Singapore Grand Prix 2018: A guide to bluff your way through the F1 season
Up to speed
Even for the initiated, Formula 1 can be a bewildering sport.
Technical regulations surrounding the cars change from season to season, and that's not even taking into account which driver has moved where, what new developments have been made to the cars (incorporating the new rules) during the off-season. Add to that who'll be performing this year, and you could be looking dangerously stuck for conversation over the champagne. But never fear, because we're here to help with some handy info to help you seem like an absolute Formula One nerd at the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix. While this doesn't exactly constitute a cheat sheet, our handy mobile formatting means all this conversation starting (and stopping) material is no more than a bookmark click away. You're welcome.
Up to speed
The modern Singapore Grand Prix was first held in 2008, with the 2018 edition being the 11th running of what is still the only night race held on a street circuit on the 21 race-long season calendar. There have been rumblings of a similar night race being held at Sepang for the Malaysia Grand Prix, but those plans have stalled, with the organisers canning the event from 2018 onwards citing rising costs and falling ticket sales.
The Singapore Grand Prix seems to have avoided a similar fate, with the Marina Bay Circuit set to hold the race there through to the 2021 season. At any rate, the 2018 Formula 1 season is shaping up to be one of the closest in recent history. In recent years, the Mercedes team have been enjoying great success, effectively turning the series into a fight for second place.
This year, just 17 points separate frontrunner Lewis Hamilton of the Mercedes team from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel (231 versus 214 points). Granted, the man in third spot, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, is quite a bit further back with 146 points, though just two points separate him from fourth-placed Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo aren't too far behind, with 120 and 118 points respectively.
Now, the gap between Hamilton and Vettel might seem huge, but bear in mind, if Hamilton scores no points (not likely, but hey) and Vettel wins the race, the 25 points the latter will gain will be enough to catapult him into the lead.
Elsewhere, the other teams are... not doing well, to put it lightly. Renault-powered cars (Renault and Red Bull Racing) have been struggling with reliability and power output issues all season long.
And the less said about McLaren, once a perennial pre-season favourite, the better. He has a car so uncompetitive, even former double world champion Fernando Alonso can't make it work. Considering this is a man known for both his ability to drag rubbish cars by the scruff of their neck to victory (or at least, a respectable finish) and throwing his toys of the pram when things don't go his way.
On that note, Alonso is throwing his toys out of the pram for good at the end of this season following his retirement.
As for who will prevail in the 2018 Singapore Grand Prix, that's a bit more of a complicated question. Top teams and drivers have thrown away leads, gifting easy wins to their rivals, which explains how close it is at the top.
But if you really wanted a driver to put on the betting form, we'd stick with Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari. It's clearly quicker than the Mercedes and while the prancing horse's newfound straight-line speed won't be too helpful on the narrow, twisty Marina Bay Circuit, the Ferrari is also a smidge quicker than the Mercedes. Which could be just the edge it needs.
In its 11 years, the Singapore Grand Prix has been home to its fair share of notable trackside incidents. Rather unusual since street circuit races are well-known to be snooze fests, owing to the narrow track throwing up limited opportunities for overtaking. Nevertheless, the first ever night race in Formula One history in 2008 saw the Renault driven by Nelson Piquet Jr. deliberately crash under team orders on lap 14, bringing out the safety car. While under that safety car period, Ferrari's Felipe Massa pitted to refuel, but was released prematurely with the fuel hose still attached. That resulted in the unprecedented scene of mechanics running down the pit lane to remove the hose.
Two years later, the Lotus of Heikki Kovalainen caught fire, so he did what any sane person would do. That is, he stopped his car, ran to the nearest trackside fire extinguisher and put it out on his own. Who said Formula 1 drivers are all pampered brats?
A big reason why the Singapore Grand Prix has been able to keep its attendance numbers consistently high — last year's edition was one of the best-attended in history with 260,400 spectators — has what it could offer non-F1 fans.
Specifically, concerts. For the price of only $78 for a single-day walkabout ticket, you could get to see acts like Jay Chou, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Martin Garrix and Dua Lipa. Which is a dirt cheap steal whichever way you look at it. And that's something you can always expect the Singapore Grand Prix to have. Top-notch international acts. In previous years, Rihanna, Linkin Park, Jay Chou (yes, again), Pharrell, and Justin Bieber have all graced the stage.