It’s a hot question for the Formula One grid this week: do you sip the tea in Singapore?
The Singapore Grand Prix is known for its heat and stifling humidity, causing drivers to lose significant weight by sweating as they drive. Drivers have drinks tubes built into their helmets which pump fluids from a bag in the cockpit, but in Singapore those drinks can reach the temperature of hot tea.
“Hydrate well,” was runaway standings leader Max Verstappen’s advice to Liam Lawson on Thursday as the New Zealander from AlphaTauri prepares to race in Singapore for the first time. “It’s just quite uncomfortable driving. You always feel very warm and you have to get used to the sweating. It can’t really go anywhere. It’s just in your suit, so you have to just get comfortable with that.”
Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll said he gets “pretty thirsty” toward the end of the race, “so, yeah, I go for the tea.”
Not all drivers do. Heading into his seventh career race in Singapore, Kevin Magnussen of Haas says too much tea means a stomach ache.
“It gets very hot very quickly. So you get the first, I don’t know, 15, 20 minutes of the race where you can drink cold water and then it gets almost like tea, too hot to drink, so I don’t tend to drink too much,” he said.
“It’s actually hard to swallow liquids when you’re driving and being thrown around in the car. You need to be careful not to drink too much. It can get tough on your stomach.”
Singapore isn’t always the hottest or most humid F1 track — Miami and Bahrain each have a claim — but it’s on a twisty layout through the city streets. That means less time at high speed when air flows fast over the drivers and cools them, George Russell of Mercedes said. The track has a slightly shorter layout this year which replaces four corners with a straight section. That could make drivers a little more comfortable.
American driver Logan Sargeant, racing in Singapore for the first time, doesn’t like drinking any fluids behind the wheel. “I don’t find it easy to do,” he said.
Just like his car has to make it to the end of the race without any extra fuel, Sargeant fills up before the start and hopes that’s enough.
Charles Leclerc was fastest in the first practice session Friday, beating teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. by .078 seconds and Verstappen in third by .126.
Verstappen had to swerve to avoid a lizard walking across the track mid-way through the session. The yellow flag was shown to tell drivers to watch out for the animal. Another lizard appeared near the end.
Verstappen is aiming to extend his record run with an 11th consecutive victory on Sunday in Singapore and Red Bull could secure the constructors’ championship this weekend.
While the 2023 title race is all but over, there’s still controversy over the 2008 title.
Felipe Massa lost that year by one point to Lewis Hamilton, in part because Hamilton scored more points in a Singapore Grand Prix marred by a race-fixing scandal involving the Renault team, whose driver Nelson Piquet Jr. later said he crashed deliberately. His teammate at the time, Fernando Alonso, won the race after the crash brought out the safety car.
Massa believes he’s the rightful 2008 champion.
“I lost my my peace because I knew that I was robbed,” Massa told The Associated Press recently. “Since then I was never relaxed.”
He is now taking steps toward possible legal action following an interview published in March with former F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, who said he learned in 2008 that the crash had been deliberate — Piquet went public in 2009 — and that it deliberately wasn’t investigated until after Hamilton had been awarded the title.
A spokesperson for Massa said Wednesday that his legal team had sent notices to key figures and teams in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix scandal requiring them to preserve any documents relating to the incident.
DRIVERS FOR 2024
After Alfa Romeo confirmed Thursday that Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu will stay with the team next year, there are only three open F1 seats for 2024.
Sargeant could get another year alongside Alex Albon at Williams, but that hasn’t been confirmed. Sargeant said Thursday he was making progress in his rookie season and felt “more controlled and comfortable.”
AlphaTauri hasn’t confirmed whether Yuki Tsunoda and the currently injured Daniel Ricciardo will stay for 2024, or if stand-in Liam Lawson could become a regular driver.
“It’s obviously very rare that you get an opportunity to drive in Formula One and I have it now,” Lawson said. “So it’s just making the most of it.”
Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.
AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing
James Ellingworth, The Associated Press