No-one knew what to expect when Formula One’s first night race was proposed. But now, entering its eighth season, it is difficult to remember Formula One without the iconic Singapore Grand Prix.
Singapore is... Exciting. That's the only way to describe it. Street races – particularly city races – because the ambience of the environment carries through into the grandstands...
Then there's the extra atmosphere generated simply by being in the middle of a place full of people, racing 750hp open-wheel cars where they fundamentally shouldn't be racing. Then Singapore ratchets that up a notch further by having the event at night – and there's not a major sporting event in the world that's not more exciting under lights.
The received wisdom is that everyone stays on European time. That's not strictly the case in reality. At least not anymore. For one, the session times don't really match up, but more than that, this is our eighth season in Singapore and everyone knows how to cope with working at unusual times of the day. There is a general consensus that no-one should go to bed before dawn but everyone's experienced enough here now to judge their own needs. You slip into the pattern that works.
One big plus-point of the event is staying a few minutes walk from the paddock. There's a few races a year like this and it definitely provides a feeling of real decadence being able to step out of the hotel, walk down the street and straight into the garage, without the usual routine of minibuses, traffic jams, car parks etc.
It's never easy to win a race but some are harder than others, and Singapore is just about as hard as they come. The drivers, obviously, have to be at the top of their games because lapses of concentration get punished very hard – but it's a tough race on the cars even without a visit to the wall. With 23 corners, there's more gear changes per lap here than at any other circuit, plus the bumpy streets of Singapore really take it out of the suspension. The car that wins is a well-built machine.
It's also a race that really keeps the strategist on their toes. Street races rarely provide clear-cut overtaking opportunities so there's a massive amount riding on when to change tyres, how to respond to Safety Cars (lots of those) and what to do if it rains. We've never had a wet race yet in Singapore – but it's bound to happen eventually...