottas who, despite his broad motorsport experience, has yet to sample the Marina Bay
Such is the Finn's aplomb, albeit unrewarded, behind the wheel of the current FW35 and the way he rose through the ranks to reach a race seat makes it easy to forget that he has not hit the road in F1's only true night race.
“I've never driven at Singapore in a lower category and it was one of the tracks that I didn't drive in Friday practice last year for Williams, so this will be a new challenge that I'm really looking forward too,” Bottas confirmed, “I will be doing a lot of simulator work ahead of the grand prix to get used to the layout, because it has a lot of corners that come in quick succession. I'm normally quite fast at learning new tracks though and showed in Montreal this year that I can quickly get up to speed….”
Despite running after dark, the Singapore weekend is one of the more physically and mentally taxing for a driver, with Sepang levels of humidity to deal with for much of the time. For team-mate Pastor Maldonado, however, that only adds to the unique feel of the event.
“As difficult as the track is, managing the conditions is another element that drivers have to deal with over the weekend as it gets very hot inside the cockpit,” he noted, “I had a very strong qualifying here last year, finishing in second place, so I feel like this layout suits my eye and I know how to squeeze every tenth out of the laptime.”
Maldonado retired from last year's race, negating his good work on Saturday evening, and may consider swapping a similar qualifying performance for his first points from Marina Bay. The Venezuelan has Williams' only score so far this season, courtesy of tenth place in the Hungarian Grand Prix
in July, but chief race engineer Xevi Pujolar admits that the nature of the Singapore circuit makes it important to be ahead of the game in all facets of the weekend.
“The Singapore night race is a unique event that we all look forward to despite the fact that it is probably the most demanding circuit of the year for both driver and car,” he noted, “It is mentally and physically draining for the drivers as it's not only one of the longest races of the year, but they also have to cope with the high temperatures and humidity with the 23 corner layout offering almost no rest. Despite being run at night under floodlights the temperature still averages 30°C, with a humidity of around 75 per cent.”
There has been a modification to the track layout for this year in a bid to reduce the potential for contact, with the chicane at turn ten being removed and replaced with a flowing left-hand corner before the acceleration zone towards the Anderson Bridge, but Pujolar is still planning for an interrupted race.
“Singapore has the highest pit lane speed loss of the season and a high chance of a safety car - there hasn't been a race in the modern era without at least one safety car being deployed,” he reflected, “These factors, added with how difficult it is to overtake, all hamper strategic capability and, for the last couple of years, it has typically been a three-stop race.”