Revving up for the Singapore GP

Al Jazeera previews the Singapore Grand Prix - which will be a tough race for F1's drivers for a number of reasons.

    Revving up for the Singapore GP
    Can McLaren make it four wins out of four at the Singapore Grand Prix? [AFP]

    Lunch at eight o’clock in the afternoon, gym at four in the morning and finally to bed at five AM. This is the ritual that Nico Rosburg and his colleagues at the Singapore Grand Prix are adopting in order to keep to the "European rhythm".

    The Marina Bay Street Circuit race starts at 8pm local time under floodlights. This factor coupled with the testing nature of the narrow, twisting course and the likelihood of tropical rainstorms (that hindered yesterday’s practice session), make this one of the most difficult races on the calendar.

    Add into the mix the hot and humid conditions, and this is the circuit fans often love more than the drivers.

    "RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind"

    Bruno Senna

    This weekend’s race is special for another reason - it will also see the FIA honour the memory of Professor Sid Watkins.

    The Formula One governing body has confirmed that a minute's applause will be held on the grid before the race gets underway in tribute to the former F1 medic, who died last week at the age of 84.

    The neurosurgeon, who was a close friend of the late three-time champion Ayrton Senna, served as the sport's medical delegate from 1978 until 2004.

    Senna's nephew Bruno, who now races for Williams, said on Twitter: "RIP Prof. Sid Watkins. Sad news for us who stay behind.”

    The Prof (as he was affectionately known) dedicated a huge part of his life to making F1 safer and was a constant source of advice and care for team mechanics.

    Watkins is one of the men credited for the fact there have been no deaths in the sport since Ayrton Senna's tragic incident in Imola in 1994.

    During his career trackside the Brit saved the lives of many drivers including Mika Hakkinen's - after his McLaren crashed at the 1995 Australian Grand Prix and Watkins performed a life-saving tracheotomy.

    Unfortunately he was not able to save his close friend Senna.

    No safe bet 

    After an F1 season which has already produced seven winners from 13 races, few are predicting the result this year. 

    Three of the race favourites - Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton - have shared the victories at the last three races at the Singapore circuit.

    To some extent order has been restored after an unpredictable start to the season with McLaren winning the last four races. 

    But Vettel is due a win and might fancy his chances having won in 2011. However, the current world champion has taken only a single race this season; whereas hotly-tipped Hamilton is in confident mood with recent victories in Hungary and Italy.

         Watkins is credited with saving lives of several race drivers and introducing major safety improvements [AP]

    Street circuits would appear to suit Red Bull with Mark Webber winning in Monaco but both Red Bull drivers need a good weekend to maintain their challenges with Vettel unlikely to dominate here as he did 12 months ago.

    They have got off to a good start though.

    On Friday, Vettel was quickest in both free practice sessions. The German clocked 1:50.566 in P1 as he sneaked in front of McLaren’s Hamilton. He was also fastest in P2, this time edging out Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Jenson Button.

    Driving conditions were tough as a tropical rainstorm descended upon the Marina Bay track, but it eventually cleared to allow drivers to switch from intermediate to slick tyres.

    The practice sessions were mainly incident free, but pit lanes were busy as teams tried to get the best out of new wings required given the shift in racing styles between Monza and Marina Bay, with Singapore’s track involving more twists and turns.

    Mercedes have the biggest upgrade this weekend, using a new exhaust system which directs air onto the rear wing and rear diffuser to aid down-force and traction. However, in P1 Michael Schumacher was down in 14th on the timesheets and Nico Rosberg 18th, indicating the team have some way to go to find out how to maximize the new system.

    With the dramatic setting, tough conditions and small margin between cars and drivers - the Singapore Grand Prix is shaping up nicely.

    And there could be few better places to remember a very special doctor. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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