By Alex Kapadia
Pirelli is taking its P Zero Yellow soft P Zero Red supersoft tyres to the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend for the only night race of the season.
These two factors alone, the tyres and the time of the race, throw up some unusual variables, with the Formula One paddock living on European time (as every session takes place six hours later than it does usually) and ambient and track temperatures that tend to fall, rather than rise, during the course of the grand prix.
However, the one constant is the humidity, which tends to remain within 75% to 90% throughout the weekend.
Marina Bay is a street circuit where traction is critical as it contains the second-highest number of corners (23) seen all year. The asphalt tends to be bumpy and slippery, and grip is further compromised by street furniture such as manhole covers and painted white lines. Nonetheless, the cars manage to generate up to 4.3g under braking despite the lack of adhesion.
With 61 5.073-kilometre laps, which are run anti-clockwise, the race tends to come close to the full two-hour time limit, so coupled with the heat, humidity and constant bumps, this makes it a very physical experience for the drivers as well as placing heavy demands on the tyres.
Paul Hembery, Pirelli’s motorsport director, said: “Personally speaking I love the Singapore Grand Prix: it makes for an amazing spectacle at night with a great atmosphere and a fantastic challenge for our tyres.
“Due to the unusual circumstances in which the race is run, under more than a thousand spotlights, the teams and drivers have to think very hard about strategy – as track conditions and evolution are somewhat different than you would find in a normal daytime race.
“One factor that could certainly come into play is safety cars: during every single Singapore Grand Prix that has been held so far since 2008 the safety car has come out at some point.
“This means that strategies have to be flexible as well as effective in order to quickly take advantage of any potential neutralisation.
“While the humidity is constantly high, it hasn’t yet rained in any Singapore Grand Prix so this should be the same again this year and we are likely to see the ultimate performance offered by the two softest slick compounds in our Formula One range.
“Last year’s race was won with a three-stop strategy by Sebastian Vettel, but Lewis Hamilton finished fifth after stopping four times and taking a drive-through penalty as well.
“As average speeds are not very high, degradation should not be an issue if wheelspin is controlled out of the slower corners, which can lead to overheating.”