F1: S'pore race set to get more exciting

SINGAPORE - Sebastian Vettel's dominant performance on Sunday may have done little to help the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix shed its tag of being a "procession race".

But future editions could see more on-track excitement, according to former Formula One commentator Steve Slater.

This will happen once the teams grasp the full impact of this year's major change to the circuit, one that took the kick out of the Singapore Sling, as the infamous Turn 10 is better known.

As expected, the move from a triple-apex corner - once dubbed "the worst in F1" - to a sweeping left-hander was a welcomed one.

"It feels right," noted Singapore's Ringo Chong, who competed in the Porsche Carrera Cup support races at the Marina Bay Street Circuit over the weekend.

"Before, it was tight; we had to try to avoid the kerbs. Now, it's a nicer drive, a true corner." And, as Slater pointed out, it could become a spot which could make for some drama in subsequent races.

With Turns 10, 11 and 12 now flowing corners, cars will be going faster and, hence, have to brake harder to negotiate the tight left-hander on Turn 13.

"That will make it a better overtaking opportunity," he said.

Although few drivers attempted such a move in their first race on the revised track on Sunday, there was no denying that the change to Turn 10 had resulted in faster racing.

Lap times were expected to fall by one second, with cars rounding the Singapore Cricket Club at speeds of 115kmh, or 35kmh quicker than before.

Vettel lived up to those expectations when he clocked 1min 42.841sec in the final qualifying session - the fastest ever around the street circuit.

Red Bull's triple world champion went on to record the widest winning margin to date this season by finishing 32.627sec ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

The Spaniard received plaudits for a gutsy move at the start of the race, in which he went on the outside to leap from seventh on the grid to third in the race.

Likewise, Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus raised many eyebrows by moving up the field from 13th at the start to join Vettel and Alonso on the podium.

But the Finn's ascension was as much about the ineptitude of his rivals as it was about his tenacity.

Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, for example, was left frustrated by his team's decision to keep him out on track while Alonso and Raikkonen both came in for new tyres during a safety-car period.

"Perhaps it wasn't the best decision to stay out but, at the time, we weren't sure if our tyres would be able to last the distance," the German later said.

Rosberg, who lined up alongside Vettel at the front of the grid, finished fourth.

Raikkonen's team-mate Romain Grosjean looked set to translate third place in qualifying into a spot on the podium until he was forced to retire on lap 38 with engine problems.

There were, of course, more examples of skilled driving but only time will tell if Slater's theory comes true - that a better understanding of the new Turn 10 will lead to more overtaking.

If it does, it would lend more excitement and character to a race that has already been deemed a success by insiders and fans alike.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, for example, told The Straits Times last Saturday that Bahrain's proposed night race next year poses little threat to the Singapore event.

"Why should it?" he said. "Yours is a fantastic event."

F1 fan Martin Ho, 21, agreed. A Lotus supporter, the full-time national serviceman has attended every Singapore night race.

"I've attended two races in Malaysia and it's a totally different experience. In Singapore, you can really feel the buzz," he said.

fabiusc@sph.com.sg


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