Barely a week after the 2008 "crashgate" scandal was resolved and the Formula 1 circus is back at the so-called scene of the crime.
The 61-lap, 5.067-kilometer-long Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore is the only race in the 2009 calendar run under floodlights four times brighter than those used in sport stadiums, giving the race a distinct feel. The grandstand at the track's 18th corner is also very special as the cars practically drive under the bleachers. Despite these unique features, however, the Singapore Grand Prix track has a lot in common with other F1 tracks. Like Melbourne, Monaco and Valencia, the Singapore circuit is partially on public streets; and like Sao Paolo and Istanbul, it is tackled counter-clockwise.
Addressing last year's complaints too many bumps and too little overtaking opportunities, race organizers partially resurfaced the track and tightened the five corners. The 10th corner's kerbs have also been redesigned to be gentler on the car's suspension and tub while the pit lane's entry and exit areas have been moved so as not to hamper the pace of the cars that are still on track.
Due to the track's extremely tight nature, a good run in Saturday's qualifying session is needed as the race practically becomes a procession once the green light goes out. With the Marina Bay Street Circuit's limited run-off areas, drivers need to take extra care when tackling the corners as hitting a wall will inevitably bring out the safety car--like what happened when Nelson Piquet Jr. crashed last year at the behest of Renault team engineer Pat Symonds and former team principal Flavio Briatore.
On that note, the Renault team will hit the track this weekend sans Symonds and Briatore. What hurts most for the team though is that two of their sponsors-ING and Spanish insurance firm Mutua Madrilena-have severed ties with Renault after the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile World Motor Sport Council released its crashgate scandal verdict. With only an interim management team behind the outfit and with Romain Grosjean reportedly ill, Renault's only hope lies with last year's Singapore race winner, Fernando Alonso.
With four more races to go, the drivers' championship boiling down to Brawn GP teammates Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Sunday's race looks to be in Barrichello's favor following his recent victories. If Button is still hoping to win the title, he has to win two of the next four races to keep his championship hopes alive.
As for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber of Red Bull Racing, their hopes of winning the title is down to mathematical chances and consistency. With Vettel on his last engine, Webber is looking to be the team's dark horse for the championship.
McLaren's quickening pace also can't be ignored so Lewis Hamilton stands a good chance of winning in Singapore. The same goes too for the Mercedes-powered Force India whose rapid pace the past two races seem to come from nowhere.
Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest lap at the Marina circuit before he crashed out last year so he also stands a chance of winning the race if he's careful this time around. With rumors that Alonso will be taking his seat in Ferrari soon, Raikkonen is also bound to show the team that he still has it. Giancarlo Fisichella would also be eager to please Ferrari after he finished outside the points in the last race.