From the outside looking in, the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix is a glamorous affair. It’s one of the world’s greatest sporting spectacles, F1 under lights against the stunning urban backdrop of one of the world’s great cities.
For the fans, it’s an unbelievable experience, like F1’s version of the Superbowl – with the racing flanked by A-list trackside parties, activities galore for families, and the hottest international artists on stage.
This year’s 11th edition entertainment line-up is definitely one of the best, with the headline acts including Martin Garrix, Dua Lipa, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Jay Chou, Simply Red, The Sugarhill Gang, and many more with the tropical weather sure to deliver that summer music festival feel…
But from the drivers’ cockpits, those on the racing line for 61 laps or for up to 2-hours, whichever comes first – it’s brutal, as the sport’s toughest race, a human endurance challenge they all must do specific training for.
The stats behind the racing experience are enough to make you wince, with the F1 drivers enduring cockpit temperatures of up to 60 degrees Celsius at racing speed, 4.7G in corners and under braking and a top speed of 320km/h. There’s also 23 turns, more than any other circuit on the calendar, making for a busy lap, so one lapse in concentration and you’re into the barrier and out of the race.
Four-time F1 world champion, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, puts the relentless equatorial heat in perspective.
"It's just so hot, man,” says Hamilton, smiling. “You have long sleeve underwear on, balaclava and then the suit on top of that – which is another three layers, and then gloves. Then you go in a sauna. And even if you open your visor, there is no cool breeze coming in, so you are sweating before you even get in the car."
So it’s no surprise drivers will lose up to 3kg in fluid over a two-hour period – with most immediately replacing that in the aftermath of the race, just as the trackside parties and concert take proceedings to the next level.
And while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is the most successful driver in Singapore, with four wins, it’s also a great circuit for Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who has finished on the podium every year there since 2014.
Last year’s race was a tough one for Ricciardo, despite the 29-year-old coming home in second – the Red Bull driver suffering a gearbox oil pressure problem, while Hamilton went on to take his third Singapore victory.
But this year’s edition could be the one Ricciardo wins, with his car suiting the tight-and-twisty Marina Bay Street Circuit, and the Perth-born racer putting in the hard yards in the lead-up to the event.
“I’ve always made a point of being over-prepared for Singapore because it’s the longest race of the year, the hottest, and the busiest,” says Ricciardo, who took masterclass wins this year in China and Monaco to prove his credentials as one of the sport’s great overtakers and top talent.
“It’s far and beyond the toughest race physically and for concentration.” In terms of preparation, it’s about acclimatising to Singapore’s tropical climate, with drivers keen to fly in as early as possible to adjust.
“Leading up to the race I do quite a lot of heat training,” Ricciardo says.
“It’s mainly just trying to do some good endurance in the heat. Whether that’s in a hot sauna or a hot climate, it just helps a lot in preparing yourself.
“If I can work out outdoors, though, it’s a lot more fun. I was brought up in Perth, so I spent a lot of time outside as a kid. I can get motivated in a gym, that’s not a problem, but I love to be out cycling in the sun or doing something in the forest. I always find that a lot more exciting.”
Regardless, it’s the hard yards Ricciardo needs to do to be ready for the challenge of the made-for-Instagram Marina Bay, especially if he wants to win the race this year. The chance to have more than 200,000 fans trackside screaming your name as you take the chequered flag a massive motivator.
It’s game on for Ricciardo in Singapore.