Singapore, and especially Singapore at night, is a fabulous place to go racing – but a tough place to work. It's hot, it's humid and the time zones do strange things to everybody. But even without this, Singapore would be difficult: the Marina Bay Street Circuit is bumpy and dusty, with tight corners and omnipresent walls. It is perhaps one of F1's toughest challenges – and this year the circuit layout has changed a little, just to knock everyone out of their comfort zones.
Team Principal Mike Krack has got a few things to say about this, some thoughts on last time out in Monza and the long and winding road that's in front of us.
This is Mike on…
The challenge of the flyaways
"The convention is to talk about the first and second halves of the F1 season, but the size and shape of the modern calendar means it's more easily split into thirds with a flyaway section to start, the European middle and now, this final series of flyaway races.
"We have this mini segment of back-to-back races in the Far East, followed by Qatar, and then on to the Americas. It is a different challenge. We'll be operating in hot temperatures, covering a lot of kilometres, dealing with different time zones, contending with extended logistics, and spending more time away from the AMR Technology Campus and home.
"Operationally, it's hard, physically it's hard, and it can put a strain on people's mental health. The schedule is similar to that at the start of the season – but back in March and April, everyone is fresh. At this time of year, we have to look out for each other and help each other out. It's the way an F1 team closes out the season well."
Back at base
"While I'm on this topic, it's important to remember this does not just affect the trackside team. Back in Silverstone, the team is working at full throttle. The logistics involved in getting updates to races halfway around the world are less flexible, so timing becomes even more critical than usual. We have our 2024 car project fully ramped up now, as well as continuing to work on the AMR23, so everyone has two projects to think about. It's intense.
"For those supporting the race team, it's also challenging to fit in with the hours. Singapore is not so bad given the racing programme stays – more or less – on European time, but for the Japanese Grand Prix next week, people will have to switch to working a night shift. It's not easy to make that leap instantly and be at your best at 03:00 if that's not what you usually do."
From dusk 'til dawn
"Given we have a race on European hours in Singapore it's useful to have blackout curtains in your hotel room. Everyone copes fine with this now, following the routine and sticking to European time, but the tough part of this specific back-to-back is the instant shift to Japan, and switching into early mode. The more you stay on European time in Singapore, the more difficult it is to make the jump when we arrive in Suzuka.
"For me, I try to manage myself a little bit here, get up a little earlier each day to migrate towards Japanese time, otherwise it hits hard. Some people struggle with the transition – going East is generally harder than going West – and we want to avoid that. The doctors and physios do a great job of helping us with a schedule, suggestions on what to do, what to eat and when. It's a lot of help."
The heat and humidity
"Finally, before I finish going on about how tough the Singapore Grand Prix is, I should say that, sitting on the pitwall in short sleeves, I've definitely got the easier job. It is hot and it is sweaty but I've got no complaints when I look at the crew, with everyone in their overalls for the race and the fuel technicians wearing those fireproofs every day. That's hard. And then it's a step harder for the drivers. They're doing the same thing but lap after lap."
"…but it's a hard race for every team, and I think we've got a good shot at doing well this weekend. Lance had a really good race here last year, finishing sixth, Fernando has won twice at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, and we think the car is going to be competitive… but we'll see. There are a lot of top drivers in good cars at the moment. It's going to make the end of the season compelling to watch."
"We're talking a lot about the new layout of the circuit for this year but honestly, it's not really changed the nature of the track. They removed four slow corners and replaced them with a straight, so that at least gives the drivers an opportunity to take a breath – but for the car, it's not really any different. The tyres might have a slightly easier time of it – but it's still 19 corners, which is a lot.
"I'm looking forward to it. I still find I'm excited by the prospect of night races, and there's something extra in Singapore. Things happen, attrition is high, and we need to help the drivers in every way we can. Even more than usual."
"We've had some meetings since the Italian Grand Prix to discuss the problems we had at Monza. Some errors crept in: nothing major, but lots of little things that interrupted our weekend, left Lance with less track time than we would have liked, causing us to break the curfew and use one of our two Friday night jokers.
"I've said a few things, but the reality is that I don't have to say much. We don't point fingers and don't single anybody out because that doesn't help – quite the opposite, people who make a mistake are always the most upset by it and they need to be picked up and dusted off.
"Everyone knows that we can't afford another weekend like that somewhere like Singapore. We have a good car and drivers who are traditionally strong around Marina Bay. Operationally, we have to be perfect to allow them to get everything out of themselves and the package."
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