Having a tough time explaining geometry to Junior for his year-end exams? Put away the protractors and T-squares all you need to define a right angle is show him a map of the Marina Bay Circuit.
It’s just as well Singapore is the most visually appealing race of the year, is the only race to take place under the stars and is set against the most inspiring backdrop in the Formula 1 world, because from the drivers’ perspective it’s far from a barrel of laughs.
Drivers like fast, sweeping corners, with the odd gentle apex just to make things even more fun. The king of such corners would be Eau Rouge at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. Despite being a corner, drivers take it with full throttle, in excess of 300km/h. Just as you and I have fun on a roller coaster, so drivers get their giggle on around Eau Rouge.
Travelling at frightening speeds around such corners, as well as long straights, perhaps surprisingly it’s also the ideal chance for drivers to take a break. They’ll use the time to make posture adjustments, scratch an itch, take a mouthful of water or chat to the pit crew. But in Singapore, such opportunities are fleeting at best.
Add to the mix equatorial heat plus dire humidity, and you can probably bet that, for once, watching the race with cold air-con, a cold beverage and something fried in batter is more fun than being in the car.
All of this means that the Singapore GP is classed as a ‘technical’ circuit. No surprise then that the only two winners thus far have been the best drivers currently in Formula 1, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
Red Bull, whose record in qualifying this year borders on the ridiculously successful, have been very quick in a straight line. But they’ve also mastered an even more difficult skill – being quick around a fast corner.
To achieve that, the chassis design uses airflow to force the car downwards onto the tarmac. Imagine using your hand to push down on the roof a toy car. The more you press down towards the floor, the less sideways movement there will be when you run your car through a fast corner. This is known as downforce. The more the downforce, the less the chance of succumbing to centrifugal force and sliding into a barrier.
But the Red Bull’s problems in the Lion City will be that their effectiveness around fast corners won’t be as pronounced – simply because there aren’t many of them. Those right-angled corners you’ll be showing Junior should nullify Red Bull’s advantage. If drivers are forced to take corners slowly, there’s little point having a chassis that’s designed to navigate a bend at high speed.
Similarly, although there are straights, they aren’t long enough to provide a telling advantage for the flat out speedsters.
While Red Bull have some big races to come after Singapore, look for Alonso, Hamilton and perhaps Jenson Button to win on September 26.
Steve Dawson, presents Chequered Flag on Star Sports and wrote Alex Yoong: The Driver’s Line. You can also follow him on Twitter.