Next weekend's inaugural Singapore Grand Prix promises to be a fascinating spectator for the Formula One fan, but may not be appreciated quite as much by those involved in the heart of the action.

While the public will be aware of the differences when the cars are on track, there will be less appreciation of exactly what is going on behind the scenes as the teams toil away, following their usual race weekend programmes, but at very different times of day - or night.

The drivers will take to the track for the first time for Friday's opening free practice at 1900hrs local time, while Saturday's qualifying will start as late as 2200hrs, the latest action of all, as the starts at 2000hrs on Sunday.

McLaren, along with its nine rivals, are expected to adopt a bespoke night-time work schedule to ensure that the drivers and other team members are able to function to their optimum level during the night. Usually, a period of acclimatisation is vital for the 'flyaway' races that are in significantly different time zones to Europe, but the Singapore Grand Prix means that the opposite is true, as McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh explains.

"Inevitably, ensuring all team personnel have the opportunity to get enough sleep will be the main challenge over the course of the weekend," he confirmed, "For example, the mechanics won't be going to bed until 4-5am, because we finish running late in the evening and there is a programme of work to complete prior to the next day.

"There is a clear plan, because we know the timings of the sessions and how much work needs to take place after each of them, but the reality is that it will be hard work for the mechanics, engineers, support crew and marketing operation. We will take measures to support this, but I don't believe it will have a massive impact on the cars and the drivers, with the programme for Lewis and Heikki being very carefully planned and monitored."

The Woking team heads to Singapore heading the drivers' championship and closing in on Ferrari in the constructors' standings, and Lewis Hamilton is getting used to the fact that he he will the premier night-time attraction in the city state, rather than the location.

"Singapore is going to be a unique challenge for every member of the team," he confirmed, "Our doctor has prepared a very precise schedule for the drivers to stick to because all the sessions are so late in the day.

"Essentially, we must not acclimatise to the local time, which is totally different to how we normally operate. Our training programmes ensure that, over a race weekend, we are at peak performance during the afternoons and, as a result, we are going to be staying on European time so this doesn't get disrupted.

"Apparently, not acclimatising is much harder than adapting, because your body naturally wants to change, but, for the drivers, our meal, waking and sleeping rhythms will all be in European time - for example we will get up early afternoon for breakfast, have supper at 1am and go to bed at around 3am. It will be very different preparation to any other race, but we'll try and do the best job we can.

"I've never raced at night before, but I don't think it is going to be a problem. It doesn't seem to be a problem in other sports and there have been huge preparations for this, so I think it will be great. "

Team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, meanwhile, is claiming a natural advantage when it comes to adapting to unusual time patterns.

"Coming from Finland, where we have 24 hours of darkness in the winter, I don't think I will have any problems - I am used to that!" he commented, "The main thing to consider is that we remain sharp at a later time in the day. We need to keep the rhythm correct and sleep well. This is all taken care of by the team, but it's still a big challenge.

"It is a much more demanding task to make sure you don't switch to the local time, because your body automatically wants to change - external factors such as light, temperature, humidity are all encouraging it. As with any flyaway race, the process will start from when we land in Singapore, so we will stay up until early morning on the day we land.

"The team is taking every measure possible to ensure the timings of the weekend have no impact on our performance, to make sure we are physically ready. For example, the hotel rooms will be blacked out so we can sleep late into the day, special arrangements will be put in place to make sure the cleaners don't come into the room as they would not expect people to be sleeping until early afternoon, the telephones will not ring..... all those kind of things. We will essentially be isolated from the normal workings of the hotel."

Whitmarsh expects little else to change for the team, with conditions in the Far East expected to be more tropical than recent European rounds, even if rain is expected at some point over the weekend.

"There is the potential for the temperature to drop, but I suspect it will still be warmer at 2100hrs in Singapore than during Friday practice at Monza!" he joked, "We expect the ambient will be around 30 degrees centigrade and, although the track temperature will cool down for the evening, it will still be close to 40 degrees centigrade, unless there is rain.

"If it rains, there is the unknown of whether there will be a problem with glare or the sparkle of light from droplets of rain that is greater than you would ordinarily get but, to manage this potential, we are using coatings for the visors that won't allow droplets to collect.

"We are going with a variety of visors with high-contrast, different colourations as, with artificial light, you will not have natural shadow, and depth perception can be reduced. However, we are expecting the quality of light to be so good that we wouldn't have to do anything, the purpose of floodlighting is to be operating as though it was daylight.

"Ordinarily, the garage is lit for work at night anyway, so that won't be a new phenomenon. There will be some functional lighting on the pitwall which we don't
currently have, but that will be the only addition. In the car, the cockpit display is illuminated so that won't be a problem either, and there is an assumption that there will be sufficient ambient luminosity that you can see knobs and buttons in a way you ordinarily could."