One of the biggest anticipations of the 2008 Formula 1 season were the two new street circuits at Valencia and Singapore. F1 has seen some great street circuits down the years. Everyone was hopeful that Valencia and Singapore would be great events.
So after the events took place, how did Valencia and Singapore fare?
On paper, Valencia looked like a brilliant circuit. It looked as if it would be a great track for overtaking, and that errors would be punished. The potential for Safety Cars looked very high. It looked very much like Montreal, which always produces exciting races.
However, Valencia turned out to be a huge anti-climax and a very disappointing event.
Overall, the track layout wasn’t bad at all. It was super fast and the last sector in particularly was very well designed. The sheer hard work and effort put in such a short space of time was very admirable.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of negatives. The first obvious negative was that the run-off areas were over the top. When a driver makes an error, they deserve to be punished.
At Valencia, they could go wide badly and come straight back onto the race track...no harm done whatsoever. This happened a lot during the whole racing weekend. This is very uncharacteristic of a street track.
There were large tarmac run-off areas, even in the slow corners. There is no need to have run-off the size of an airport at a slow corner.
At these corners, there should have been walls instead. This would have made the track much more challenging.
As it is, the Valencia circuit is far too easy for the drivers to handle. This is probably why they gave it rave reviews.
The other problem is Valencia completely lacked the magic and character that Monaco has. The circuit was surrounded by the same wire fence and wall all the way around. Also, it wasn’t really a street circuit. It was more a permanent circuit just outside the city.
So there were no street features like road lines, signs, drains or street lamps anywhere. The harbour was completely empty as well. Why weren’t the boats allowed into the harbour with fans allowed to watch the race on them? This is part of what adds to the Monaco atmosphere.
With the track being away from the main part of the city, there were no interesting sites to see on the circuit. Perhaps the only unique features of the circuit were the swing bridge and the old fish market which formed the pit garages. The circuit overall looked very dull.
The organisation and facilities apparently weren’t great either, according to fans. One fan even said that the facilities were worse than Silverstone.
Some fans also had an hour and half walk to just get to their grandstands. To get into the circuit, you could only buy a grandstand ticket. All of these tickets were very expensive. There were no general admissions areas on the whole circuit.
Overall the atmosphere was pretty poor. The fact that Fernando Alonso retired on the first lap didn’t help matters. Some fans even left after the first lap incident that took him out of the race.
The fast nature of the circuit also seemed to spread the field quite a lot, which isn’t good for the racing. The track was very dirty offline, so drivers never veered off the racing line, or went anywhere near the few walls which actually were there.
Crucially, the track being dirty offline made the idea of trying to overtake even less attractive.
Another issue with the Valencia track was the pit lane exit. It is far too narrow, which could have caused a dangerous situation if a car failed. Sutil and Massa almost came together here.
The organziers didn’t do a terrible job, considering the timeframe they had to build the facility. Perhaps if we had had a thrilling race, instead of the boring procession we witnessed, many fans may have felt like saying more positive things about the place.
Next year, the aero regs and Fernando Alonso in a front running car could add the spice to the event that was missing this season.
Lots of small changes would make Valencia more exciting. Putting walls next to the slow corners would make a huge difference to the challenge and excitment of the track. Maybe add some colour to the walls or some pretty logos to the necessary run-off areas.
Allow the boats into the harbour and provide more facilities to fans such as better food and toilets. These things would make a big noticeable difference.
Hopefully, once the area around the track gets built up more, it will feel a little bit more like Monaco. At the moment, it is very empty and has the feeling of a big building site.
Valencia actually feels more like one of the other new tracks like China or Bahrain, which seriously lack character and imagination. These are the kinds of tracks we don’t really want to see being added to the F1 calendar.
At least there are plenty of things that can be done to make Valencia better. Despite the disappointment many left Valencia with, at least it has great potential to get improved. The organisers deserve the chance to make the necessary alterations.
Here is a view from a fan who attended the Valencia GP. (Quote taken from ITV-F1 website)
“I attended the GP and was disappointed. I thought the track would afford overtaking opportunities but it did not. The race was a procession and many of the expensive grandstands offered a poor view. Catering awful and hugely overpriced. Toilets stank by Saturday. I have visited every GP apart from Oz as a spectator and would never go back to Valencia. Most of the people on my trip said exactly the same thing.”
Where Valencia failed, Singapore succeeded.
There was much talk about how the darkness was going to affect the racing. Was it going to be safe? What would happen in the wet conditions? How would the teams and drivers adapt to the different sleeping patterns?
Overall the event was a roaring success.
Unlike the Valencia circuit the Singapore Marina circuit was a grueling challenge for all the drivers. The lap was very long and busy. There were many slow corners, and getting the speed out of each one of them was crucial.
More time can be won in slow corners than in fast corners. The other main obstacles were that the track was very narrow in places and surrounded by walls in many areas. This means that errors were punished heavily unlike in Valencia.
It was a far more typical street circuit than Valencia. There were road markings everywhere, along with signs, drains and all the other features you expect to see in the street.
Above the start/finish straight, you could see two or three bridges full of busy Singapore traffic.
The circuit passed some of the tourist attractions of the city. It went past Singapore’s version of the London Eye. It went across the Anderson Bridge. Rather oddly, it even went past the appeal building (which for once in 2008 didn’t need to be used on this occasion.)
Now onto the subject of racing during the night. The first area of scrutiny was the light system. This worked perfectly and there were no problems throughout the weekend.
There was enough light for the drivers to have the required level of visibility, but not too much that it made the race look like it was taking place during the day.
This looked very spectacular indeed. Racing in the dark made Formula 1 cars look stunning. They shone brightly and you could even see sparks coming off them. Sparks like this haven’t been seen for ages on a regular basis.
The track was very bumpy, and this added even more to the challenge for the drivers. You could see how much the cars were moving underneath the driver, and how hard they were having to work.
Humidity was another big challenge that the drivers were facing. The drivers also adjusted their eating patterns so that it felt like a European race.
I doubt that the drivers had a bigger challenge than the ones they faced at Singapore all season long. It was very refreshing to see, as some of F1’s other circuits make life a bit easy for them.
We all want to see the men separated from the boys. They are the world’s best drivers, so why shouldn’t they be tested?
Aside from all the uniqueness, Singapore put on a very good race as well. Overtaking was possible into Turn 7 and there were a few moves into Turn 1 as well.
Admittedly, the race might not have been as exciting without the Safety Car interventions. However, on a track with so many dangers Safety Cars were always going far more likely than no interventions at all.
That’s part of the challenge of the circuit, just like Montreal where it’s very rare to have a race with no Safety Car periods.
Organisation was criticised at Valencia. At Singapore, however, it couldn’t get enough praise.
Fans who attended the race mentioned how brilliant the atmosphere was. Night sport events often add to the atmosphere among the fans, and F1’s first night race was no different in this respect.
Stewards and marshals were said to be very friendly and helpful. At other tracks this is something that very often isn’t seen.
Food was also very edible. Again at other tracks this isn’t the usual story. You sometimes wonder if you are going to contract illnesses from what you are eating.
Singapore really embraced its first GP, and all the organisation was brilliant. There really weren’t many weaknesses to pick on.
The only real issue was the pit lane entry which was on the racing line. This was very dangerous.
You had a situation where there was a driver slowly entering the pit lane, along with a driver behind doing a fast lap. Luckily, this season it didn’t cause any accidents, but it must be changed for next season’s event.
The pit lane exit also isn’t ideal. The exit feeds right onto the racing line (as it used to in Montreal), which could lead to accidents. A change here is required, too.
The popular opinion among the drivers was that the track was fantastic. Nearly all of them were unhappy about the amount of bumps though. I hope that the organizers don’t listen to the cries to remove them.
They are not that unsafe and it adds a huge challenge to the drivers and engineers. It’s part of the character of the circuit. If they were removed next season, it would be quite disappointing, and make life for the drivers easier.
Another possible criticism could be the visibility in wet conditions, but this wasn’t tested at this season’s race. We will have to wait until we see whether this is one of the only major weaknesses of the Singapore event.
Being very picky, the track might have been even more exciting had there been elevation changes around the track. However, this isn’t a huge problem. The track is already stunning as it is.
So in conclusion, Singapore did a brilliant job at creating a wonderful a new and unique F1 venue. Formula 1 felt like it belonged in Singapore. You could call Singapore the modern Monaco. It couldn’t have been much better.
Here is an opinion from a fan who went to the event. (Taken from ITV-F1 website)
“We were at the Singapore GP, and it was absolutely brilliant. Having been to many other F1 GPs over the years, I can honestly say that this one tops the lot of them. Singaporeans are genuinely nice people and we felt very welcome during our three-day stay. We've already booked for next year.”
Looking back at both new tracks in 2008, it seems that both had completely differing fortunes in terms of success, and how the fans perceived them.
Valencia look too rushed and not enough thought was given to it. The end result is just another dull new permanent-like circuit which isn’t challenging nor captivating for either the fans or the drivers.
Big work needs to be done to make it spectacular and different from other permanent race tracks, but is possible though.
It might be that it may have been more popular had the race been entertaining and Alonso won.
However, how good the race may or may not have been, Valencia organisers have a lot of improving to do. Even Bernie Ecclestone expressed his disappointment in the race.
Singapore was an overwhelming success. It brought a huge change to the Formula calendar. It was successful due to the sheer amount of organisation, planning and hard work put into the event.
They listened and responded to all the FIA concerns and demands. They had huge passion for the event and it showed. They produced a stunning spectacle.
Hopefully, the Singapore residents will maintain their newfound passion for F1. What’s for sure is that Singapore will gain new visitors, now it has been broadcast to the entire world.
So finally to sum it all up, Valencia was pretty forgettable, whilst Singapore made its way straight to my top 5 circuits in F1.
And one more thing about night races.
I hope that Singapore will be the only night race in the F1 calendar. If more night races were added to the calendar then Singapore will no longer be as unique.
Racing at night works in Singapore. The darkness makes the Singapore landscape really stand out.
Doing a night race in Malaysia or Bahrain wouldn’t have the same "wow" factor. There is nothing else apart from the track and gigantic run-off areas. If anything darkness would make these tracks duller than they are during the daytime.
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