Afternoon all, Spy here, coming atcha from the top of one of those Fancy Dan hotels in Marina Bay, admiring the view and enjoying a bit of piece and quiet that will be thoroughly destroyed from tomorrow when the place is packed with photographers taking panoramics. Just use one of the old pictures! You’re too high up for anyone to actually see the liveries, so what difference does it make?
Singapore. Wow! If Spy were an F1 bobblehat, this would definitely be on the bucket list of races to visit: great facilities, wonderful city, excellent professionalism around getting in and out, really good track views from the grandstand and always a bit of incident to hold the interest – then plenty of opportunity to saunter out for dinner after the chequered flag drops. Honestly, what’s not to like?
Working at the Singapore Grand Prix, on the other hand, is hell on wheels. Spy would run away screaming, were it not for the certainty of being hunted down and dragged back to the garage by the team leopard. Or the team manager, whichever has the better sprint.
Said team manager is in an invidious position this week. Staying on European time sounds easy in theory but the practice is a little more complicated. Trail back from the garage to the hotel at 3am, there’s a fairly natural desire to crawl straight into bed. This, however, isn’t performance-enhancing. Because you’ll wake up too early, and thus be yawning and nodding off the next evening. That’s not generally seen as a good thing when the job you’re supposed to be doing at that point involves the preparation of a notoriously detail-oriented racing car. Thus, there are standing instructions that we’re not to hit the hay until the sun is rising over Changi. There’s nothing out of the ordinary in the team manager prowling a hotel lobby in the small hours of the morning – it’s just unusual to have him leaping out from behind a potted palm, giving us the evil eye and demanding we turn around and go back to the bar.
Unnatural sleeping patterns are, of course, a mere bagatelle* compared to the main issue of racing in Singapore. To bowdlerise the great 12th Man, it’s stinking hot, it’s stinking humid, and the forecast for the next couple days is stinking hot and stinking humid, although there is a slight chance of some stinking rain later in the afternoons. Working in the garage is hard. Singapore is by no means the hottest race we’ll go to this year but with Malaysia off the menu, it’s definitely the most humid. There’s so many sweatbands being worn in the pitlane it’s like we’ve woken up in a 1980s pop video.
On the slightly more serious side, the heat makes everyone sweat; the humidity makes that sweating ineffective as it can’t evaporate and cool the body down. What you’re left with is people who are very hot and potentially dehydrated, which isn’t conducive to the working environment. Obviously there are constantly warnings to drink plenty – Spy thinks it would be easier if we simply tied up those hamster drinking bottles all around the garage. Save everyone the difficulty working with lids.
Our record in Singapore is… interesting. We’d bagged twice as many podiums as anyone else but we haven’t won here since 2013. Frustratingly, we have finished second every year since then, first with Seb, then Daniel three times, and Max last year. Daniel was so traumatised by the experience of constantly being a runner-up, to this day he can only describe it using puppets.
Can we go one better this year? Max’s performance in Hungary gives everyone hope that the RB15 is capable of pole position. History fairly screams at us that pole position in Singapore is three-quarters of the job**. But who knows Of course, there’s a lot of weird stuff going on this season. So, really, anything could happen. Except the sudden onset of garage air conditioning. Because Spy isn’t that lucky.
* not, as several of Spy’s colleagues believe, one of those mini-sized French loaves.
** the other quarter being not having a gearbox full of neutrals, not ramming your teammate at Turn One and remembering to take the fuel hose out before leaving the pitbox.