The Formula 1 grid is largely divided on the impact the track changes in Singapore will have on racing, with several questioning the idea of not inserting a fourth DRS zone.
Construction work around the Marina Bay Street Circuit has seen the final sector of the lap modified extensively for this year.
The previous sequence of 90-degree corners that combined to make up Turns 16-19 has been removed and replaced with a single straight into the Turn 16-17 chicane.
Whilst the spectacle of qualifying has often been lauded in Singapore, the difficulty in overtaking has witnessed the race traditionally become a processional affair.
However, George Russell is expecting the alterations to potentially open up an additional overtaking opportunity for the drivers in this Sunday’s race.
“I think it’s going to make the racing a bit more exciting,” Russell said.
“I think Singapore is a really great circuit to drive, but it’s a little bit challenging to race on. Historically, it’s only really been Turn 5 which has been an overtaking opportunity, whereas now I hope maybe with the new Turn 16 there’ll be another chance.”
The shortened circuit configuration is estimated to reduce lap times by up to 10s. With the length of the track now reduced by just under five kilometres, the FIA have increased the overall lap counter for the event from 61 to 62 laps this year.
As the longest race on the entire F1 calendar amid searing heat, the Singapore GP has synonymously been recognised as the most gruelling test all year for the drivers.
But Russell believes that the truncated length of the race will ease the physical demands.
“It’ll make it slightly easier physically for us, because it was obviously the longest race of the season in terms of time duration,” he acknowledged.
“So I think the track will probably be nine seconds or so quicker this year – so a bit shorter on Sunday. So less fun in quali, but should be better for the race.”
(L to R): George Russell (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 and Zhou Guanyu (CHN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team in the FIA Press Conference. 14.09.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 16, Singapore Grand Prix, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Preparation Day.
Although Russell is optimistic that overtaking could now be easier, many of his rivals concede they have been surprised at the absence of a fourth DRS zone.
“I think [we’ll see] more overtaking,” Yuki Tsunoda claimed. “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. 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.”
Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas asserts it will be a subject that the drivers need to broach during the drivers’ briefing.
“It’s going to be better but if it’s actually going to make a difference in terms of ‘Will it be a race that you can overtake easily?’ I don’t think so.
“It’s going to be a hard track to overtake. Most drivers were expecting to have another DRS zone for the [new back] straight. I’m sure it’s going to be a discussion point.”
Esteban Ocon was the next to query the decision, citing the FIA’s reluctance to add a DRS zone up to Turn 16 might have stemmed from inaccurate scans of the circuit.
“We are all pushing at the moment to give [another DRS zone] a try,” the Frenchman stated.
“The FIA is concerned about safety in that little left kink. I reckon personally, and the other drivers too, that it’s not going to be an issue.
“We are pushing at the moment to be able to try it at least in FP1, see how it feels and if it’s OK, potentially keep it. There’s no reason why we would not be able to keep it.
“In the simulator, there was a big bump on that left kink, which could be the cause of not having it. But I don’t think it is there in real life.
“I reckon that’s an issue from scanning with the walls being there and it’s fast and all that.
“But even if we want to be really safe, we just put [the DRS zone after the Turn 15 kink].
“We are going to be in fifth gear, so really the drag effect comes after that kink so we can put it after.”
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