Formula One: Darkness falls

Thursday 20 September 2012, 11:07

Jennie Gow Jennie Gow

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Not only is this race set to be a mouth-watering affair but also the sideshow that accompanies the journey is spectacular. This is the race where everyone stays in European time despite being thousands of miles from home. Where going to bed at 4am isn't the sole privilege of the rich and famous, partying into the small hours, but of the masses that wake when the sun is going down and who play hard (on circuit) in the middle of the night.

So how does one prepare for such a Grand Prix after the likes of Italy and Belgium? With a lot of hard work.

Singapore is physically and mentally one of the toughest races of the season for the drivers. I remember asking our BBC radio 5 Live F1 pundit and former Toro Rosso driver; Jaime Alguersuari the first time we were in a car together travelling to a circuit - which is the toughest race of the year? There was no hesitation as he said it was easily Singapore.

The stifling heat of 30 degrees centigrade, the grueling two hours spent in the car, the 70% humidity and constant threat of torrential rain (not to mention the bright lights and lack of run off area) means that a lot of Formula One drivers finish the race drained, if not completely exhausted.

I remember Jaime telling me he stepped from the car and all he could see was white - his vision had completely gone. This is one seriously fit 21 year old we are talking about as well. This weekend will be a test for each of the 24 drivers and those who are scared of the dark will be punished!

Singapore track

So what are people saying as we go into the 14th race of the season?

Sebastian Vettel: "Singapore is one of the highlights on the calendar, because the atmosphere of a night race is amazing. I also like it because the track is really great to race on - which is partly to do with the fact that we race anticlockwise there."

Nico Rosberg: "I finished second in the race here in 2008 which was a great experience and has given me some really nice memories of this event. It's always seems strange to be driving at night, going to bed at 5am and then waking up in the afternoon but it's surprising how easy it is to adapt."

Romain Grosjean: "Since Hockenheim
I haven't really had the same connection with the car as I had previously. At the start of the season I felt very comfortable and by the time we got to Valencia the sensation I had in the car was just amazing. Whether it's the tyres, the setup or something in my driving style I'm not 100% sure; we need to go through everything and find out."

Jenson Button: "We have strong pace on a range of very different circuits - and, hopefully, we can continue to push that momentum in Singapore next weekend. You need good end-of-straight speed for overtaking into Turn Seven. That's the best opportunity for passing as it also comes at the end of the DRS zone."

Martin Whitmarsh: "It's a showcase event for our sport. And it's a race that perfectly symbolises modern Formula 1: it's a brave departure from tradition that boldly works. It manages to retain all the traditional elements that makes a grand prix so magical, but the fusion of its oriental setting, glittering skyline and demanding high-speed course make it feel more like you're watching a Hollywood movie than an international sport. And that's fantastic."

Regardless what everyone is saying; the facts are clear for all to see. Fernando Alonso is leading the Championship by 37 from Lewis Hamilton and with Kimi Raikkonen in 3rd a point behind, and just one point further behind is Sebastian Vettel.

Red Bull, after Vettel's retirement with another Alternator failure and Webber not crossing the finish line, are now just 29 points in front of McLaren in the Constructors championship - with Lotus, then Ferrari still in the hunt.

Thrilling...the end of the 2012 season could be the most amazing we have seen for some time.

However, this weekend will be tinged with a great deal of sadness after the passing of 'The Prof' Sid Watkins - the former FIA medical delegate, and the man responsible for saving more lives in F1 than anyone else, passed away at the age of 84. All those who knew of Sid would have been aware that on the weekend of Ayrton Senna's death he suggested to the World Champion that maybe they should both give up the sport and go fishing instead.

Sid Watkins and Bernie Ecclestone

I hope the two of them are looking on from above - enjoying catching up and catching some serious fishes.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had this to say about the man he brought into the sport to improve safety: "I am pretty sure that he [Sid Watkins] is irreplaceable. You only meet somebody of his caliber once in your lifetime."

"What Sid Watkins did in the way of safety in Formula 1 was incredible. He gave his whole life to that cause, to make sure that it could be as safe as it possibly could be. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his caring and commitment."

Sid was invited to join F1 in the 1978 season as its official Doctor. It was agreed proper medical facilities were needed at the tracks in order to treat drivers immediately and that helicopters should be introduced in order to get them to specialist facilities as soon as possible.

Ecclestone continued: "Sid carried all of those things through, and many more. After the accidents to Jochen Rindt and then Ronnie Peterson, I suggested that he should have a medical intervention car and that he should take responsibility for taking drivers into medical care."

"We always talked things through and worked together, and he then took care of all the medical things which I knew nothing about."

For someone I only met once, Sid Watkins left a lasting impression on me - for many in the paddock he has done much more - all are eternally grateful and at this point I would like to pay my respects to a man that has done so much for the sport I love and the drivers I watch with fascination and admiration. Rest in Peace.

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