Historically, the circuit at Marina Bay has provided dynamic visuals. Formula 1 cars streaking around the city streets with the Singapore skyline offers an incredible setting.
However, races at Marina Bay have been found lacking in another department.
The narrow configuration of the track, coupled with the number of twists and turns on the city streets, has seen overtaking come at a premium over the years. According to one study, Marina Bay has seen the second-fewest overtakes on average with just 19.5 per race, ahead of only the Monaco Grand Prix.
As we look ahead to this weekend’s installment of the Singapore Grand Prix, those hoping to see more overtaking might have reason for optimism, thanks to a change in the layout of the course.
As you can see in this video from race organizers, the former stretch between Turns 16 and 19, requiring drivers to navigate a quick series of turns, has been altered:
Instead, drivers now will encounter a straight, coming out from Connaught (Turn 14) through Turn 15 and down the new straight, which finishes at the new Turn 16.
This change cuts the number of corners at Marina Bay to 19, down from 23. Race officials believe it will shave off lap times, and during the Thursday press conferences, drivers opined that the new layout could indeed increase overtaking.
“I think it’s going to make the race a bit more exciting. I think Singapore is a really great circuit to drive, but it’s a little bit challenging to race on. And historically, it’s only really been Turn 5, which has been an overtaking opportunity, whereas now I hope maybe into the new Turn 16 there’ll be another chance,” said Mercedes driver George Russell. “It’ll make it slightly easier physically for us, because it was obviously the longest race of the season in terms of time duration. So I think the track will probably be nine seconds or so quicker this year. So a bit shorter on Sunday. But as I said less fun in quali, should be better for the race.”
AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda agreed that the layout could see an increase in overtaking, but wondered if an additional DRS zone could be added in that stretch.
“I think [we’ll see] more overtaking,” Tsunoda said. “I think more chances, which is good. We have a DRS zone before that so hopefully we can close the gap there with a bit of slipstream until the second-to-last corner and maybe we can overtake there.
“I’m not sure why they didn’t add a DRS zone there. In the simulator so far it’s not easy to follow with DRS. There’s a bit of a left-hand corner and a long straight in sector three where they modified,” continued Tsunoda. “It’s kind of a blind corner, so I can get why they want to do it, but we’ll see the real track if it is a real issue to put a DRS zone or not.”
However, one driver agrees that while the changes might make for more exciting racing, it might not benefit him and his team. “Usually more corners, the better it is for us, so I wasn’t so keen,” said Alpine driver Pierre Gasly. “But yeah, I think the track is… I’ve always loved Singapore for how twisty and technical it is, in a way, so yeah, it’s just two chicanes which have been taken away and no wide grandstand which is facing the wrong way there. So hopefully, they didn’t sell too many tickets there. But yeah, apart from that it’s still going to be very, very cool.”
While it might not benefit Alpine, it could benefit those watching, whether at home or in the stands.
Lance Stroll of Aston Martin set forth the notion that the layout could make for more overtaking — and thus more excitement — in the race itself. “I think it’s good for racing on Sunday, for sure,” said Stroll. “You know, like George said before, it’s been a place that’s a lot of fun on Saturdays but can be a little bit dull on Sunday. So hopefully, they can give us a bit more exciting racing on Sunday.”
Music to the ears of F1 fans.