It’s always been a pleasure coming to Singapore. Every destination adds something to the diversity of Formula One, but Singapore adds more than most. When it arrived on the F1 calendar in 2008, it was like nothing F1 had ever seen: F1 didn’t race through the middle of a world city, and it didn’t race at night. Singapore, more or less instantly, changed that forever.
But this is just why it’s special for F1; it’s even more special for Red Bull Racing because it’s been the happiest of happy hunting grounds. We’ve got more than twice as many podiums as anyone else here, and enjoyed a hat-trick of victories between 2011-2013. We’ve finished second every year since then – which is a little galling – but it underlines the basic strength of our car.
Singapore is a circuit with more corners (23) than any other. And the nature of a street layout means the majority of those are genuine, low-speed turns, down in second and third gear rather than high-speed blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flicks. It’s a circuit where horsepower – while still important – isn’t everything. It’s made for a car with great aerodynamic performance, and a good chassis that compliments that downforce with a suspension set-up that rides the kerbs well to let the drivers pile into the throttle on exit.
The downside of having a circuit with a lot of 90° corners is that they don’t really have the mystique of more distinctive and challenging profiles, and thus the corner names haven’t really caught on as they might elsewhere, with most drivers and engineers simply referring to each turn by its number. That said, the cityscape through which the track passes is replete with historic significance and, given time, and the chance to acquire a legend of their own, the corners may well become as famous as those at more established venues.
Turn One is named Sheares, after Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares, second president of the Republic. Or rather, it’s named after the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, under which the track passes. It’s an unusual aspect of the landscape around the Marina Bay Street Circuit that much of it is multi-levelled, with the track passing under many highways, footbridges and overpasses.
From there it’s onto the wide boulevards. Republic Boulevard into the fast Turn Five onto Raffles Boulevard, then hard on the brakes for the tight Memorial Corner, named for the distinctive war memorial in the eponymous park. The track then uses the Nicoll Highway, Stamford Road and Saint Andrew's Road around the Padang, the open air playing field and cricket pitch which gives Turn Nine its name. Turn 10 is the ‘Singapore Sling’. This was the standout corner when F1 first visited, thanks to a profile that saw several cars slamming into the exit wall: it’s since had its teeth pulled – though it’s still a challenge.
Following that, there’s a fast chicane, leading onto the Anderson Bridge over the Singapore River – F1 has plenty of purpose-built circuit bridges but, since F1 no longer races in Valencia, this is the only road bridge it uses. After a tight left-hander, the circuit passes on to the Esplanade, past the city’s famed Merlion fountain, and heads back towards the pitlane. Connaught Corner takes the track towards TheFloat@Marina Bay, the world’s largest floating stage, where the circuit passes under the grandstand at Bay corner, always a likely spot for a collision with the barriers and a safety car. After this the track comes back to the distinctive Singapore Flyer ferris wheel and the pitlane. One lap is draining; the drivers have to do 61.