Change takes sting out of 'Singapore Sling'

So the "Singapore Sling" is no more. Or rather, it is still there on the Marina Bay Street Circuit, but possibly minus the kick, rather like a "Virgin Singapore Sling" if you like.

Still, removing the notorious triple-apex chicane at Turn 10 of the SingTel Singapore Grand Prix track, and replacing it with a "flowing left-hander", will probably be welcomed by the bulk of the drivers on the grid.

After all, no fewer than two world champions - Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel - have panned the left-right-left turn named after the famous cocktail, with both the Briton and the German calling it "the worst corner" in Formula One.

It did not help that the big kerbs there have claimed several victims since the night race joined motor racing's top flight in 2008.

Among the casualties: Vettel, Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, Finland's Kimi Raikkonen and Germany's Adrian Sutil.

With sparks flying - literally and figuratively - race organiser Singapore GP even took the rare step of coming to the defence of the corner in 2010, when it insisted that the track was passed safe by the International Automobile Federation (FIA).

This year, motor sports' governing body appears to have finally paid heed to the drivers' pleas for the chicane to be modified.

With the transformation of the chicane into a simple corner, speeds will increase as the cars head towards Anderson Bridge.

According to Singapore GP, based on simulations conducted by the FIA, the increase could be as much as 40kmh.

Still, experts and fans are undecided on whether the change is indeed for the better.

Mathias Brunner, the Formula One editor of Speedweek.com, has covered the sport since 1982. He attended his 400th Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi last year.

He told The Straits Times: "From a safety point of view, it was right to change something. The cars took an incredible beating there.

"But some of the drivers will complain - it was a challenge to get this passage right.

"The spectators will miss the flying cars which looked awesome. Formula One should be spectacular, so that is a loss."

One fan named Sector One agreed. In a post on the f1technicalnet forum, he wrote: "So once again FIA takes the skill and danger out of F1.

"It was a great corner that you needed to get spot on. If you don't, ask Kimi what happens."

But even if the change takes the sting out of the Sling, for the drivers, safety is their paramount concern.

As Hamilton pointed out, when he called for the chicane to be improved years ago: "We're the ones on the track putting our lives at risk."

yulin@sph.com.sg