Just over an hour before the race was set to start, the island city of Singapore was pummelled by torrential rain, which caused the race’s start to be postponed.
As the F1 field finished the drivers’ parade aboard a fleet of vintage vehicles, a thick cloud had grown over the Marina Bay track immediately after the W Series support race, and the skies had already started to become ominous.
An heavy rainfall was forecast to arrive around 6:55 pm, and raindrops started pouring in the paddock an hour and 20 minutes before the 8 pm start time (local time).
The end of the pit straight on the track was no longer visible on the closed-circuit television cameras as it promptly did so and shortly developed into a major thunderstorm.
The FIA sent out a message to the F1 timing boards at 7:02 pm, officially delaying the start procedure. Then, as the rain in Singapore kept coming down, more delay notices were issued.
The race was slated to start at 9.05 p.m., 65 minutes later than the originally scheduled time, when the rain started to stop.
The start process hasn’t changed in order to comply with F1 rules, which dictate that all cars, even those that must start the race from the pit lane, are allowed to leave the pit lane to do a reconnaissance lap 40 minutes prior to the planned start of the formation lap.
This means that after a 10-minute notice time, the 40-minute start process period will start after the FIA has granted the order to leave the pits.
The storm persisted past the typical time the cars would be getting ready to leave their garages to take the starting grid, despite initial predictions that it would quickly pass through Singapore – the wind is carrying the clouds to the south and moving them backwards down the length of the pit straight.
Authorities in Singapore have issued flash flood warnings, and a similar rainstorm on Saturday left puddles that hadn’t dried for several hours. As a result, FP3 was reduced from an hour to 30 minutes, and qualifying changed to a wet-to-dry session where dry tyres were only an option for the final Q3 segment.
When it started to rain, the normally crowded Singapore paddock rapidly became empty as the assembled TV crews, event attendees, officials, and journalists sought shelter in the team hospitality units and any covered building.
The teams only have a few fresh wet and intermediate tyres to utilize for the race after the wet FP3 and damp qualifying sessions.
In contrast, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Nicholas Latifi, Alex Albon, and Zhou Guanyu each have two fresh sets of intermediates left, and Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas each have three. AlphaTauri does not have any new intermediates available for either Pierre Gasly or Yuki Tsunoda.
Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Fernando Alonso, and Esteban Ocon are the only drivers that have three new sets of wet tires compared to their competitors’ two. The rest of the drivers only have one pair of fresh inters. Those five were the only drivers to leave the pits during FP3.