Adrenaline rush is fast and furious on the night shift

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 06 July, 2012, 12:00am


When it comes to reigning Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel, looks most certainly can be deceiving.

A case in point was last year's SingTel Singapore Grand Prix when the young German emerged from the cockpit of his Red Bull-Renault with a broad grin and the air of a man without a care in the world.

In taking the Singapore title for the first time, Vettel had never been headed by any of his rivals and, once again, he had made things look simple around the Marina Bay circuit. But the reality is that winning under the bright night lights is anything but easy.

Vettel might have led all the way but with each lap, and with each second, a flying Jenson Button and his McLaren were closing in. When the chequered flag came, there was just 1.7 seconds separating the two and, while on the outside Vettel remained perfectly calm, his words revealed just how hard he had been made to work.

'It was a fantastic race from start to finish,' the sweat-soaked Vettel said afterwards. 'In the heat we kept our heads cool and it was a perfect day at the office. It means a lot to me because I really like this track and it's one of the hardest challenges we face each year, so it's nice to come out as a winner.'

Singapore offers drivers a test like no other on the circuit's 20-race calendar. For a start, the race is anti-clockwise - one of only six Formula One events to do so. It's the only time they get to race at night and there's the city's tropical climate to deal with, too, pushing both man and machine to their limits.

But those challenges - those differences - seem to be exactly the reason why after just four editions, Singapore is one of the most popular events. 'This race is unique, not only because it's a night race with a different view from the cockpit. It also changes the routine,' said Ferrari's two-time world champion Fernando Alonso.

'There is a routine you do every two weeks everywhere in the world, except Singapore where you change that routine: you go to sleep very late, you wake up at lunchtime and then you race at night. This changes the approach. In Singapore, there's more adrenaline, it's a wonderful race.'

It's little wonder Alonso loves coming back to the Lion City. He won the inaugural event in 2008, was third in 2009 and then won again in 2010.

And the Spaniard has this year been back to his best in a season already made all the more remarkable by the fact that the racing has been so close.

When Alonso took the chequered flag at the European Grand Prix in Barcelona at the end of June he became the only driver to have won twice this year - after eight races - making it the tightest start to an F1 season on record.

Lewis Hamilton is the other driver to take the flag in Singapore, in 2009 in his Mercedes-McLaren.

'I love street circuits and I really enjoy this place. It's almost two tracks in one. There are quite a few fast corners, which require good set-up and a bit of commitment, but there are also lots of tighter 90-degree bends, which are slower and more technical,' said Hamilton.

'You've got to keep it precise through these and just be patient, waiting for the tyres to bite before getting on the throttle. If you're impatient, then you end up losing time because you over-stress the tyres and you over-drive the car.'

The heat is most definitely on in this year's championship race and the Singapore Grand Prix may well go a long way towards deciding who it is that claims the 2012 world title.

Among those sure to be in the thick of all the action is last year's runner-up. Button did everything that was humanly possible to reel in Vettel and his thrilling drive brought the crowds to their feet.

Button and his McLaren started the 2012 season in scintillating fashion with a victory at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne and he's made little secret of his desire to climb the podium as the champion in Singapore.

After coming so close last year, the Briton joined in the chorus of praise for Singapore and revealed the event was among the highlights of his season.

'This is one of the races I'd most love to win,' he said. 'Personally, I love this end-of-year series of flyaway races - the circuits we visit are really diverse and, from a driver's perspective, they're some of the best tracks on the calendar.'

Previous winners

2011 Sebastian Vettel (pictured)

2010 Fernando Alonso

2009 Lewis Hamilton

2008 Fernando Alonso