The Singapore GP marks the beginning of several F1 race weekends in Asia. The first major news of the weekend is the substantial modification of the third sector of Marina Bay.
From an initial total of 23 corners, the street circuit now ‘only’ 19 official corners following the removal of two chicanes in the last sector. They have been replaced by a straight that leads to the current turn 16, the old turn 20.
These changes to the layout will cut lap times by approximately 8 seconds per lap compared to last year.
Other significant news is the arrival of two technical directives on the flexion of the wings (TD18), and the floor (TD39) will be modified and tightened, which will change some cards on the table.
Red Bull is very favourite, as usual, despite some concerns from Helmut Marko about the potential of Ferrari and Charles Leclerc.
The stop-and-go nature of the track and the importance of qualifying could help the SF23, but on paper, teams like Aston Martin and McLaren, who have much more downforce, should be favoured.
Mercedes, on the other hand, could struggle on a track that is less suited to the characteristics of the W14. The Silver Arrows typically need long-radius corners to exploit their full potential, but they generally optimise set-up quite well. They have also recently made progress at low speeds.
Further back on the grid, important updates are expected from Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo, who could do well on this type of circuit given the characteristics of their cars.
Singapore GP: Just one high-speed corner, many teams will fight for the podium
With the new layout, the Asian circuit has a total of 7 corners to be taken at speeds lower than 120 km/h, 5 to be tackled with minimum speeds between 120 and 200 km/h, and only the last corner of the track travel above 200 km/h. As a street circuit, many of the corners have a narrow radius, which works in favour of Ferrari.
Since the introduction of technical directive 39 more than 12 months ago, Ferrari has not yet managed to rediscover and replicate the overwhelming superiority of the F1-75 in large-radius curves at medium and low speeds.
Today, this is one of the many difficulties of the SF23 born in Maranello. Ferrar will also have to find a strong high-load set-up, which has proven an issue this season – but will be essential in Singapore.
Charles Leclerc has never won under the lights of the Marina Bay circuit, but the last two Pole Positions at this circuit belong to the Monegasque.
Aston Martin arrived in Singapore with good expectations after the promotion of the fund that debuted in Zandvoort.
At the beginning of the season, this was a circuit Alonso was very optimistic for. However, compared to March and April, the competition has come closer to the general performance of the AMR23. A podium is far from guaranteed.
McLaren could do well on a track that is very suited to the characteristics of the MCL60. In the last three rounds, Norris and Piastri have been at Max Verstappen’s level in terms of minimum speed in the medium and low-speed corners.
Once again, they will try to compete for a podium with the usual group. It should be kept in mind that Verstappen will likely be beyond reach again in Singapore.
In all this, the tables on the table could be changed by the tightening of the two technical directives mentioned previously, given that a loss of a tenth could have major effects: several teams will arrive in Singapore with modified elements in the wing and bottom areas, but the possible consequences of the two directives will be more evident in other Grands Prix.
The weekend could also be affected by the arrival of rain, not a rarity in Singapore, especially on Sundays(chance exceeds 50%), while Friday and Saturday should be dry.
Last year, both Qualifying and the Race were heavily affected by rain, so we have yet to see the new-generation cars at top speed here.
Pirelli has chosen to bring the softest compounds ever to Singapore, as “the stress on the tires is not particularly high in terms of loads, while particular attention must be given to the management of the rear axle.”
Of greater importance will be the management of car temperature, which often puts drivers and cars in difficulty.
The time lost during pit stops, around 28 seconds, is the highest on the entire calendar and favours one-stop strategies.
At the beginning of the weekend and in the early stages of Qualifying, we will also have to keep an eye on the great evolution of the track.
Updates, Singapore GP: McLaren with new parts, Alfa updates the floor, and Alpha Tauri follows Red Bull
McLaren lands in Singapore, “where we will bring some new parts”, to try and establish itself as the second-best force before chasing Max Verstappen and the reigning world champions in 2024.
Since the Austrian Grand Prix, the MCL60 has been at the level – and sometimes even superior – of the RB19.
Red Bull will soon be World Champions with a car in all types of corners, enjoying a significant advantage over McLaren in terms of efficiency.
This is the area where the Woking team will have to fight for victories. They must be careful to avoid the pitfalls met by Aston Martin and especially Ferrari before them.
Red Bull will have minor changes, including the rear wing, a sign that the development of the RB19 has not been totally abandoned to make room for the new car.
Alfa Romeo, like McLaren, has also greatly improved cornering performance with the latest major update; in the case of the Italian-Swiss team, this arrived at Silverstone and had the aim of finding the load that the C43 had lost compared to the competition.
The performances of Bottas and Zhou – fresh off their official renewal – were a crescendo and positive, especially on tracks that do not require good general efficiency of the car, as will be the case for Singapore.
The expectations for the Hinwil team are already good, and the engineers have sent to Asia an “important new package in Singapore, which has required a lot of effort from the team at home in recent months”.
This new package should involve the bottom area and beyond, to try to enter the top ten more often in the last eight races of the season.
The last big package planned for the Singapore GP will arrive at Alpha Tauri, which will still race with Liam Lawson alongside Yuki Tsunoda to replace the injured Daniel Ricciardo.
According to rumours, the AT04 will completely change its face to get closer to the concept of its sister car, a choice that was not made before in Faenza and highly criticized by some members of Red Bull, to then do so in an even more evident way next year with the use of the rear suspension designed in Milton Keynes on the future AT05.
Tsunoda and Lawson could have a good chance of getting into the points with the help of some problems ahead of them, as the car’s performance looks promising on a similar circuit.
Author: Andrea Vergani
Co-Author: Paolo D’Alessandro
Translation: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang