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200mph in the dark – Singapore #F1 GP weekend

The Singapore F1 Grand Prix is different. Very different. It is the only race on the Formula One calendar that is run at night. 8pm, when everything is pitch black 1500 lamps are turned on around the 5KM Marina Bay circuit and the roar of an F1 race begins. The lights are as bright as daylight – around four times brighter than football floodlights. It is also the only anti-clockwise circuit of the year and the longest race – held in high heat and humidity. So it is one of the hardest tests for the drivers.

There was a race in Singapore back in 1961, which lasted until 1973, but this night-track has only been used since the Singapore GP was brought back in 2008. 25,000 people are involved in putting on the Singapore spectacle, planning for which starts only a month after the end of the previous year’s race.

So who is going to win? Vettel and Red Bull were fastest in both practice sessions, but McLaren’s Hamilton and Button kept them company at the top of the time sheets. Vettel won last year, but the McLaren is looking the car to beat and smart money would probably back one of the Englishmen to take the checkered flag tomorrow.

Debate is ongoing as to whether the Singapore GP will remain when the first five year contract is up. It has a glamour that is missing from many of the other new circuits, but it hogs a major part of the city for days and Singapore may wish to renegotiate the contract. The drivers and teams love the event though

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F1

Monza, F1 Eddie Jordan and Lewis Hamilton

This weekend the F1 circus hits the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, one of the original classic racing tracks set in Northern Italy. This week though there is an added frisson as Eddie Jordan, the BBC pundit has claimed that Lewis Hamilton is set to move to Mercedes, whilst Michael Schumacher is gong to retire at the end of the season. Is he right?

Monza is a fantastic track on which drivers are pedal-to-the-metal for the great majority of each lap. Built in 1922 but modified greatly since then, mainly owing to safety concerns. As speeds climbed the chicanes Ascari and Curva Grande were added to reduce the top speeds that were being reached.

This year the attention will be on Lewis Hamilton and Ross Brawn of Mercedes. Is Eddie Jordan right? He has been right before, and prides himself on being one step ahead. Certainly his interview with Bernie Ecclestone which was shown on the BBC suggested very strongly that Schumacher was retiring. Bernie spoke as though it was a done deal. So EJ is probably 50% right. Schumacher though has not had the return to F1 he would have wanted. His departure is no great surprise. But Lewis to Mercedes…that is a different matter.

Lewis Hamilton has been contracted to McLaren since he was 13. The team has been a welcoming surrounding in which he has grown as a driver. It will be hard for him to leave McLaren behind, knowing the faith they have shown in him. But his new management, XIX Entertainment might see a better fit for their superstar at Mercedes. F1 lovers would place McLaren over Mercedes in terms of racing teams, but Mercedes is a bigger, global brand. To be associated with Mercedes might well be the means of broadening Hamilton’s appeal that his management seem to crave.

For pure driving reasons Hamilton would be better off staying at McLaren. They are the racing team, they are not going to pull out of F1 as Mercedes might. But if Mercedes are going to lose Schumacher they will want to replace him with another superstar and Hamilton fits that bill. It is hard to see who is bluffing, but EJ has been right on these big F1 issues before. Watch this space!

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