Formula 1 track by night

The challenges of maintaining highways or urban roads in any market are difficult, but in Singapore they are arguably greater as some of the city’s roads by day must also serve as a Formula 1 Grand Prix racetrack by night. 

In modern-day cities, increased traffic demand places greater pressure on roads, and for the highly dense population of Singapore, it is no exception. Then, there are the Formula 1 cars that are rapidly accelerating or braking with intense shear force on the road as they take on some of the most challenging corners of the series. In 2008, Singapore hosted the first night-time event in Formula 1 history which also marked the 800th race since Formula 1 began in 1950. The 5km Marina Bay Street Circuit is now one of the most prestigious races in the Formula 1 calendar. As drivers fly past 23 turns with glimpses of landmarks such as City Hall, the Supreme Court and Parliament, and Merlion Park, they face temperatures in excess of 30°C and humidity levels above 70 percent.

In order to meet FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) safety standards, the track surface must remain constant despite these challenges of a tropical, hot and humid climate and extreme wear from everyday users and race cars. Almost ten years after being trusted to supply the high-performance binder to pave Singapore’s racetrack for the 2008 Formula 1 Grand Prix, Shell Bitumen was the chosen partner for conducting road maintenance on the racetrack this year.

With the experience and understanding of the requirements posed by such a challenging stretch of the road, Shell Bitumen, together with engineers from United E&P conducted all work in one continuous stretch of time, working through the night when the road is least busy. Shell’s high-performance binder, Shell Cariphalte®, was selected for the resurfacing as it is proven to show resistance to extreme heat, rutting, cracking, stripping and ageing in a road – qualities that are essential for a road that is under pressure from users and the elements.

Shell Cariphalte’s tough three-dimensional polymer network within the bitumen gives increased stiffness at high temperatures and the high-quality base binder provides low stiffness at low temperatures. This substantially increases the performance range of the pavement and helps reduce the risk of cracking which is common for surfaces under high-stress. This versatility of the binder allowed the contractors to tailor an asphalt mixture that ensured a high-quality, bespoke end-product.

As the number of vehicles on our roads increases and existing infrastructure matures, road maintenance is becoming a bigger issue for society to manage. Maintenance is playing an essential role in ensuring good road health and top performance on everyday roads as well as more demanding feats of engineering like the case of Singapore. In the face of natural wear and tear from every day usage, regularly maintaining the top layer of the Singapore racetrack helps ensure a longer life for the road surface – for racing drivers and regular motorists alike.

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