Rain brings out the frowns at Singapore paddock
SINGAPORE, Sept 22 — The dreaded rain forecast for this weekend’s SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix made a cameo appearance at 3.45pm yesterday.
But it was enough to wreak havoc on the Ferrari Challenge Trofeo Pirelli Asia Pacific as Japan’s Hisamori Hayashi crashed out at the notorious Singapore Sling corner during a practice session.
Although the skies cleared by the time Formula 1 championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton rolled out onto the track for the first practice session at 6pm, thunderstorms expected for this weekend will certainly cause furrowed brows in the paddock.
Possibly the toughest track on the annual F1 20-race calendar, rain will reduce visibility and grip on the 23-turn, 5.073km street circuit.
In an earlier interview with Today, Hamilton likened a rain-soaked Singapore track to “driving on ice”, and the slight frown on the British superstar’s face was palpable as he darted from the McLaren hospitality suite to the garage ahead of last night’s practice.
In contrast, Alonso seemed unperturbed by the weather disruption, stopping for a photo with a young fan at the paddock.
But former world champions Niki Lauda, Sir Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill warned that storms could throw the Singapore Grand Prix into disarray.
“We have to wait and see how much rain. If it’s like a monsoon, then that’s a big problem. Then they have to stop the race for a certain length of time,” said 1969, 1971 and 1973 world champion Stewart.
Hill, who won the 1996 world title with Williams, had a different take on how a wet, slippery race would turn out.
“These things are problematic but they also make racing interesting and tactical,” said the 52-year-old Englishman.
“If it’s wet, it’s extremely hard physically and although it’s not nice, it’s also a part of the challenge of the sport. This is one of the most difficult races.”
Meanwhile, Austrian racing legend Lauda — a former Ferrari and McLaren driver who captured the world championship in 1975, 1977 and 1984 - has decided not to make any predictions for this year’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Five drivers remain in contention for the Drivers’ Championship, with Alonso (179 points), Hamilton (142) and Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen (141) the leading trio, followed by the Red Bull pair of defending champion Sebastian Vettel (140) and Mark Webber (132).
Lauda, 63, is not certain if two-time Singapore Grand Prix champion Alonso will prevail again, preferring a “wait-and-see” approach for tomorrow’s race.
But Scotsman Stewart said: “The usual people will be out there — Alonso will be good, the Renault engines will be good and the Lotus will be good this weekend.
“You also can’t leave out the McLarens and Red Bulls.” — Today