Ferrari lead with Red Bull’s Verstappen ready to pounce during the night race
Expectations are sky-high for the 2022 edition of the Singapore Grand Prix, to run from 30 September to 2 October at the Marina Bay street circuit. The city-state’s Formula 1 race is enjoying a strong comeback after skipping 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic restrictions. In a way, the race is a strong signal that Singapore, in particular its tourism sector, is open for business.
Friday night’s practice sessions saw full grandstands as if the race itself was already in full swing. The crowd apparently enjoyed every bit of it, particular for those who are Ferrari fans. The Scuderia posted a one-two in the practice session, with George Russel coming in third. The Ferraris’ times were about a tenth of a second ahead of Red Bull’s. Championship leader Max Verstappen completed just seven laps due to lengthy set-up time, but still managed to post the fourth-quickest time. Lewis Hamilton posted fifth in the second Mercedes. With overtaking very difficult on the tight and twisty Marina Bay street circuit, qualifying well is of utmost importance particularly for the top runners.
There was no shortage of on-track excitement. Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri caught fire during free practice 2. Flames shot out of the top near the rollhoop. He was thankfully not injured. For the midfield runners, Alpine’s drivers Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon were ahead of their rivals, particularly over Alfa Romeo. The team released an upgraded floor for the Singapore Grand Prix. McLaren likewise rolled out upgrades including new floor, cooling louvres, diffuser, sidepod and others. However, they were off the pace on Friday. Williams driver Alex Albon returns to racing from appendicitis surgery and respiratory failure. Albon managed to run 16th behind the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu. There’s also some sentiment as now-veteran Sebastian Vettel is slated to retire at the end of 2022, so this may be his last F1 drive at the Singapore Grand Prix. Vettel has been a favorite at the track, having won the event five times, from 2011 to 2013, and again in 2015 and 2019.
With 11 race victories in 2022, Max Verstappen is 116 points ahead of his closest rival, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. To secure the victory in Singapore this weekend, Verstappen needs to outscore Leclerc by only 22 points, teammate Sergio Perez by 13 and Russell by six. If Verstappen wins, Leclerc would need to be ninth or lower, Perez fourth or lower without fastest lap, or fifth or lower with the fastest lap. It’s looking good for another title then for the Dutchman. If he doesn’t clinch the title this weekend, he may do so at the following Japanese Grand Prix.
The entertainment package, pioneered by Singapore Grand Prix, has likewise been impressive for 2022. Top acts include the Black Eyed Peas, TLC, Westlife, Green Day, and Marshmello.
The Singapore Grand Prix has notched up a very successful return, just as its contract to host Formula 1 races has been extended until at least 2028. Tickets for the 2023 race have already been released as “super early-bird” packages.