Significant modifications have been made to the usual racing configuration due to ongoing construction work. The segment of the circuit previously characterized by four nearly right-angled turns towards its completion, and leading under a grandstand, has been dropped for the races of the current year.
Instead, a longer straight route, commencing at the mild left turn at Turn 15 and concluding at what was formerly Turn 20, now re-designated as Turn 16, has now been paved. The alterations will provide not only a faster lap, but also lessen the strain on the braking system, supporting drivers to maintain their tyres over the entire lap.
Aston Martin performance director Tom McCullough said to F1 Initiative, “I think it’s going to be easier on the tyres because all the braking and traction zones and the degradation that comes from that should just be a bit easier.”
He further explained, “Normally what happened was by the end of the lap, because there was not a lot of recovery time for the tyres, your rears, in particular, were absolutely stinking hot on the old layout.” He believes the modifications will allow the tyres to cool down, making their condition much better for the final corners, and making “life easier from the tyre side”.
He continued, shedding light on dynamics, “You are still going to be probably at max downforce around the circuit due to everything else, that’s not going to really change too much.”
In the meantime, Dave Robson, head of vehicle performance at Williams‘ mentioned that the changes would be beneficial to their FW45 car, which generally performs better on high-speed tracks. “The change in layout probably helps us because four corners have been taken away,” he said.
Robson stated further, “But I think more seriously, that will change the nature of that circuit quite a lot. Not so much in terms of the downforce level, but in terms of braking, which is always difficult there. The energy the brakes have to deal with, the rear tyre degradation, is always really difficult by the time we get to the last sector. So to have those corners taken away from that part of the circuit does change the characteristic of the circuit quite a lot for everyone, obviously. Hopefully, that plays slightly more to the strengths of this car.”
Meanwhile, Alpine‘s Esteban Ocon suggested that newly formed Turn 16 would possibly become a point for overtaking. “That was very, very good news,” the driver remarked of the modifications. “On the track that you don’t necessarily enjoy so much driving around, for them to change it, is very good news. Hopefully [it will help] overtaking, which was impossible before. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be able to get closer behind, and that’s going to change a lot of things.”
An intriguing side effect of this faster lap and lap completion is a reduced amount of time for teams to make strategic decisions during the safety car and VSC situations which are usual in Singapore.