Singapore GP: How do you turn Marina Bay into an F1 street race?

How do you transform one of the world's most densely populated cities into a twisting street circuit capable of hosting Formula 1's one and only night race?

On Sunday, Singapore will stop in its tracks as it hosts its fifth race around a 5.073km track that straddles the harbour of Marina Bay.

BBC Sport takes a look at what needs to be done to make one of the most glamorous races on the calendar run smoothly.

When does the work begin?

A 25,000-strong workforce begin preparations in May, four months before the race is due to take place. In a process rather like assembling the world's biggest Scalextric set, all race-related infrastructure will be taken out of a 38,000 square metre storage facility tucked away in eastern Singapore.

Roadworks: expect delays

Preparation for the Singapore Grand Prix
  • 25,000 site staff
  • 4,395 safety barriers
  • 10km of debris fencing
  • 108,423m of power cables
  • 240 steel pylons
  • 1,600 light projectors

There are thousands of items including concrete barriers, fences, cables, temporary bridges, ticketing booths and portable toilets. In total, 4,395 safety barriers and 10km of debris - or "catch" - fencing need to be erected.

A polymer modified binder, which was laid on the track surface to offer vehicles 20% more grip, is inspected and necessary repairs carried out to ensure it is fit for Formula 1. The lifespan of the road is expected to be extended more than five years beyond that of a normal road surface.

A week before the race, 650 tonnes of F1 equipment belonging to race teams will arrive by air freight and truck load.

On the Wednesday before the race, the first of a series of gradual road closures begins in the Marina Bay area. A complete closure takes place at least an hour before each session, with access restricted to vehicles with the relevant passes.

After a final round of inspections, at 03:00 local time on Friday morning, the Marina Bay Street Circuit is officially open for business.

And when does it end?

Why is Singapore a night race?

The Singapore Grand Prix

The race starts at 20:00 local time, 13:00 BST. The late start time ensures maximum exposure for the race in the European television markets.

Road restrictions are gradually lifted once the race is over, with the final road reopening to traffic in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

The rest of the temporary infrastructure - barriers, advertising hoardings, buildings - begin coming down almost immediately after the race, but the process is only completely finished up to a month after the race.

In the first few years of hosting the race, work would go on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But in recent years, with experience, the majority of the workforce do normal five-day, 40-hour weeks.

But organisers say they still only have a month or so off before they have to start planning for the following year's race.

How do they light up the track?

The race requires 108,423 metres of power cables, 240 steel pylons and approximately 1,600 light projectors, all of which must be installed over a period of three months.

"Formula 1 feels like a bubble, a strange parallel world, at the best of times - but that goes double at the Singapore Grand Prix.

"The night-race schedule means most people working at the race stay on European time, which is seven hours behind Singapore.

"So you eat dinner in the middle of the night, go to bed as the sun is coming up and wake up in the mid-afternoon.

"Though it sounds surreal it works surprisingly well, but it does mess with the mind in curious ways - the most obvious being that there seems to be more time in the day than at other races."

The power requirement is 3,180,000 watts with an illumination measurement of around 3000 lux - effectively four times brighter than floodlights in most football stadiums.

The entire track, including the run-off areas, has to be lit consistently. The lighting system used needs to minimise glare and reflections from wet surfaces or spray from cars should it rain.

And should one of the 12 twin-powered generators that creates the electricity fail, a substitute generator will kick in as a back-up. Each generator has its own dedicated engineer, waiting to solve any problems immediately.

What else do they need to do?

Apart from the track, organisers have to fill 700,000 square metres of public space with entertainment for paying fans. Last year, with a budget of £2.5m, there were 40 groups of entertainers from bands to acrobats performing on six temporary stages.

Fans need to be fed, so six to 10 days before the event, various vendors are allowed into the circuit to set up stall while 15 security companies are taken on to ensure the event runs safely and smoothly.

To ensure fans can get around the park easily, shuttle services, taxi stands and underground tunnels - the circuit goes over the top of six subway stations - are available.

What is the result?

The Marina Bay Street Circuit is the second slowest 23-turn circuit on the calendar after Monaco, with an average speed of 172kph. Approximately 46% of the lap is taken at full throttle, compared with over 75% at Monza.

The twisting layout is hard on the brakes, while the gearboxes also take a beating with around 80 gear changes per lap.

Drivers will complete 61 laps in the race - in 30C heat and 70% humidity - which takes a little under two hours to complete.

What do the drivers think?

Williams driver Bruno Senna: "It's one of the toughest if not the toughest. It's a race everybody likes and is a bit like Monaco but more physical and aggressive."

F1's other street circuits

  • Australian GP, Melbourne
  • Monaco GP, Monte Carlo
  • European GP, Valencia
  • Canadian GP, Montreal

Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull: "The race is almost two hours, so we have to work hard. It's probably one of the longest races on the calendar and on top of that it's hot and lights are on. You have to focus for a long time, which is quite tough."

Former Toro Rosso driver and BBC Radio 5 live analyst Jaime Alguersuari: "In some ways, it is like a rally course, with so many places to lose and gain time - it's a fantastic feeling. The layout does not look much on a track map, but actually it is very technical and hugely physical for the driver."

Singapore Grand Prix 2012, day two

  • Saturday, 22 September: Third practice 10:55 BST; Live video on the Red Button and online, audio on BBC 5 live sports extra and live text online. Qualifying 13:00 BST; BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live and live text commentary online.

Singapore Grand Prix 2012, day three

  • Sunday, 23 September: Race: 13:00 BST, live coverage on BBC One & BBC Radio 5 live & live text commentary online. Highlights on BBC Three at 19:00.

Highlights of the thrilling 2008 Singapore Grand Prix