Bernie Ecclestone’s pallor may not flatter the 77-year-old under the amazing floodlights but there could be no disguising his inner glow as he walked the pit lane. F1’s guru had taken a punt by pushing for a night race in Singapore. After the first day of practice, many of the doubters had been silenced.
A quick trawl of the teams did not find a single voice of dissent. Quite the contrary. They were glowing, sometimes gushing, in their praise for a venture which has broken new ground. Setting up and operating a street circuit is not the work of a moment. Those of us long enough in the tooth can remember the first-day chaos at places such as Detroit and Dallas. Adelaide began to set new standards in 1985 and Melbourne picked up the ball in 1997.
But Singapore appeared to be biting off a great deal more by commandeering local roads with the potential to disrupt a vibrant and friendly community. Even more, they were going to hold a race at night for a sporting circus with a reputation for complaining about anything less than perfection. Bernie knew that better than anyone as he pushed to have a race that will mesh with civilised viewing times in Europe. He had every reason to look content at the end of the first day.
The track presents the drivers with plenty of challenges, the slow corners demanding respect, the quick ones calling for confidence and the shaving of concrete on the way out. The track has been more bumpy than expected (or have the drivers become conditioned to super-smooth permanent circuits?).
The lighting has presented no problems at all. Well, not for the drivers. Photographers I spoke to say the elegant buildings and backdrop are lost in a darkness than not even the most sophisticated camera can deal with. Of course, there are rough edges that need attending to, such as the pit lane entrance and exit, both of which interfere with the fast racing line. But, overall, it’s thumbs up.
Two questions remain. Will there be overtaking? (Sadly, I’m not sure that there will). And what happens if it rains? Based on the violence of a thunderstorm on Thursday night, I sincerely hope we don’t get to answer the latter.