Why Singapore remains the toughest challenge for Formula 1 drivers

Street circuits are notorious for being mentally exhausting despite the low speeds involved, requiring complete concentration at all times and a bit of time to rest on short tracks.

But Singapore is a beast like no other. It is known as one of the hardest races to compete both physically and mentally, which means that it requires the kind of preparation unlike any other race.

Daniel Ricciardo He says the first Grand Prix in Singapore in 2011 is still the hardest physical activity he’s ever completed. “I wasn’t ready, and it feels like I’ve been partying all week!” Motorsport.com tells.

“I didn’t realize how humid and rough the nature of that circuit with no real straight lines to get some rest. I’ve never felt anything like that.”

It didn’t help that Ricciardo was then racing for the HRT body rear outfit, which meant he found himself four laps below the checkered flag in 19th place—hardly the same kind of incentive that those fighting up front would enjoy.

“I just remember the sweat was just excruciating to me,” Ricardo recalls. “I got out of the car, and I remember saying that was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

“I made a promise that I would never have that pain again in a Formula 1 car. Since then, Singapore has actually been very good.”

Formula One drivers may be elite athletes working with performance coaches and their teams to try to unlock more human performance. But the usual level of their fitness and training plan is something that still needs to be added in the lead up to Singapore.

The heat is one of the biggest factors that Formula 1 drivers need to adapt to when they race in Singapore. The average humidity throughout the year in Singapore is more than 80%, while in October the temperature is still around 30 degrees Celsius due to its proximity to the equator. Drivers may be used to hot conditions while racing in the Middle East or continental Europe in the height of summer, but nothing comes close to the poor conditions in Singapore.

If you follow the F1 drivers on social media, you will see some of the innovative ways the coaches have recently used to prepare them for this challenge. last week, Carlos Sainz He posted a video of himself on Instagram riding an exercise bike in the sauna as a way to try to get a feel for how hot it was in the cockpit during the race in Singapore. Other techniques include adding extra layers of clothing for routine workouts, or just sitting in a sauna at a really high temperature as a way to teach the body what to expect. Each workout gets a lot harder, but it’s worth it to come race day.

But it’s not just the heat and humidity that makes Singapore so challenging. In contrast to the high-speed street tracks in Jeddah and Baku, the average speed of Singapore is very low. Charles Leclerc’s pole lap in 2019 was 1m and 36.217, about eight seconds slower than Sergio Perez’s pole position in Jeddah this year – although Jeddah’s course is 1 km longer than Singapore’s. The 23-corner design also means there’s not much chance of taking a break.

All of which leads to the Singapore GP being one of the longest running of the season without fail. Since joining the calendar in 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix has never completed in less than 1 hour 51 minutes – in 2018 – and has reached the two-hour time limit in Formula 1 on four occasions. No other race comes close to the time limit so often, which means endurance is a huge component for a driver to prepare for – especially long heat management.

One of the additional challenges drivers face is adapting to the time zone. This may be something to consider at every race, but Singapore is more difficult because it is a night race. The best way is to stay in European time zones, which means bedtime is around 6am before getting up in the middle of the afternoon. Teams make special preparations for Singapore, ensuring that hotels understand that their staff does not disturb housekeeping and that unconventional sleeping habits are accounted for.

Nicholas Latifi He will make his Singapore debut this weekend, and admits he is unsure how to balance his preparations. He always preferred to get into the races as soon as possible so that he could adapt “not just to time but to the climate”.

“I haven’t finished Singapore yet, but it’s weird,” Latifi says. “I think you want to go get used to the climate early, but time doesn’t, because it stays in the UK! So the later you go out, the easier it will be for you to switch to time. It’s tough.”

singapore flyer at sunset

singapore flyer at sunset

Photography: Joe Portlock / motorsports pictures

An additional challenge this time in Singapore will be the new generation of cars. A lot has changed since 2019, with this year’s regulatory reform and increased vehicle weight causing them to decelerate more at slow speed corners, making street paths more difficult.

Then there’s the bounce the teams have faced this year, which will be even more severe for the teams cruising the bumpy streets around Marina Bay. Esteban Ocon He said at Monza that he thinks the cars will feel as solid as the little go-karts hitting the pavement, while Pierre Gasly He said it would be an extreme race for everyone. However, Singapore remains one of the favorite races on the calendar for the drivers, all of whom are excited to be back on the track – and for some, driving for the first time.

All the teams now know how to prepare for Singapore, but three years later, it will probably be the toughest challenge the drivers have faced for some time.

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