How the F1 teams will approach the Singapore Grand Prix
Posted By: James Allen  |  19 Sep 2012   |  10:17 am GMT  |  62 comments

In just three years the Singapore Grand Prix, F1’s only night race, has established itself alongside Monaco as one of the two most important races on the calendar for the sport, the teams and sponsors.

But the race on the Marina Bay Circuit is also one of the longest and toughest of the year for cars, drivers and strategists. The race can last up to two hours and with high temperatures, humidity and constant braking and turning, it is a real marathon. And there has been a safety car every year to throw all the best paid plans up in the air.

Strategy wise it was a three stop race last season and this year Pirelli is again bringing the soft and supersoft tyres. However we have seen a trend this year of races taking one less stop than in 2011, so two stops will probably be the most common strategy.

Last year there was a problem with tyres getting cut by bolts set into the plastic kerbs, this will have been remedied for this year.

As the track is at sea level, the air pressure is higher, the air is more dense and this means that the fuel consumption is higher. The stop and start nature of the track further adds to this. So the cars start heavier than at many places with around 155 kilos of fuel on board -10 kg more than the average. This adds to the punishment of the tyres in the early stages of the race.

When you have read all about the considerations the strategists will work with, see if you can find the best strategy for the race on our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR, developed in conjunction with F1 team strategists.

Track characteristics

Marina Bay, Singapore – 5.073 kilometres. Race distance – 61 laps = 309.3 kilometres. 23 corners in total.. Street circuit around Singapore’s Marina Bay area.

Aerodynamic setup – High downforce. Top speed 305km/h (with Drag Reduction System active on rear wing) – 290km/h without.

Full throttle – 45.5% of the lap time (low). Total fuel needed for race distance – 155 kilos (average/high). Fuel consumption – 2.26 kg per lap (average)

Time spent braking: 21% of lap. Number of brake zones – 16. Brake wear- Very high. Toughest race of season for brakes as no cooling opportunities.

Loss time for a Pit stop = 24 seconds (very high)
Total time needed for pit stop: 26 seconds (very high)

Fuel effect (cost in lap time per 10kg of fuel carried): 0.37 seconds (high)

Form Guide

The Singapore Grand Prix is the 14th round of the 2012 FIA F1 World Championship.

McLaren has won the last three Grands Prix from pole position, making a total of five wins from 13 races for the team this season. Ferrari were strong in Monza, but that is a low downforce circuit so the carry-over to Singapore cannot be guaranteed. Red Bull has been struggling for qualifying pace lately and must urgently address this to revive the drivers’ championship campaign.

Lotus were strong in Monaco, Hungary and Valencia, which is normally a good indicator for Singapore and were good on the supersofts on Montreal, as were Sauber, with Perez taking a podium.

As far as drivers’ and teams’ form at Singapore is concerned; Alonso won the race in 2008 with Renault and 2010 with Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton won the 2009 edition for McLaren and Sebastian Vettel won last year.

Weather Forecast

The weather forecast for the weekend is for high temperatures, around 31 degrees, with little chance of rain forecast. However in four previous events rain hasn’t affected the race, so we must be due a wet race soon, given the nature of the weather in Singapore.

Likely tyre performance and other considerations

Pirelli tyre choice for Singapore: Soft (yellow markings) and Supersoft (red markings). This combination was seen in Monaco and Montreal.

In Singapore the great challenge is to look after the rear tyres, which get damaged by the constant stopping and starting at the circuit’s 23 corners. Pirelli found in its first year that it’s quite an aggressive track and the risk here is overheating the tyres, leading to the thermal degradation we saw in many of the early races this season.

It is one of the hardest races of the season for the brakes, not because of big stops from high to low speeds, but because of the frequent brake use and no straights to cool the brakes. This places an extra strain on the tyres as the red hot brakes inside the wheels cook the tyres from the inside, so tyre management is difficult.

The supersoft is expected to be around 0.8 secs faster on a lap than the soft tyre and is more heat resistant with a higher working temperature range. Last year teams tended to do more stints on the supersoft than the soft, although Ferrari favoured the soft tyre.

Number and likely timing of pit stops

Last year the top four finishers made three stops, with first and last stints on supersofts and the two middle stints on softs.

However Paul Di Resta got a sixth place finish from 10th on the grid by saving a new set of softs from qualifying to start the race on and then doing a two stop strategy with a middle stint on supersofts.

He was able to keep up a good pace on softs and leapfrog several cars who stopped three times. Sauber and Lotus will be in a position to try a similar tactic this year. Perez did something similar in Canada and Italy this year. If they can qualify well they could pose a threat in the race.

A strategy of stopping around lap 17 for new softs and then again on lap 39 for new softs looks like a competitive plan at this stage.

The time needed for a pit stop in Singapore is very long, which helps cars able to make one less stop. A safety car is likely to feature at some point and this can change the game, allowing cars which lost ground to close up and, if deployed around the time of pit stops, can change the order significantly.

Five or six laps behind a safety car also moves teams into a window of making one less stop, by extending the tyre life.

Chance of a Safety Car

The chance of a Safety Car at Singapore is very high. There has been at least one Safety Car at every Singapore GP so far with an average of 6 laps spent under Safety Car. This will further encourage teams hoping to do less stops in the races.

Recent start performance

Starts are a critical part of the race and strategy can be badly compromised by a poor start, while good starts can make strategists change their plans in the hope of a good result. Much can change. In Hungary, for example, only three drivers completed lap 1 in the same position as their grid slot.

As far as 2012 start performance is concerned drivers have gained (+) or lost (-) places off the start line this season on aggregate as follows:


+26 Massa *****
+21 Alonso, Glock
+19 Perez***, Kovalainen
+18 Senna * *****
+13 Vergne
+12 Raikkonen
+11 Pic
+8 Karthikeyan
+7 Kobayashi****, Maldonado****
+5 Schumacher* ******, Hulkenberg
+4 Hamilton
+3 Di Resta *****
+2 Button, De la Rosa ****
+1 Petrov*****

Held position: Vettel


-3 Grosjean** **** *****, Webber

-6 Rosberg

-14 Ricciardo*

Note- This table is intended as an indicator of trends. Where drivers have had first lap incidents which dropped them to the back of the field, they are not included above, but are detailed in the notes marked * below. This affects other drivers’ gains, but the sample still shows prevailing trends of places won and lost at the start. Belgian GP start is not included as it eliminated many cars, skewing the sample.
* Senna, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were all involved in accidents on 1st lap in Australia
** Schumacher and Grosjean collided on Lap 1 in Malaysia, Senna and Perez pitted for wet tyres on opening lap
***Perez punctured on lap 1 in Spain and went to back of field
**** Eliminated by or involved in first lap accident in Monaco
***** Di Resta eliminated lap 1 at Silverstone, Petrov did not start
***** Massa, Senna and Grosjean involved in first lap collisions dropping them to the back
****** Schumacher forced to pit lap 1 in Hungary (lost six places)

Pit Stop League Table

Of course good strategy planning also requires good pit stop execution by the mechanics and we have seen tyre stops carried out in less than two and a half seconds by F1 teams. The record is a 2.31s stop in the German GP by McLaren.
It is clear that the field has significantly closed up in pit stops.
The league table below shows the order of the pit crews based on their fastest time in the Italian Grand Prix, from the car entering the pit lane to leaving it. The league positions from the previous race are in brackets.

1. McLaren 20.736secs (1)
2. Ferrari 21.515secs (4)
3. Red Bull 21.556secs (5)
4. Toro Rosso 21.720secs (2)
5. Lotus 21.730secs (3)
6. Williams 21.814secs (11)
7. Mercedes 21.854secs (6)
8. Caterham 21.910secs (9)
9. Marussia 22.046secs (7)
10. Force India 22.190secs (8)
11. Sauber 22.472secs (10)
12. HRT 23.488secs (12)

Now you have read all about the considerations the strategists will work with, see if you can find the best strategy for the race on our RACE STRATEGY CALCULATOR, developed in conjunction with F1 team strategists.

The UBS Race Strategy Briefing is written by James Allen with input and data from some of the F1 team strategists and from Pirelli.

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If McLaren wins this one, it will be the 44th time that a team has won four-plus GP’s in a row. The last time was RBR winning from Brazil ’10-Malaysia ’11. The last time it happened in one season was 2009, when Button won four on the trot from Bahrain to Turkey.


I detest this Singapore race. Everything looks flat and drab on TV, with those endless concrete walls, wire mesh and the ‘toppy’ lighting. F1 goes there for the wrong reasons. But, as ever, I will watch it of course.


I tend to agree to some extent Quercus. I think the one key think that is missing here is vision of the spectators. With the track so nicely lit up they tend to disappear into the darkness. Also you cannot focus on the one image for very long as the cars are constantly cornering so the cameras & angles keep changing. The coverage itself is great but visually its not the best to watch. Must be hard as hell to drive and that’s whats inspiring !


It’s a shame you feel that way – it really is a tremendous event and I think looks spectacular on TV. It isn’t easy to pass here though…

Craig in Singapore

From a spectator’s point of view – it’s definitely better to watch on tv than live. I went to all 3 days of the first race here, then Friday and Saturday of the second race, and haven’t been back since. Walkabout punters are restricted to about 1/3 of the track and decent vantage points are pretty much non-existent, meaning you get maybe a 1 or 2 second glimpse of a car as it goes by. Grandstands are not much better, except perhaps the pit straight, and prices seem to be quite a bit more than other tracks (or at least Belgium, which I just got back from). Additionally, the back straight (between turns 5 and 7), which I believe is the fastest point on the track, is completely inaccessible to the public.

The only good thing I can really say about it is that the cars look absolutely fantastic under the lights! They really bring the colours out making them seem as if they’re glowing.

So, at least for me, I’ll be enjoying it in the air-conditioned comfort of my flat, with my feet up and an ice cold beer at hand.


A two stop strategy looks eminently achievable (according to your calculator). There isn’t a lot of margin though, so some teams may struggle – it will be interesting to see if Mercedes’ new exhaust allows it not to be one of them.

The winning strategy would seem to be saving a set of new options for the race. Overtaking is possible, so the extra speed and ability to stay out longer in the middle stint give a lot of flexibility to deal with the unexpected.

Those who can nail a single fast lap in Q2 and Q3 (Hamilton/Vettel/Alonso ?) should benefit accordingly.


High Down Force Circuit

Hot/Humid Temps

Soft/SuperSoft Tires

Low-end Grunt vice High Speed/Kers

Rear Tires chewed

Could be tough day for Mercs

Is it Red Bull/Lotus/Sauber for podium?

I’d say Macca, but how are they on S/SS’s in this type

of heat & track profile?

I’ve no clue where Ferrari fit in all this.

Glad I don’t gamble!



Well Lewis won at Hungary on Super Softs. It’s mostly street circuit, very hot, tight and twisty. I think he will be fighting with Sebastian and reckon Kimi and Fernando will be fighting for the last spot on the podium if it’s dry. Wet conditions will make it anyones game.


Think u meant Lewis won in Canada with super softs. If super soft had of been in Hungary he wouldn’t of stood a chance. Kimi would of walked it with a more aggressive tyre choice.


Elie, it was Med-Soft at Hungary. Hamilton ran S-M-M, Kimi ran S-S-M.


Sorry Your right.. Don’t know why I was def thinking Hungary ( Canada is a diff tupe of track altogether ) but that was Medium and Hard. I like to think Kimi can win on aggressive tyre set up- but it don’t matter that MP4-27 is a Silver Bullet since Germany upgrades. It’s winning on every type if circuit and given that JB is winning in it now suggests that All the others need to find some speed in Singapore- which is possible- Mercedes with their exhaust, Lotus floor & rear wing, aRBR with some upgrades- it should be on for young & old .. I always believed the MP4-27 was to be the dominant package this year, I think will continue down this path . As we all know everything else has to work well to though.. Go Lotus !


James, what is your prediction for the 3 drivers that will stand on the podium Sunday? Excited for the race but hoping there isn’t any accidents that take contenders out. I tried everything I could to possibly try and meet any of the drivers, but sadly, most of their appearances are invite only, which really sucks. The only possibility is Red Bull at an event later today…and that is only a slight possibility of being open to the public. Apparently Fernando isn’t appearing anywhere.

Any tips on meeting these stars face to face James? I don’t think it will rain in Singapore. It was raining 2 weeks ago, every day, but its fairly dry this week and also, when it does rain here, it doesn’t rain very often during the hours of the race.


funny story, look what I found in one of you 2008 blogs:

“Honda are also very optimistic about next year, but I’m not sure they’ll be title contenders. They have saved up testing days and tyres so they’ll be flat out this winter. When Jenson gets his hands on the new car, it will be a career defining moment, one way or the other..”

And how did things actually turn out! Just funny reading it, no one could have predicted the outcome.


“A career defining moment” was a prescient phrase!


Hi James,

You made a mistake in the Form Guide; Monza is a low downforce (high speed) circuit.

Only goes to show that the best in the business is human.


Thanks corrected. Not sure how that happened!


Hi James,

Any idea if Merc will be running their new exhaust this weekend?



Yes (unless they have problems with it in practice).


It will be interesting to see which of the front runners, who I’m sure will be starting on the softer compound, can build up a big enough gap to make their first stop and rejoin in front of those lower down the pack on the harder tyre. The first stint is so important and I think this will decide who finishes in the top five positions provided it stays dry and there is no SC period.


The DRS made passing easier last year, so even if you came out behind some cars that started on primes, you should be able to pass them with new primes on.


That’s a fair point. I was thinking about other street layouts like Monaco where the DRS isn’t as great an advantage but the street circuit of Singapore does allow for overtaking and on reflection I think cars that are out of place can come through the pack so indeed that’s a fair point.


“Ferrari were strong in Monza, but that is a high downforce circuit so the carry-over to Singapore cannot be guaranteed. “


I think you mean low downforce?

Great preview btw !


Fixed that typo, thanks


This feels like a race where someone starts on fresh tires like Perez last race is golden. You never want to qualy low but starting 11 good be great…


stragegy-wise, dropping of Q3 on purpose seems a bad idea, it still better to not run on Q3 and start 10 rather than 11.

Could a 1 lap try in the harder compound (just in case others don’t run or run the same strategy and hopefully start 7-8 be an interesting gamble ?


“And there has been a safety car every year to throw all the best paid plans up in the air.”

Funny. I’m pretty sure one of the “best paid” plans was pretty much reliant on a safety car!




Can’t bet against the on form Mclarens here, especially the one driven by Lewis. Lotus should be snapping at their heels, considering they both went well at Hungary in high DF trim. Ferrari and RBR didnt quite have the pace there so it’ll be interesting to see how they get on since their updates.

I just have a feeling we may be in for one of those wacky races with a few incidents. We shall see!


ferrari did not have the pace there…. LOL

What are you talking about , had it not been for the suspension issue on Alonso’s Car he would have been challenging for Pole and most def the win… Take off thjose anti ferrari glasses and deal wit hthe fact that Ferrari so far has done the best job this year and “should” win this championship…..


Oh Marco, Marco

He was talking about Hungary not Monza, a track with high downforce as well. You are so hilarios because it’s a fact that Ferrari were not quite as MacLaren then and hear you are ready to defend the God that is Alonso. Classic!


Oh Marco, Marco

He was talking about Hungary not Monza, a track with high downforce as well. You are so hilarious because it’s a fact that Ferrari were not quite as fast as MacLaren then and hear you are ready to defend the honor of the God that is Alonso lest somebody violates it. Classic!


Calm down and re-read my comment. With your point on the suspension issue (broken ARB), I guess youre referring to Monza. I was infact referring to the Hungarian GP, making a reference to the high DF setup required for that race and Singapore. In Hungary, the Ferrari didnt have the pace. Thinking back to Monaco though, they were pretty handy. But that was earlier in the season. So, MAYBE they will be fast or MAYBE they wont. Time will tell. Alonso seems confident, so maybe he knows that the recent updates have/will work.

As for Monza, the win would not have been easy even if he got pole. They were very hard on their tires in that race and admitted it afterwards.

Oh and just so you know, I am a Ferrari/Alonso fan 😉 Just a realistic one in terms of performance, chances of success, etc.


Interesting that Saubers fastest Pitstop was nearly two seconds slower than McLarens. Assuming all else optimal, Perez could have been 2.7s closer by the end, and maybe just pushed a bit harder and gone for the win.

Should be a good weekend to be driving a Sauber or a Lotus, expecting another conservation special from Perez and Kimi to qualify badly, but halfway through the race start looking like a podium contender.



+21 Alonso

That’s quite impressive.


My thoughts also. One commentator mentioned an interesting stat just before the lights went out in Monza, that Alonso has not lost a position off the lights… always gained. And its not like hes starting around slow cars. Compare his stats to Hamilton whos gained positions are minimal.

Reminds me of something Murray Walker said after watching a replay of Schumis start in Japan ’98:

“Thats where a brilliant racing driver like him just finds the space” 🙂


I think this has got less to do with skill and much more to do with the machinery at the drivers disposal.

These stats show that both Mclarens have similar start line performance (+2, +4) with world class drivers, the same can be said with Red Bull (0, -3). Ferrari is at the top with the massively underperforming Massa with a huge +25.

You only have to watch the starts this year to see the amazing low speed traction that the Ferrari’s have, they are incredibley fast from a standing start.

You mention the fact that Alonso’s starting statistics haven’t been effected by his starting position but I would argue the opposite, compared to the Mclarens (you mention Hamilton) the Ferrari’s qualifying pace has been poor relative to their race pace, conversely the Mclarens were much stronger in qualifying and had average race pace before the recent upgrades. If Alonso had had the number of pole positions that Hamilton has had then obviously his positions gained at the start would be much lower.


You are the voice of reason.


Nearly as good as his team mate (Massa +25), I think a lot of people have under estimated the importance of the Ferrari’s incredible start line performance, it has gone a long way towards negating the cars poor qualifying performance.

The Ferrari clearly has excellent low speed traction which could help around this Singapore circuit.


If the rear tyres have degradation issues here, fans of drivers in Mercs aren’t going to have much to cheer about.


In general it is 2 hours or around 300km, whichever happens first…


If it rains, we could bump up against the two hour mark no doubt. They only have another two hours now to work with, for any red flag situation. 46 laps needed for full points. I wonder if we could see any ending like Robert Wickens 2010 win at Spa in GP3? The first safety car line is fairly far from the finish line, though it’s a hard overtaking spot.


James I have a question for u.

Singapore is very hot and humid which isn’t good for the kers battery’s to keep them cool. But I think now that the Ferrari kers might well be the best system now. I havnt heard Ferrari, sauber or toro rosso complain about a kers problem all year really. But I no that Mercedes had a kers problem before spa on Michaelsl’s car, force India lost it in di’resta’s car in spa and also hulkenburg in valencia and button lost it in Valencia last year. Any thought on this?


Monza was low-downforce and not high downforce.

I hoped James would have elaborated a bit more on the different strategy options and what to expect for the weekend, considering the unique characteristics of this race.

I believe McLaren, Lotus and Red Bull will dominate the qualifications.



“Felipe do you remember Nelson Piquet Jnr in 2008 you are in a similar position for Fernando.. Understood ??”

I’m leaning slightly to Hamilton on this one with RBR and Lotus fighting for podium spots. Fernando may need some luck or safety car. But rain may change the situation altogether.


Rain in Singapore? Hahaha…..


I have a strong feeling that Alonso will not perform well this year in Singapore.

Reason? It is the role he played in the crash-gate where Renault cheated and he was at the center of it.

Eventually it impacted the race of Massa, stripped him from a very highly likely win and eventually a world championship.

Alonso still did not admit to playing a role in this gate….so….it think he might suffer because of this.

Let’s see…..just wondering whether this race is not going to play a critical role in him losing the title this year as it was with Massa when Alonso won because of cheating.


Bear in mind that Alonso’s record at Singapore is 1st, 3rd, 1st and 4th. He wins every other year.

Seriously though, if you believe what happened in 2008, when he knew nothing about it, is going to affect him now, you really don’t understand top level sports people.

I’m assuming that on that premise, Lewis suffers every time he is in Australia because of lying to the race stewards about Trulli passing him under a waved yellow?


Track record is irrelevant. Just watch and see….something weird is going to happen:-) Mark my words:-)


You’re engaging in some weird sort of fan reverse psychology, before the event.

To those that think Alonso’s had bad luck this year, I say get real. I don’t recall Ferrari having a 6s+ pitstop yet this year. If these things even out over the year, then Alonso can expect:

– a few really bad pitstops that cost him time, and more importantly, position

– a puncture that throws him to the back of the field (LH), or a mechanical gremlin in the race (SV)

– some crazy event in qualifying that leads to him starting from the back of the grid or the pit lane (yeah, forget this one)

Seems to me that of the generally accepted top 3 drivers (alphabetically ALO,HAM,VET), that both ALO and VET have benefitted from races where the other two have DNF’d (Vettel with a 2nd in Belgium; Alonso with a win in Valencia), so maybe HAM is due to benefit in such a way? Of course, it doesn’t work like that (i.e. past events owe you nothing), but many a time it]s funny how it does seem to even out.


what are you talking about? Alonso won there in 2010 with Vettel in a more superior car breathing down his neck for the whole race!

leave the foil hat theories at home and look at some past race results and footage.


We talk Sunday night….:-)


Not likely to have an impact although it should probably be mentioned in the form guide…

Alonso has done well at high downforce tracks such as Hungary and Monaco this year so there is no reason why he won’t do well in Singapore.


Yes, but he would have been on front row and challenged for win in Monza if his anti-roll bar hadn’t broken in Q3.

He said today that he feels very confident in the car and it’s updates for the next three races.


You think Alonso might suffer in this race due to not admitting something which he may or may not have been a part in?

Nice technical analysis there…


Even in F1 not everything is technical…..


Murat, I am 32


How old are you Alexd?


Thanks, James!

Finally a distraction from all Hamilton-related topics:-)

It looks like nobody believes Ferrari can win it. Let’s see….I cannot find any update anywhere on what are the updates that Ferrari is bringing. Info about Red Bull, Merc and McLaren…also Lotus is more or less available.


Hi James

What do the fia use to decide how many laps in a race? Seems bizarre to have the longest race on the toughest race track for cars and drivers….or is that the point?



Every race, except for Monaco, is driven until a distance of 305 km has been covered. For Monaco I think its 280 km.


The number of laps is determined by the length of the track.

Article 38.9 states that the number of laps should equal to the least number of completed laps which exceeds a distance of 305 km(Monaco 260km).

305 / 5.073km = 60.12 laps = 61 laps


Distance, around 300 kilometres generally, except Monaco which is less

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