Next season's tyre change a potential F1 game changer
Wider tyres in next season's Formula 1 for better grip and faster times
In the nine editions of the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, the 5.065km-long Marina Bay street circuit has gained a reputation for being a tough track for overtaking manoeuvres.
But that may well change with an impending key change in tyres in the sport.
Both the front and rear tyres, to be provided by Pirelli to all the teams, will be 25 per cent wider next season, which translates to more grip and faster times.
Testing for the new tyres have already begun on tracks in places such as Barcelona and France, with Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari heavily involved using modified 2015 cars.
"We are going to be a lot quicker; in Barcelona we are already two seconds quicker compared to last year, and another four seconds quicker in Silverstone," said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery before the Singapore Grand Prix yesterday.
"I haven't seen the simulations for Singapore yet, but you're going to be quicker and all the performances coming in the corners with the combination of the downforce and the wider footprint of the tyres."
NARROW AND TWISTY
The narrow and twisty nature of the Singapore street circuit has seen some drivers crash out over the years, especially at the notoriously challenging Turn 14 at the Floating Platform, while Nico Hulkenberg last night also took himself out of the race while attempting to overtake Carlos Sainz at the flag-off.
Hembery acknowledged that there is ongoing discussion within the fraternity on whether the new tyres will facilitate or hinder overtaking, although he doesn't think the wider profile of the 2017 cars will have too much of an impact on overtaking on circuits such as Singapore's.
"It would be a little bit (difficult for overtaking), but I think it'd be fine," he said.
Next year's change may shake up the sport, as teams will be forced to rethink the designs of their cars to maximise the effectiveness of the tyres.
Hembery believes the likes of McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull will be looking to regain lost ground on Mercedes, who have been dominant since 2014 because of their superior power unit, among other factors.
But he alluded the Mercedes' engine may still give the team an advantage if they can get the car design and set-up right.
He said: "Power train will still have a role to play because there's going to be an element of drag increase due to the area of the tyres.
"If you haven't got a strong power unit you'd suffer even more with the drag, and fuel consumption will be even more important next year.
"When you reset the rules, there's always an opportunity for everybody (to do well)... but who knows who is going to be the best?"