How do you prepare for racing in Singapore?
Singapore is one of the hardest races of the entire season. The circuit layout is very bumpy and youâ€™re fighting the car all the time. Youâ€™re continually in the corners and the only place where you get a breather for a couple of seconds is on the start-finish straight. After this, you also have the strange timetable that means we work late, go to bed late and wake up in the afternoon. You donâ€™t feel any difference during the race weekend itself, but each year it has felt a bit strange to come back to a normal schedule afterwards.
You enjoy street circuits. Are you looking forward to this one?
Yes. There are lots of bumps, kerbs, and bits of track where you have to keep some margin for mistakes because the walls are very close â€“ especially in the last sector. I always enjoy driving there and, although the race is very long and demanding, itâ€™s a good track for racing.
What do you focus on in terms of car set-up?
The aero side is still very important but because itâ€™s bumpy and there are many low-speed corners, the car has to be as good as possible in terms of mechanical grip. The behaviour of the car needs to be right: youâ€™re often using the kerbs in the low speed corners, and limited for mechanical grip, so the car must be easy to drive and give the driver confidence to attack the kerbs, if you want to extract the maximum from the package. The other factor is that because this is a temporary circuit, the grip levels develop much faster and much more than on a permanent track. So you need to anticipate the track evolution and what it will change for the car balance.
You had an excellent weekend in Monaco. Can you repeat it in Singapore?
I think we must be careful not to take anything for granted. Itâ€™s true that Singapore is the closest circuit to Monaco in the calendar, but Monaco was over four months ago. Iâ€™d like the car to be as competitive and easy to drive as it was back then, because it makes it easy for me to push straight away and easier for the engineers to work on extracting the final bit of performance. But things change quickly in Formula 1 and it may not be the case. My approach will be as usual: I will keep in mind that we are fighting in a very strong pack of cars, and lately teams like Williams have come very strong, so we need to wait and see. But Iâ€™m definitely looking forward to a good performance.
Like Mercedes GP veteran Mcihael Schumacher, Renault’s Vitaly Petrov will be facing the Singapore circuit for the first time:
Vitaly, sum up your feelings after Monzaâ€¦
Monza was difficult for me because it was the first time I drove there in F1 and the first time with the low downforce. It was difficult to find the right set-up and we had some mechanical problems over the weekend. I didnâ€™t feel 100% comfortable to be able to deliver a good result. The two important lessons I learnt from the weekend are first the experience I have drawn from racing on this circuit and the way the car is set up there. Secondly, I finished the race and that is always important so I can use the experience for next year.
We are starting the last leg of the season with five flyaway races and all the remaining circuits will be new to you. Does it represent a big challenge and do you enjoy discovering new circuits?
It will be a new challenge for me. I donâ€™t know these circuits at all so I will do the maximum to prepare for them. I have been watching videos of previous races and reading data. We also hope that our car will be much more competitive in Singapore and for the last few races. I look forward to racing there and to the challenge that lies ahead. There are a lot of difficult corners in Singapore and, from what I saw in the videos, the track is bumpy, the car is jumping a lot and it looks easy to lock the wheels.
Do you enjoy street circuits generally?
Yes, and I like tracks where you need maximum concentration and where you cannot afford to make any mistakes. Street circuits also suit our car.
Singapore is a night race â€“ is it the first time you will be racing at night?
I have experience of racing at night because I took part in the GP2 Series night race in Qatar. So the night race wonâ€™t be a problem for me.
Have you been working on a specific programme to prepare for the race in Singapore, in extreme hot and humid conditions, plus working at night and sleeping during the day?
The conditions are the same as we had in Malaysia. Iâ€™m training and will maybe go to the sauna a few times. We obviously canâ€™t simulate the same weather conditions here in Europe. I like the fact that we will be working at night and sleeping during the day â€“ I actually think that I will be able to sleep more! I will arrive in Singapore as early as possible to adapt and start living in race weekend conditions: going to bed late at night and getting up late in the morning.
What are your hopes for Singapore?
My objective is to fight in the top 10 and to get into Q3. Our objective remains to try and beat Mercedes. It will be a challenge because everything will be new for me, but it will be a challenging weekend for everybody.
The teams can travel a little later to Singapore as the night race has them still working on UK time instead of acclimating to the time change. Working through the night may parlay the sun but the humidity is still there and the muggy work environment is lit to 800 lux in the garage with the strains of a Pussy Cat Dolls CD wafting down from the McLaren garage…it’s enough to make you choke.