Monza, where the 13th race of the 2017 world championship has just been run, and Singapore’s street circuit, which will host its grand prix on 17 September, are about as different as night and day. Quite literally. The numbers are clear. In Monza, the winning average speed was 243.6kph over the entire race: as recorded by Lewis Hamilton with Mercedes at the start of September. Between 2003 and 2006, the years that Formula 1 used a three-litre normally aspirated engine, the average was even higher. In Singapore however, one year ago, it was Nico Rosberg (again with Mercedes) who won the race at an average of ‘just’ 159.9kph.
In Monza, the speed traps in all three sectors record top speeds of over 300kph (for the record, this year they were 338kph, 343kph and 321kph respectively). And the fastest lap of the race was set by Daniel Ricciardo in a Red Bull at 250.74 kph! In Singapore, by contrast, the fastest lap a year ago was run an average of 170.1kph. The Italian Grand Prix, with its never-ending straights punctuated by five corners and two chicanes, means that the cars take to the track with minimal downforce and hardly any wing angle: true missiles dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of raw speed. In Singapore, to have any hope of staying on the road and avoiding the omnipresent walls, the cars sprout a multitude of flaps and wings – with all these appendages designed to deliver that little extra bit of downforce that could make the difference between staying on the road and suddenly meeting the scenery. So, it’s easy to see that Italy and Singapore present probably the two biggest consecutive contrasts on the 2017 F1 calendar. Furthermore, Pirelli’s home race marks the end of the European season: formed of eight grands prix in total, compared to the 12 long-haul races that underline the truly global emphasis of the modern F1 schedule. The final push starts right now in Singapore, then continues in the Far East with Malaysia and Japan at the beginning of October, before heading to America with Texas and Mexico at the end of October. Finally, there is Brazil and Abu Dhabi on 12 and 26 November respectively. It’s a finale that takes place all over the world, but it’s also characterised by a huge variety in race conditions. Singapore, for example, is probably the closest that Formula 1 gets to replicating the myth of Monaco. There are tight corners, almost always at 90 degrees, and guardrails everywhere to punish any excesses of optimism on the part of the drivers. Only in very few places do the cars reach full speed, and there’s just one real racing line because of the rubber that quickly forms and offers grip on the ideal trajectory. All this means that Singapore is a truly unique race. The slightest mistake can be punished by contact with the barriers and this frequently means an early bath. The physical fatigue of driving the cars here, with high temperatures even at night, make success in Singapore an even greater accomplishment.