Honda heads to Singapore

Round fifteen of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship takes the Honda Racing F1 Team to south-east Asia for the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix. The 61-lap race will take place on a 5.067km (3.149-mile) street circuit around the city-state's picturesque Marina Bay. For the first time in Formula One history, the race will be staged at night.

The 20:00 (12:00 GMT) start time will provide the race organisers and teams with a unique challenge. The track and pitlane will be lit by 1,500 light projectors with 2,000-watt halide lights, which will be spaced four metres apart and situated 10 metres above the ground. They will generate a luminosity of 3,000 lux, which is four times brighter than a sports stadium.

Singapore is the fifth and final street circuit on this year's calendar and while the venue is new to the FIA Formula One World Championship, this region of Asia isn't new to motorsport. In the 1960s and early 1970s a Formula Libre event was staged at Singapore's Thomson Road circuit and, more recently, motorsport fans have been able to enjoy Formula One at Sepang, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix, 300 kilometres(185 miles) to the north.

SINGAPORE - THE TECHNICAL CHALLENGE

The Singapore track is made up entirely of public roads; it has 23 corners and is one of only three circuits on this year's calendar to run in an anti-clockwise direction. The abundance of first and second-gear bends will result in an average lap speed of just 175kph (108mph), which is similar to Monaco, and will result in the cars running with maximum levels of aerodynamic downforce.

As at the new Valencia Street Circuit last month, the Honda Racing F1 Team has left nothing to chance ahead of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix. The team did a 3D track scan of the circuit several months ago, which provided the engineers with data about the track surface and the corner profiles, and was added to the simulation programmes at the factory.

With the race taking place at night, the team also faces the prospect of the track temperature being cooler than the air temperature. This could create slippery conditions for the drivers and with the circuit's unforgiving barriers just inches away, the Singapore Grand Prix is sure to be an enthralling and exciting contest.

Full throttle: 50%      Brake wear:Medium    Downforce level:   High - 10/10 Tyre compounds: Soft / Super Soft  Tyre usage:Medium    Average speed:    175kph (108mph) 

HONDA TEAM TALK

Ross Brawn, Team Principal

Q. What challenges does the Singapore Grand Prix present?"The first Formula One night race, and of course a brand new circuit, presents a number of unique and exciting challenges for the team and we have greatly enjoyed working on these. First and foremost, it will be the first time that a Formula One race has been run under lights. We have done a great deal of research into this, particularly at the Moto GP race earlier this year, and our Sporting Director visited the Singapore track for the lighting test and was very impressed with the facilities. Talking to our Test and Reserve Driver Alex Wurz about his experience of the Le Mans 24-Hour Race has also been invaluable.

"The weather will be a key factor in the weekend. It will be hot, wet and very humid and local statistics tell us that there is a 50% chance of rain on any given day in September. These are difficult conditions to work in for both the team and the drivers; however it could lead to some very exciting on-track moments on a circuit which is lined with barriers. 

"To prepare for the new track, both our drivers have been working on the simulator at our Brackley headquarters which assists with learning the track layout, gears and downforce levels. The circuit itself is tight, twisty and very narrow in places and it will be even slower than Monaco, with all of Monaco's traditional challenges. It will be a tough circuit for keeping the brakes cool and managing the engine, even more so in the high temperatures that we are expecting. With regards to aerodynamics, we will run the highest levels of wing of the season on the RA108 to give as much downforce as possible. The tyres are the soft and super soft compounds, the same specification as Monaco, and the unique challenge here is that the track temperatures will be more or less the same as the air temperatures and likely to fall as the evening progresses."

Jenson Button

Q. How have you prepared for the first night race in Formula One?"For a flyaway race, it is always better to arrive as early as possible to acclimatise to the time zone, however for the night race in Singapore the situation is quite the opposite. I have spent some time on our simulator at the factory this week to familiarise myself as much as possible with the track layout before we get there. Then I plan to arrive into Singapore just prior to the start of the race weekend to give myself a better chance of ensuring that I don't become accustomed to the time zone. We will be operating to a European timeframe which will be tough as it means staying awake throughout the night and sleeping for practically the whole day before starting the engineering and running schedule from 1700. We have approached the race weekend timing very carefully for this race and will concentrate on getting our rest and nutrition right to ensure the body is ready to react in the right way when required. The first night race is very exciting for the sport and I can't wait to see what conditions the floodlighting will present. It's going to be quite a challenge but one that I'm really looking forward to."

Rubens Barrichello

Q. What are your thoughts ahead of the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix?"The Singapore circuit looks very different to the other new street circuit on the calendar this season at Valencia. Singapore is a much slower lap with many first and second gear corners, although the back straight down to Turn 7 looks exciting in terms of carrying speed through the barriers. I have driven the circuit on our simulator which gives you a good idea of how the lap will be laid out and the braking points, however it doesn't give you any projection of how it is going to be racing under the lights! From what we have been told about the lighting system, it's actually going to be brighter than daylight for the drivers. I've watched the Moto GP race at Qatar and it doesn't look like it took place at night at all as the track is so bright. I race in12 hour go-kart races every year and I actually did a 24 hour sportscar endurance race at Interlagos in 1994 where we practiced a lot in night conditions so I have some idea of the conditions. I was very surprised at how well the Valencia Street Circuit was set up for the first race there last month, so I expect Singapore will be of the same standard and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."

TRACKSIDE VIEW with Ron Meadows, Sporting Director

"Delegates from the Formula One teams visited Singapore in July with the FIA and we were very impressed with the facilities at the Marina Bay circuit. The working conditions will be excellent as the pit garages are very spacious at 6 metres by 20 metres and each team will have a minimum of three garages to work in.

"At the time of our visit, the lights had been erected at the beginning and end of the lap and, having seen these, I have no concerns at all about visibility on the racetrack. Rather than using orange visors to brighten their field of vision, the drivers might use slightly tinted ones because the combination of the circuit lights, tail lights on other cars and dashboard lights could prove to be quite dazzling.

"The only potential concern is in the pitlane because the lights are positioned above the pits. This means the outside wheels will be in shadow during a pitstop which could make it difficult for the guys with the wheel guns; however this will be the same for all the teams.

"As for the track itself, it looks excellent. It's a proper street circuit that passes alongside some of Singapore's most famous landmarks and, like Monaco, it will be opened to the public for a few hours each day. As with all street tracks, the surface is not as smooth as a permanent racetrack and it varies in width. Some sections utilise a three-lane highway, while in other places the track is quite narrow and the barriers create a really enclosed feeling.

"The organisers are expecting there to be three overtaking opportunities around the lap and if that's the case, we have a lot to look forward to in the race. One of the biggest factors of the weekend could be the weather. It frequently rains during the evening in Singapore and the forecast looks like more of the same which will add another dimension to the challenge.

"In terms of equipment and personnel, we are treating Singapore as a normal flyaway race. However, when we arrive we will operate to a revised schedule. We will remain on European time for the duration of the event, which will mean working at night and sleeping during the day.Many aspects of the race weekend will be a step into the unknown for all the teams which should make it an interesting experience."

SINGAPORE TIMETABLE (Local Time)

Friday 26 September     Saturday 27 September  Sunday28 SeptemberPractice 1: 1900 - 2030     Practice 3: 1900 - 2000  Race:2000 Practice 2: 2130 - 2300     Qualifying: 2200