Track changes, car changes, same winner? Six Singapore GP talking points

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Formula 1 returns to Marina Bay for the 14th Singapore Grand Prix this weekend. However, the circuit will have a different character to it with the removal of a sequence of corners near the end of the lap.

How much will this change the track and the performance of each of the ten teams around it? And will an FIA issued technical directive affect teams more than they claim it will?

These are the talking points for the Singapore Grand Prix.

Trimmed-down track

In a sport all about following trends, the Singapore Grand Prix is one of the true trend-setting events on the current calendar.

Alongside the ill-fated Valencia street circuit, Marina Bay was among two new street circuits on the 2008 schedule that would act as the blueprint for so many future events added to the F1 calendar. That is, temporary street circuits set in the heart of major metropolitan areas, like Baku, Jeddah, Miami and the upcoming Las Vegas Grand Prix.

Singapore Grand Prix track map, 2023
Track data: Marina Bay Street Track, Singapore
Singapore also broke new ground for the sport during its inaugural race in 2008 as the first-ever grand prix to take place at night. Soon after, Abu Dhabi joined Singapore the following season as the second race to take place under the lights. That has also proved a trend: six of the 22 rounds this year will be raced at night time.

However, after 13 races around the five kilometre street circuit with the only significant change being the removal of the unique but clumsy Singapore Sling chicane, this year’s Singapore Grand Prix will see the circuit take on a different look with the removal of the float sequence of turns 16 to 19 that saw drivers run along the waterfront before turning under the grandstand. As that section of the circuit is currently undergoing renovations (due for completion in late 2026) the track will instead see the left-hand kink of turn 15 lead onto a straight which cars will run directly to the old turn 20-21 chicane, which will now become turns 16-17.

The removal of two chicanes may seem minor, but it will have a significant impact on the circuit’s character. The section should become the second-longest full-throttle section on the circuit and may well see a fourth DRS zone placed onto it. The reduced corners could also work in favour of teams like Williams, who have tended to be stronger at circuits with longer straights, and McLaren, whose weaknesses have typically been at low speed corners.

Flexibility clampdown

The F1 technical regulations change on a yearly basis in the sport, with some seasons bringing with them major rewrites to certain areas of the rule book and other seasons remaining relatively static when it comes to the limits around how teams can design their cars.

Andrea Stella, Mario Isola, Frederic Vasseur, Christian Horner, Monza, 2023
Multiple team principals welcomed the technical directive
But one specific rule that has remained untouched for at least the last in Formula 1 is that all aerodynamic bodywork on cars must always remain rigid and not flexible under aerodynamic load within a certain threshold. Article 3.2.2 of the sport’s technical regulations demands that “all aerodynamic components or bodywork influencing the car’s aerodynamic performance must be rigidly secured and immobile” and that parts “must produce a uniform, solid, hard, continuous, impervious surface under all circumstances.”

Originally implemented for safety reasons, the rule against flexible bodywork also prevents teams exploiting the downforce and drag advantages from having wings and other bodywork able to be manipulated into different positions at high and low speeds. However, in response to concerns about how some teams may be skirting this rule, the FIA have issued a technical directive to all ten teams to make them aware that parts of the cars that could flex under load will be placed under increased scrutiny.

Team principals have universally welcomed this move with no one team appearing to be at risk of having their performance affected by the clampdown. Red Bull, Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo are among the teams who have publicly claimed they will not be affected by the technical directive, but until the cars take to the track in Singapore, it remains to be seen how any of the teams may be affected as a result.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Massa pursues Crashgate “justice”

The temporary removal of the float section is an interesting coincidence for this season due to the peculiar backdrop of developments within the world of Formula 1.

Nelson Piquet Jnr, Renault., Singapore, 2008
Crashgate has returned to the headlines
Long after the events of Crashgate were considered to have been settled, they have been brought to the forefront of minds once again by 2008 world championship runner-up Felipe Massa taking the first steps towards legal action against the FIA and Formula 1 over allegations that Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone chose not to publicise and take action against the Renault team despite claims both were made aware Nelson Piquet Jnr deliberately crashed his car to allow team mate Fernando Alonso to win, leading to a botched Ferrari pitstop that prevented Massa scoring vital points that could have swayed the championship battle his way.

Massa’s legal representatives have given the FIA and F1 until mid-October to respond to a Letter Before Claim sent to them declaring their intentions to pursue court action over their “deliberately ignoring the misconduct that stripped him of that title”. In a coincidence, drivers this weekend will not be racing at the same part of the track where Piquet’s infamous incident took place.

While the events of 2008 are not going to have any meaningful impact on what happens on the circuit this year, it’s certain that one of the more shameful episodes of F1’s history will be a talking point yet again in the paddock this weekend.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Stroll under scrutiny

At the point of the season when silly season speculation continues to ramp up, there are some drivers who are more secure in their seats than others. As the championship leading driver fresh from two back-to-back titles, Max Verstappen’s position on the grid is unquestioned. But there is one other driver whose seat may be even more secure than the world champion’s: Lance Stroll.

Lance Stroll, Aston Martin, Monza, 2023
Stroll has only a quarter of the points of his team mate
As the son of the team’s part-owner, Stroll is unique on the grid in having a familial connection to the ownership of his team. While Stroll’s rapid rise to Formula 1 led to cynicism when he joined the grid, he has acquitted himself well enough behind the wheel to prove he is deserving of his place in the sport on the merit of his driving.

However, in 2023, Stroll has become the clear weak link in Aston Martin. While he finished the 2022 season with just under half of the 37 points scored by team mate Sebastian Vettel, Stroll has only managed to score 27.6% of new team mate Alonso’s tally of 170 points after 14 rounds, with Alonso six places higher in the standings than his team mate in third place.

The performance gap between Stroll and Alonso became even more glaring last time out at the Italian Grand Prix as Aston Martin lost their top three position in the championship for the first time all season, with Ferrari moving up to third thanks to a third and fourth place finish at Monza. While team principal Mike Krack insists that the team is happy with Stroll’s performance in and out of the car and can find excuses for the various gaps between his two drivers over the season so far, it’s clear that Aston Martin need Stroll to raise his game if they are to have any chance of fighting for a top three finish over the final eight rounds of the championship.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Tying loose ends

Days after the Italian Grand Prix, the FIA announced all 10 teams that been certified as being under the 2022 budget cap, with no team found to have committed any material or procedural breaches of the financial restrictions over last season.

Pirelli’s place as F1’s tyre supplier is being considered
That will be of great relief to many in the paddock at Singapore, as this time last year saw rumours abound that one of the leading teams may have been found to have exceeded the cap for the 2021 season. Soon after in Japan, the FIA confirmed that Red Bull had been deemed to have committed a material breach of the budge cap and suffered a fine and a loss of wind tunnel and CFD testing time as a result for 12 months. That 12 month period is about to reach its conclusion in early October, yet in that time Red Bull have won every single grand prix contested in that time except for just one, won by Mercedes in the penultimate round of last year.

But with the budget cap not likely to be a concern this weekend, there are some outstanding questions that the FIA are yet to answer. The first being whether they will accept any of the applications for prospective new teams to join the grid for either 2025 or 2026, although the Andretti team’s recent rebrand to ‘Andretti Global’ suggests the IndyCar giants are confident about their bid may be successful.

The remaining two question revolve around tyres. The FIA have not yet announced the result of their call for tender for F1’s tyre supplier for the 2025 to 2027 seasons and a result of that process is expected soon. Similarly, it remains to be seen whether the sport will introduce the Alternative Tyre Allocation system trialled in the Hungarian and Italian Grands Prix weekends to more or even all races on the calendar in 2024.

Singapore GP founder’s arrest

For a country unused to major corruption scandals, recent developments involving a major figure behind the Singapore Grand Prix have come as a shock. Ong Beng Seng, who brought F1 to Singapore in a deal with former CEO Bernie Ecclestone 15 years ago, was arrested and bailed earlier this year. His detainment was linked to an ongoing investigation into the minister of transport S Iswaran.

As yet the investigation has not been linked to the grand prix. The race’s future on the F1 calendar appears secure, having extended its current deal to the end of 2027 last year.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Are you going to the Singapore Grand Prix?

If you’re heading to Singapore for this weekend’s race, we want to hear from you:

Who do you think will be the team to beat in the Singapore Grand Prix? Have your say below.

And don’t forget to enter your predictions for this weekend’s race. You can edit your predictions until the start of qualifying:

2023 Singapore Grand Prix

    Browse all 2023 Singapore Grand Prix articles

    Author information

    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

    Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

    12 comments on “Track changes, car changes, same winner? Six Singapore GP talking points”

    1. I don’t remember there being much run off at the old turn 20 corner, but it was never particularly fast. Now it’s turn 16, it should be considerably faster. Have they increased the run off at all?

      1. The part they removed due currently undergoing renovations the bypass the tunnel part which was very slow creating a massive straight instead so expect a huge lap time decrease.
        The runout begin of the start/finish after the tunnel should be enough to handle any problems. But if a car goes into the barrier there it could be a red flag situation.

      2. Good point, there is just a small tarmac run off area there. Having looked on Google Earth however I can see the road carries straight on where the turn is so I’m sure that will be used as an escape road.

      3. @eurobrun Not really any space for larger runoff space or escape road, but I’m sure that approaching that corner at higher speeds will be equally fine.

    2. The only time that Felipe Massa would have a case is if he was trying to get justice for Nico Rosberg, the rightful winner of the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, because there is no way that race should be annulled. But even then, I don’t agree with changing results 15 years later. The history of Formula 1 is filled with controversies that are an important part in why they are interesting, and tearing up the history books is not the right thing to do. There should be a rule that nothing can be officially changed a year after the season finishes (a rule that does actually appear to exist). It is fine to publicly announce that Hamilton is the rightful champion of 2021 if the rules had been followed, and Damon Hill is the rightful champion of 1994, but not to actually give them these championships so far in the future. Andy Rouse getting the 1983 BSCC title was fine because the results changed within a year of it finishing (actually the same week that he won the 1984 title as well), but if that was being changed now it would be silly. But in Felipe Massa’s case he isn’t the rightful champion anyway because he has just invented two rules that could make him champion, both of which have no precedent at all, while ignoring the one rule (disqualifying Alonso), which has a huge amount of precedent because it doesn’t make him champion. I think the only fair thing would be for the FIA to announce that Renault cheated in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix (everyone already knew that), admit that Alonso should have been disqualified at the time (but not change anything now), then redirect all their ‘compensation’ that Massa is after to Nico Rosberg and Williams instead. They actually pulled off a brilliant strategy in response to that safety car that anyone could have done.

      1. Massa wants money, and he’ll probably get it. I wonder if Liberty will successfully sue Bernie to pay for it. I wish Massa well!

      2. Rosberg’s “brilliant strategy” was to cheat by refuelling when the pit lane was closed, an advantage that was not fully negated by his subsequent stop/go penalty. He would be just as undeserving a winner as Alonso in my view.

        1. In the same way that a company will break rules to make money if the fine is less than the profit, this seems like an acceptable approach. In a hypothetical scenario, why not cut a corner to save 10 seconds if you know the only punishment is a 5-second time penalty?

        2. Well to be fair closing the pit lane after a SC was first deployed particularly in the fuelling era was a bit stupid.

    3. While the turn to go under the grandstand in Singapore has always been a bit gimmicky, the earlier right-left corner is pretty fun, with a slightly off-set braking zone as the road curves to the left. And it has even led to some good moves.

      One of the challenges of the track has been its length, which in turn leads to long races, which is obviously reduced by the change. Should be interesting to see how this changes the event.

      1. While the track will definitely be faster & consequently the race shorter time-wise by default, but probably not massively shorter because the track configuration is otherwise entirely unchanged, meaning the slow-speed nature that causes long-lasting races with 100% SC record still exists.

    4. Trimmed-down track – Bypassing the float sequence for four seasons (I remembered the year correctly but I misremembered that as the return year but completion late into that year means 2027 return for the float sequence) will definitely improve lap flow, but like with Yas Marina’s, Montmelo’s, & even Albert Park’s changes to an extent, I doubt that’ll improve overtaking because even the longer full-throttle run is still short & seemingly no DRS zone planned for that section. The same concerning other factors such as competitive order, strategies, etc.

      Flexibility clampdown – Probably unimpactful in the end.

      Massa pursues Crashgate “justice” – He should just let that matter go for good.

      Stroll under scrutiny – Nothing particular really about his situation.

      Tying loose ends – Pirelli or Brigestone, I’m indifferent, but I’d be okay with ATA as the standard from next season, & finally didn’t the 12-month period for Red Bull start in late-October from the Mexico City GP weekend, meaning it’d end around that time this year?

      Singapore GP founder’s arrest – Unimpactful, unlike in the Vietnamese GP case.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
    If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.