The opening day of the Singapore Grand Prix will be among the most important of the season, if a cross-section of leading drivers is to be believed.
The second of 2008's new circuits has the added complication of being run under lights as Formula One encompasses night racing for the first time in its 58-year world championship history, and being at the front of the grid will be all the more important on the tight streets of the city state.
"Practice will be as important as ever, to get in as much mileage as possible tomorrow," championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who has a good record on street circuits, insisted on the eve of the event, while McLaren team-mate Heikki Kovalainen and Red Bull pair David Coulthard and Mark Webber agreed that learning the layout would be the main focus of the opening 90-minute sessions.
Webber, however, admitted that there were still compromises to be made given the current regulations in force in Formula One. The Australian was among the first to get a flavour of what to expect in Singapore, when he drove a road car around the proposed layout early last year, and explains that the circuit would give up more of its secrets as the weekend went on.
"Practice, on a new circuit, is always crucial, so whether it was Valencia, or Turkey a few years ago, or any new venue that we go to, we might do a few more laps, [but] obviously we've still got a limitation on the amount of tyres that we have given to us on a Friday," he pointed out, "So, if it's dry all day, we only have four sets of tyres to use.
"You always look at the balancing act between information that you're gaining if you're beginning to run out of rubber, or going out there and getting some knowledge on a new venue. There is more of a compromise [here] compared to a place like Barcelona, where we obviously know the place very, very well and we would treat track time a little bit differently. I think you will see teams pretty keen to get a bit more mileage in than on a standard circuit - and, also, it's potentially quite a difficult circuit in places, so that's another reason to do a little bit more.
"It looks awesome, actually. I think they have done a really god job with it. Obviously, I was here last year, having a quick look, but that was very early days. I was a little bit concerned about how bumpy it would be in places as there is some reclaimed land, and trying to get that consistent could have been a challenge for them, but hopefully it will drive as well as it looks in terms of its surface. I think the grip level will be reasonable from the start and it looks like they have done a really good job.
"There's also one hour between the two sessions on Friday which is a little bit unusual, so we have less time to adapt the cars or change the gear ratios and things like that than we would at a conventional grand prix, so there are a few more things that are a little bit different. But we're well prepared for these problems or challenges."
Team-mate Coulthard fully expects his one and only Singapore Grand Prix experience to get better with very lap he completes.
"If it doesn't rain, the best lap - or the best condition the track will be in - will be the last lap of the grand prix because that's obviously when more rubber has gone down than at any other point," he noted, "Tomorrow will give us a look-see where the track goes, but I expect the track to evolve quite a bit Friday to Saturday, Saturday to Sunday.