Singapore GP: Preview: Could others pounce as Mercedes struggle? Again.

Ahead of the ninth Singapore Grand Prix this weekend, here is the guide to everything you need to know ahead of the on-track action getting underway.

Singapore GP: Preview: Could others pounce as Mercedes struggle? Again.
The back-drop of the Singapore Grand Prix is second to none on the calendar, in Formula 1's original night-race. (Image Credit: Wikipedia)

Since the start of 2014, just seven times have Mercedes not won a Formula One grand prix. Six of them have been through strategy mistakes or collisions between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, but the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix was different.

Struggling all weekend the W06 couldn’t turn its tyres on, with the duo qualifying on the third row, and Rosberg finishing fourth and Hamilton not seeing the chequer. The team are confident that they have got on top on the issues and will bounce back around Marina Bay this weekend, but no-one will know for sure until race-pace and qualifying simulations are completed.

Form Guide

Singapore is, alongside Monaco, one of the tracks where engine power isn’t as beneficial. Instead a strong chassis is the way to go. That means Red Bull will be Mercedes’ closet challengers, as the RB12 is the best chassis on the grid. But that’s only the start.

Sebastian Vettel is the king of Singapore, winning four of the eight races so far, including three in a row between 2011-2013 and has finished either first or second since 2010. Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are the other two to have won the race, each doing so on two occasions.

But behind them, McLaren will be hoping to show just how good their chassis is, whilst Toro Rosso’s strong car will put their drivers up the timing sheets, as the 2015 engine they are running will not be as much of a handicap as at previous races.

Force India will be wanting to close the gap to Williams in fourth, as the latter are expected to struggle as the track doesn’t suit the characteristics of the FW38.

It means that come the second part of qualifying on Saturday afternoon, there could be an almighty battle to get into the top 10, with 12-14 cars aiming to make it to the shootout for pole position.

What happened last year?

In Mercedes worst performance since their domination of the sport started, they hauled just 12 points for fourth for Rosberg, whilst engine related issues led to Hamilton posting his only DNF of the year.

Meanwhile up front, Vettel was imperious in qualifying, taking Ferrari’s first pole since 2012 before easing away from the chasing pack, led by Daniel Ricciardo to take his third win of the year. Kimi Raikkonen claimed another podium, as it was a race of what if’s for the team from Maranello.

Sebastian Vettel was imperious in 2015, and handed Mercedes their first, and only geniune defeat of the Turbo era. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)
Sebastian Vettel was imperious in 2015, and handed Mercedes their first, and only geniune defeat of the Turbo era. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

Throughout the field, underway the stadium section in Sector 3, many drivers suffered mysterious gearbox failures, only for them to start working again moments later. This was attributed to the underground network and passing trains, a problem which has hampered car electronics since the inaugural race in 2008.

Where will there be some overtakes?

Overtaking is notoriously difficult around Marina Bay, with their being three main points to do so. The end of the longest straight, Raffles Boulevard, provides the best opportunity, as it houses the second DRS zone. Turn 13, at the end of the Anderson Bridge is also an overtaking spot, as Felipe Massa memorably did so in 2012 on Bruno Senna’s Williams.

Turn 14, at the end of Esplanade Drive also is a good overtaking spot, fast, down-hill to make a move here, you must time it right, or you will do a Michael Schumacher in 2012 and crash into the back of the car ahead, Jean-Eric Vergne for the record.

After that the cars head off into a tight, twisty section of track, where overtaking is nearly impossible between turns 16-7. The first DRS zone is along the pit-straight and although isn’t strong enough to enable a move to made, it sets up a potential move into Turn 7, the corner at the end of Raffles.

What tyres are Pirelli bringing?

As Singapore is a street track, the Ultrasoft tyre will be in use, as Pirelli are bringing their softest available set of tyres, with the SuperSoft and Soft tyres also being brought. As always, the Intermediate and Wet tyres will be on stand-by to be used if needed.

Will it rain?

Surprisingly, given the heat and humidity of Singapore, and its proximity to the equator, there has never been a wet race, although sudden thunderstorms are not uncommon.

The mercury is expected to hit 32C throughout the on-track action days, although this will obviously drop as time ticks around to 20:00pm local time, when the lights go out.

Race-day is the most threatened by the chance of rain, at 80%, although the bad weather is more likely to hit earlier in the day, then affect the race.

When is it on?

So that the race can be run at night, the paddock stays on European time throughout the weekend, meaning breakfast is at 16:00pm local time, and lunch four hours later.

Therefore, the times remain on the European schedule, but with a few minor tweaks. FP1 gets underway at 11:00am on Friday morning UK time, and qualifying 14:00pm on Saturday afternoon.

The race is lights out at the familiar time of 13:00pm UK time on Sunday afternoon.

As ever Sky Sports F1 will show live coverage of every session, with Channel 4 providing a comprehensive highlights package to free-view viewers later on Saturday and Sunday evenings.

First Practice – 11:00am – 12:30am – Friday

Second Practice – 14:30pm – 16:00pm – Friday

Third Practice – 11:00pm – 12:00pm – Saturday

Qualifying – 14:00pm – 15:00pm – Saturday

Race – the 61 laps of the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix gets underway at 13:00pm on Sunday.

All times BST.