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F1 - Singapore 2017 - GP Preview - Haas F1 Ferrari

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10 September 2017 - 09h34, by Olivier Ferret 

After competing in the quickest race in terms of duration, as the Sept. 3 Italian Grand Prix at the 5.793-kilometer (3.6-mile) Autodromo Nazionale Monza ended in a blistering 1 hour and 15 minutes, teams participating in the FIA Formula One World Championship head to the series’ longest race – the Singapore Grand Prix Sept. 17 at the 5.065-kilometer (3.147-mile) Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Since joining the Formula One calendar in 2008, every Singapore Grand Prix has come to within four minutes of the series’ mandated two-hour time limit. The 2015 race was the longest, eclipsing the two-hour mark by 1 minute, 22 seconds. No one complains, however, as Singapore is a destination venue on the Formula One calendar. Its cutting-edge culture and incredible modernization have turned the tropical island located only one degree north of the equator into a global hub for business and tourism, with Formula One’s visit to the world’s only island city-state combining both in glorious fashion.

When Singapore came upon the Formula One scene, it was more than just a new venue in a stunning location. It was Formula One’s first night race and the first street circuit in Asia. The Singapore Grand Prix has grown in stature since, with drivers eagerly anticipating the 23-turn layout despite its challenging nature.

Powerful lighting illuminates the track in such luster that drivers say it is clearer than in daytime, as there is no glare. And with those lights shimmering off the cars’ sinewy shapes as they shoot down the straights at 320 kph (200 mph) while sparks shoot from their underbodies, fans are treated to a sensory assault that can only be found at Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Masking the awesomeness of 20 Formula One cars screaming around this elaborate track is the prowess drivers must possess to keep their cars in one piece. The walls surrounding Marina Bay Street Circuit are unforgiving, but in order for a driver to wring every ounce of speed from his racecar, he must dance with those walls while navigating the numerous bumps of the track’s surface.

If that’s not enough, Singapore in September is hot. Really hot. And for added measure, really humid. As much as the Singapore Grand Prix is run at night for aesthetic purposes, nighttime is the coolest time for drivers and spectators alike. Nonetheless, temperatures inside the racecar can reach 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit).

Despite the tough track and equally tough environs, the Singapore Grand Prix is embraced by drivers. The electric atmosphere of the city and the beauty of Formula One at night, where exhaust flames and glowing brake discs provide a technicolor display that goes unnoticed in daylight hours, are appreciated by the drivers. It’s a modern-day Monaco.

The lights are bright at Marina Bay, and Haas F1 Team wants to shine. The American outfit comes into Round 14 of the 20-race Formula One schedule in an incredibly tight battle with fellow constructors Toro Rosso and Renault. With 35 points earned so far this season to place itself seventh in the constructors standings, Haas F1 Team trails sixth-place Toro Rosso by just five points while holding only a one-point advantage over eighth-place Renault.

These razor-thin margins can change drastically with a strong, point-paying performance, and Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are keenly aware of this fact. Grosjean last scored points two races ago in the Belgian Grand Prix with a seventh-place drive that pushed the organization well past its 29-point tally from all of last season. Magnussen’s most recent point-scoring effort was a seventh-place finish in June at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Both drivers are hungry for more points with only seven races remaining in 2017.

Singapore, home to numerous restaurants serving high-end cuisine that satisfy even the most discerning palate, can dish up points for the less discerning Haas F1 Team. Points are points, no matter how they’re served, and in the 10th anniversary of the Singapore Grand Prix, a top-10 performance will yield those coveted points. The table is set in Singapore for Haas F1 Team.

Gunther Steiner

The past two grands prix have been at high-speed circuits where teams opt for minimal downforce. Belgium seemed to work out well for the team, but that wasn’t the case in Italy. Despite having to qualify in the wet on Saturday, what made these two high-speed tracks provide such different outcomes?

“I think the outcome was not so different. In Monza, Kevin’s race pace was very good. Obviously, Romain starting last, then hitting somebody at the start and coming in on lap two to change the front wing, the race was gone. It’s very difficult to compete because you’re so far back, but Kevin finished 11th. Five teams finished in front of us. We were the sixth-fastest car. If one or two had dropped out, we would again have been in the points. So, it wasn’t a fantastic week for us in Monza. Spa was better. The car was in a similar performance level between the two races. It’s just like Spa, with a few dropouts, maybe it was better, and some of our main opponents being a little bit worse there put us into the points. All in all, for the development we are doing on the high-speed version of the car, it’s very small and we had a decent result. I would say we were a little bit better in Spa than we were in Monza, but otherwise we weren’t too far apart. It looked worse than it actually was.”

Now you head to a street circuit where downforce is much more necessary. Is the Singapore Grand Prix a venue that suits the Haas VF-17 better than the high-speed tracks?

“It’s not only about downforce levels, it’s also about how to use the tire and which level of downforce we need to run. As always this year, it’s not only about how good we are, it’s how good our opponents are and how they can get their cars to work at the circuits. We always see where we end up with our other opponents in the midfield.”

Using the tire properly means finding its optimum operating window. With Pirelli bringing the Yellow soft, Red supersoft and Purple ultrasoft tire to Singapore, what are your expectations?

“I would say in qualifying that the softest tire was always the fastest tire – even if the drivers don’t feel a big difference. A harder tire has never been faster. In the race, it’s more about race distance, what you can do, and how quick they drop off and the time you lose. Normally the softest tire for the race weekend is always the fastest tire. I think this trend will continue in Singapore.”

Singapore is one of only three night races on the Formula One schedule, but it’s also the original night race. Do you like competing at night?

“I think a street race and a night race are just cool. I quite like it. It’s something different. Singapore is a great city. The nice thing about doing it at night is that it cools down a little bit, as during the day it’s really hot. If they were all night races, maybe I wouldn’t like it, but a few in the year is very good.”

With Formula One’s slate of European races over, use of the team’s transporters and hospitality unit is also over. How helpful is it to have all that equipment at the track on a consistent basis, and how hard is it to transition back to flyaway races?

“It’s nice to have your own equipment with you. You know where you are going and don’t have to change every weekend, but then again, it’s just part of our job to always deal with what we are given. All of the supplies we take to flyaways we ship in sea containers, so it’s all of our stuff. It’s just in a different building and it needs to be set up. Our trucks and hospitality unit will be serviced and repaired and they’ll come back out in the springtime.”

Singapore has become a destination venue for Formula One. What makes it such a desirable event?

“It’s a race in a big city – a cool city – and it’s a night race. There are some cool elements for people to do when they go there. There’s lots of nightlife and you can stay in the city and walk to the racetrack.”

Singapore spurred more night races in Formula One just as Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway spurred more night races in NASCAR. You’ve been to both. Can you compare the two? Are there any similarities?

“I would say a night race is always exciting and I think if all the races were night races, it wouldn’t be as interesting. With NASCAR and Formula One night races, you have the whole day to build up to it. It’s just cool.”

The schedule at Singapore seems to be very smartly laid out. Practice and qualifying is at roughly the same time as the race, providing consistent data for the teams. And fans across the globe get consistent TV times to watch all the coverage, as the times are the same as they’ve been for all of the European races. As a competitor but also as a stakeholder, can you describe how beneficial this is for Formula One?

“Consistent TV times are good because fans know when to tune in. That’s very difficult to do with a global sport, so this schedule is good from that perspective. It’s also a good thing for the teams because they will sleep during the day and work at night, and not be jet lagged.”

Can you describe the atmosphere generated by a night race? Is there a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation because the Singapore Grand Prix is so visually stimulating?

“The adrenaline is higher when the atmosphere around the track is cool. The spectators have the whole day to get ready and get excited, and for us it’s just cool.”

Romain Grosjean

The past two grands prix have been at high-speed circuits where teams opt for minimal downforce. Belgium seemed to work out well for you and the team, but that wasn’t the case in Italy. Despite having to qualify in the wet on Saturday, what made these two high-speed tracks provide such different outcomes?

“I think Monza was more just about the drag and the efficiency of the low downforce. At Spa-Francorchamps, there were a few more corners where we could exploit a bit more of the potential of the car. So yes, we struggled a bit more in Italy. The pace looked good on Friday, but over the grand prix it was a bit more complicated and difficult.”

Now you head to a street circuit where downforce is much more necessary. Is the Singapore Grand Prix a venue that suits the Haas VF-17 better than the high-speed tracks?

“I think it will. Every time we run maximum downforce, the car seems to work better. We’ve got a better efficiency between drag and downforce, so that’s good. The key for us in Singapore will be to get into the tire window. If we do so, we’ll be in a good place. But again, that’s not easy to achieve.”

Singapore is one of only three night races on the Formula One schedule, but it’s also the original night race. Do you like competing at night?

“I do like the Singapore Grand Prix. I do like competing in the night. It’s pretty good fun. It makes some great footage, and clearly Singapore is one of the most beautiful races you can have by night. It’s pretty awesome. It provides something a bit different on the calendar. I’m very much looking forward to it and seeing what we can do there.”

Because the Singapore Grand Prix is at night, is there a heightened sense of speed?

“It’s actually easier at night because the lights never change. The luminosity is always the same. You stick with the same visor, and driving at those speeds in those conditions is absolutely fine.”

Can you describe the atmosphere generated by a night race? Is there a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation because the Singapore Grand Prix is so visually stimulating?

“It’s pretty cool. Everyone loves it, especially the VIPs, who then go partying after the race. It’s a special one, for sure. It’s a race everyone waits for. It’s a tricky track, and you’re racing at night downtown when it’s very hot and humid, so there are a lot of factors that make it exciting.”

Singapore’s layout forces drivers to run close to the track’s walls for the majority of a lap. While the margin for error is always low in Formula One, is it even lower at Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“Yes. You pretty much have to hold your breath and hope for the best, especially when you’re pushing in qualifying, as you run so close to the walls.”

How do you handle the bumpy nature of Singapore’s layout, and are there specific sections of the track you have to remember to avoid?

“Especially between turns three and four, and on the long straight, it’s very bumpy. You really want to find the right line there. When you make an overtaking move there, you’ve really got to be sure you’ve got the car with you as it’s very tricky.”

There are 23 turns at Marina Bay Street Circuit, the most of any Formula One venue. Which ones are the most treacherous and why?

“To be honest, every corner is tricky. It’s difficult to just pick one.”

Between the bumps and the heat, how physically taxing is the Singapore Grand Prix?

“It can be very physical. All week we never see the sunlight, so that takes a bit of energy away. Then it’s humid, it’s hot and it’s always a long race. We usually reach the two-hour limit. It’s very, very demanding. I remember back in 2013, I lost four kilos (nine pounds) of water during the race, which is quite a lot.”

In addition to its physicality, is the Singapore Grand Prix mentally exhausting because of the close proximity of the walls, its multitude of turns and high safety-car frequency?

“Mentally it’s very difficult, as much as it is physical. It’s clearly one of the races where you need to be at your fittest in the season.”

Despite the mental and physical nature of the Singapore Grand Prix, drivers love it. Why?

“Simple, we love a challenge. That’s why we race in Formula One and that’s why we drive these cars and race at over 300 kph (186 mph). We love it.”

Because of Singapore’s high heat and humidity, do you do anything special in advance of the race and during the race weekend to stay hydrated?

“I think as long as you’re fit as you can be, that’s the most important thing. I cope pretty well with the heat, normally. I just get myself ready, jump in and go for it.”

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“On the long straight after turn four, and then again when you come back after the bridge on the second longest straight into the braking zone.”

Prior to racing at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Formula One, did you have any experience at that track?

“No.”

Was your first Formula One race at Singapore in 2009 your first time racing under the lights? What did you think of the experience?

“It was pretty cool. The lights are perfect, so you don’t really feel like you’re racing at night. I didn’t get many laps first time out, but it was a great experience.”

What is your favorite part of the Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“Good question. I like turns one to three – the first complex, basically.”

Describe a lap around Marina Bay Street Circuit.

“Main straight going into turn one, heavy braking, easy to front lock. You want to carry through some speed there. You go into a tight hairpin with a tricky throttle application. Then turn four is a mid-speed corner going into the longest straight on the track, big braking at the end of that. Then a right-hand side, 20-degree turn followed by a left-hand side, 90-degree turn. Then you go to the left carrying some speed with a right chicane. It’s pretty tricky going under the bridge. There’s a bit of a bump, tricky braking at the end before that left hairpin. On the back straight it’s important to get good traction. Big braking to go into the next right-hand side, 90-degree turn. The next braking zone is a bit tricky, then the chicane at (turns) 18 and 19, having passed the stadium, where there’s no room for error. Last sequence – lot of inside curb through turn 21. We see a lot of cars touching the wall on exit there. The final corner is the second quickest on the track. It’s pretty cool. You carry top speed from there to the start.”

Kevin Magnussen

The past two grands prix have been at high-speed circuits where teams opt for minimal downforce. Belgium seemed to work out well for you and the team, but that wasn’t the case in Italy. Despite having to qualify in the wet on Saturday, what made these two high-speed tracks provide such different outcomes?

“I think we were a little bit wrong in our tire choice in Monza in the wet. The car was handling well on the full wet, but on the intermediate tire, it was wrong for us, as we couldn’t get any heat into the tire. I think the full wet would’ve been a lot faster. This is a new tire and you learn all the time. Lesson learned, for sure.”

Now you head to a street circuit where downforce is much more necessary. Is the Singapore Grand Prix a venue that suits the Haas VF-17 better than the high-speed tracks?

“It’s difficult to say. I don’t really have a lot of success in guessing our performance beforehand. I usually get it wrong. I’ll go there and see how we get on.”

You have two career starts in the Singapore Grand Prix and you’ve finished in the points each time. Is there something about the layout that suits your driving style?

“I don’t really know. I think it’s a cool track, fun to drive. It’s pretty difficult to overtake, but fun nonetheless.”

Singapore is one of only three night races on the Formula One schedule, but it’s also the original night race. Do you like competing at night?

“I would say yes. It doesn’t really make a big difference. You don’t notice it so much. It’s cool. It looks nice.”

Can you describe the atmosphere generated by a night race? Is there a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation because the Singapore Grand Prix is so visually stimulating?

“It’s not something that a driver really thinks about. It looks cool on television. The cars look a lot shinier and spectacular.”

Singapore’s layout forces drivers to run close to the track’s walls for the majority of a lap. While the margin for error is always low in Formula One, is it even lower at Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“Yes it is. If you miss your braking or get on the power a bit too early, there’s a wall and you’ll be likely to hit it. This makes the consequences a bit bigger for any mistake, which is cool.”

How do you handle the bumpy nature of Singapore’s layout, and are there specific sections of the track you have to remember to avoid?

“There are some bumps around the track. You’re trying to avoid them as much as you can. It’s not possible to avoid all of the bumps as you need to take your racing line. It makes it easy to lock up in some places.”

There are 23 turns at Marina Bay Street Circuit, the most of any Formula One venue. Which ones are the most treacherous and why?

“Turn five. It’s pretty high speed and there’s a wall very close to the track.”

Between the bumps and the heat, how physically taxing is the Singapore Grand Prix?

“It’s pretty tough. It’s very hot and humid. It’s probably one of the hardest races. It goes on for the two-hour limit nearly all the time. It’s a tough race with so many corners – you don’t really get any breaks. There’s not a lot of straights to relax.”

In addition to its physicality, is the Singapore Grand Prix mentally exhausting because of the close proximity of the walls, its multitude of turns and high safety-car frequency?

“Yes it is because it goes on for a long time, so your fatigue affects your mental performance as well. It is a tough race.”

Despite the mental and physical nature of the Singapore Grand Prix, drivers love it. Why?

“I think because it’s a challenge. It’s a different weekend to the rest of the calendar. It’s because it’s unique.”

Because of Singapore’s high heat and humidity, do you do anything special in advance of the race and during the race weekend to stay hydrated?

“You drink more to make sure you’re hydrated.”

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“Turn four and turn seven after the straight.”

Was your first Formula One race at Singapore in 2014 your first time racing under the lights?

“Yes, it was my first time.”

What is your favorite part of the Marina Bay Street Circuit?

“Sector two. It’s cool, twisty, and fun.”

Describe a lap around Marina Bay Street Circuit.

“Bumpy, twisty and hot.”



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