While the majority of the drivers admitted that they had found the streets of Singapore's Marina Bay district to be bumpier than expected, almost all involved with Formula One's inaugural night race insisted that they were blown away with the transformation they had found since initial visits a year or so ago.

While the idea of racing after dark and under banks of floodlights caught the imagination of the media, both within and outside the sport, those intimately involved also marvelled at the infrastructure and facilities that had been provided.

"The guys here have done an absolutely unbelievable job," Red Bull Racing's Christian Horner admitted, "The effort that has gone into this circuit in the last twelve months is nothing short of phenomenal.

"Not only have we got a the spectacle of a night race, we have also got a great circuit, a really challenging circuit. We have already test driven the barriers today [with Mark Webber] and we can see that it is pretty unforgiving out there. I think it is going to be a real challenge of a race and I think it is going to be a fantastic weekend. Hats off to everybody involved. I think they have just raised the bar considerably for a new circuit - and the spectacle of racing at night in a big city such as Singapore is really exciting."

Singapore's famous skyline blend of ultra-modern skyscrapers and historic buildings were illuminated by the reflection of 1600 projectors brought in to flood the 5.067km track with enough light to make racing at anything up to 300km/h possible for the world's best drivers, as Formula One took on an unfamiliar appearance.

"I think it is a big, big step forward for Formula One," Mercedes' Norbert Haug commented, "The pictures, the atmosphere, is really one of a kind and this gives a completely new experience to all the viewers worldwide, but also to the spectators here.

"The whole scenery I think is unreal - it is like in a movie and I think it is a big, big step. I think Bernie [Ecclestone] pushed very hard, so thanks to him and FOM. It is really a good step forward and I am sure that Singapore will be watched throughout the world over the weekend. The track is very challenging in addition, so it is not going to be an easy one but so far I think we have really gathered the best impressions so far."

Tens of thousands of fans packed the grandstands to watch Friday's opening practice sessions, which took place at 1900hrs and 2130hrs respectively, as F1 made an immediate impact on the city state.

"The positive thing is that we have seen a lot of people today at the circuit," Toro Rosso team boss Gerhard Berger observed, "The grandstands were already quite full and it seems that Formula One can become very popular here."

On track, the bumps were the main topic on conversation, with most, if not all, of the drivers commenting that they had expected the roads to be smoother.

"It's a very tough track, hot and bumpy, probably the bumpiest track surface we encounter all season," Williams' Kazuki Nakajima claimed, "As a consequence, I think it will be a pretty demanding race. The grip level is not at all bad, maybe a little low at the moment, but, by the time we get into qualifying and the race, the track will have rubbered in well."

Team-mate Nico Rosberg reckoned that the undulations in the surface were enough that 'you could even get a headache', while world championship leader Lewis Hamilton reckoned that he could have a tougher time of it as he attempts to add a second street circuit victory to his 2008 tally.

"It's a very physical circuit - more than I expected, actually," the McLaren man admitted, "You need to put a lot of work into the car to get a good lap - I'd say it requires double the energy of Monaco over a single lap. One lap around here is like two laps of Monaco!"

Discussion of the surface 'overshadowed' the question of whether there would be enough light to allow the drivers to drive at full pace but, aside from a few 'dark spots', there were very complaints about the illumination effort.

"The visibility is great and you don't really feel you are driving at night with all the lights on the track," world champion Kimi Raikkonen reported, while street and night race veteran Sebastien Bourdais concurred.

"There are no worries about running under the lights, and I even ran with a lightly smoked visor," the Frenchman revealed, "There are hardly any shadows and you can see very well."

There were, of course, some points that the drivers said that they would be raising with FIA race director Charlie Whiting, but nothing that could not be remedied.

"Perhaps we should look at the pit entry - it could be quite difficult if a driver decides to pull into the pits at the last minute," Heikki Kovalainen said, echoing the opinion of several of his rivals, "However, everything else about the track is fine."

The real proof, however, of whether the Singapore team has got things right will come on Sunday, when comparisons with the equally-new Valencia circuit will be made, and Raikkonen, for one, admitted that he had his doubts whether the city state would pass the ultimate test.

"Overtaking?" he mused, "I don't think we will see much - as usual, in fact."


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