Singapore Grand Prix: A True Test for Man and Machine

Michael PettiferContributor ISeptember 22, 2011

SINGAPORE - SEPTEMBER 26:  Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari drives on his way to winning the Singapore Formula One Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on September 26, 2010 in Singapore.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Marina Bay is Asia's only street circuit on the F1 calendar, and is one of the more glamorous races of the season. However, glamour will be the last thing on the drivers' minds as they tackle one of the season's most demanding tracks.

The Singapore Grand Prix, Formula One's only night race, poses a number of unique challenges to the competitors. Drivers and teams will not only have to adapt to the circuit's artificial lighting, but they will also have to be prepared to endure a vast number of other testing and changeable conditions throughout the weekend

The 65-lap race, which can last up to two hours, will put the cars under immense stresses and strains—brakes and tires, in particular, will be two areas that will require close monitoring.

The 23 corners, twisting and turning around each 5.073-Kilometre lap, make it the hardest race of the season on the brakes. The 16 braking zones and the overall layout of the track mean that brakes will have little chance to cool down around a circuit where drivers have their foot on the brake pedal for 21 percent of the lap.

A high down-force set up on the cars will be necessary to provide sufficient grip, but combined with a relatively heavy 65 kilos of fuel in the cars at the beginning of the race, expect to see the degradation of the soft and super-soft tires come into the equation at some point.

The weather is likely to play a significant part over the weekend, as forecasts show periods of heavy showers (60 percent chance), as well as warm temperatures and humid conditions. Drivers will be hoping that those predictions are wrong, as if they are accurate, drivers will be faced with a great deal of unknowns, as the circuit has always been dry on race day.

The statistics would suggest that an appearance from the safety car is highly likely at some point during Sunday's race. The safety car has made an appearance at every race at Marina Bay since the first race at the circuit in 2008.

Fernando Alonso will be hoping to collect his third winner's trophy at Marina Bay come Sunday evening—the only other winner being Lewis Hamilton, who won the race in 2009. Last year, Alonso managed to fight off Vettel to take victory—the race proving how difficult overtaking is at the circuit.

Despite having a 112-point lead in the Drivers' Championship and consistently out-performing his veteran teammate throughout 2011, Sebastian Vettel still has to fight to gain the respect of the diminishing few that believe he is not a true racer. He can put the championship beyond doubt if he wins the race and Alonso fails to finish on the podium. What better place to silence the remaining doubters than at the challenging Marina Bay circuit in Singapore?