Formula 1 is finally coming back to Singapore after 3 years! As the prestigious motor racing sport approaches Marina Bay Street Circuit, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some interesting highlights in the history of the Singapore Grand Prix.
2008: Singapore’s First Grand Prix
Announced in 2008, the Singapore GP Pte Ltd, the Singapore Tourism Board and Bernie Ecclestone signed an agreement for a five-year deal. As telecommunications company Singtel became the first title sponsor of the event, the official name of the event was the Formula 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix. With that, it was time for Singapore to host the reputable motor racing sport.
The 2008 Singapore Grand Prix featured the first ever night-time race in Formula 1 (F1) history, as well as the first street race in Asia. The timing also meant that it could be broadcasted live at a convenient time on TV outside of the Asia-Pacific. Over 100,000 tickets were made available for the country’s first F1 race, which was co-funded by the Government of Singapore, for about 60% of the total bill! The race, which was the 15th round of the 2008 F1 World Championship, was held at the new Marina Bay Street Circuit, where a series of projectors, which adapt their output to match the shape of the course, illuminated the track at night. Brazilian racer, Felipe Massa, who was then driving for Ferrari, became the first driver to qualify first for the first position in the race, also known as pole position. He had been dominating the race before a pit stop disaster. Fernando Alonso on Renault’s team emerged as the winner of the first ever F1 Singapore Grand Prix.
However, the Renault team was later discovered to have instructed another driver, Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash, a strategy that would strongly propel Alonso to his victory, thus Alonso’s first triumph in Singapore became stained with controversy.
2010: Alonso’s Milestone
The 2010 F1 Singapore Grand Prix featured two-time world champion Fernando Alonso executing a triple. He claimed pole position during qualifying, the race win, and set the fastest lap in the race! Not only that, he also picked up a Grand Chelem, a magnificent feat whereby a driver pulls off a triple, and leads the race from start to end. He also became the first racer to win in Singapore twice as his Ferrari resisted the then rising talent of Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, allowing him to claim the 25th victory of his F1 career. Some highlights of the race include 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher, who was making his F1 comeback season in 2010 after 4 years, only managing to finish 13th in his Mercedes, while the Finnish Heikki Kovalainen crashed his Lotus and had to put out the fire himself.
2011-2015: Vettel’s Reign
2011-2015 marked an unforgettable period for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, as he dominated the streets of Singapore for four times, exhibiting his true talent. 2011 saw Vettel and his Red Bull take pole and the race win, as he went on to win the F1 championship that year. In 2012, Bernie Ecclestone and Singapore GP had agreed that the Grand Prix would continue to be part of the F1 calendar until 2017. Hamilton took pole for the second time in Singapore, but retired due to gearbox problems, allowing Vettel to inherit the race lead and go on to win the grand prix.
Vettel did a triple in 2013, the same feat that Alonso had done in 2010, and took a third successive win in Singapore. In 2014, Singapore Airlines was announced to be the sponsor of the Singapore Grand Prix, from that year onwards. 2014 also saw Hamilton, at Mercedes, becoming the third man to execute the triple, as he finished ahead of Vettel. However, Vettel returned to the top of the podium in 2015, which was his first year with Ferrari, but lost out to Hamilton in the drivers’ championship that year.
2017: First-Lap Chaos
Now, let’s go to 2017, probably the most unforgettable Singapore Grand Prix, which also proved to be a major turning point in that year’s championship. The Ferrari of Vettel, who was the title contender and fan favourite, took pole position. However, the most dramatic start in F1, in my opinion, took place here. The first turn on the first lap saw Vettel, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and Alonso all crash and retire from the race. Debris filled the first corner of the street while spectators were appalled at this huge incident.
In the end, it was Hamilton who triumphed over second-place Daniel Ricciardo, and then went on to win the drivers’ championship that year.
2019: Ferrari’s Long Wait
It’s been a while since Ferrari won in Singapore. Lucky for them, Vettel’s new teammate Charles Leclerc took pole position, the 5th in his career. However, it was Vettel who went on to win the race ahead of Leclerc, the first ever 1-2 for a team in F1 Singapore history. To add on, it was a memorable occasion for Ferrari, marking its first 1-2 since Hungary 2017 and last one before Bahrain 2022.
Unfortunately, the Singapore Grand Prix was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 situation in both Singapore and globally. That’s why it was a joy to see F1 and Singapore renew their contract until 2028, bringing the popular sport back to our beautiful homeland.
Now, what will happen after 2028? An extension or no negotiations? Given Singapore’s excellent economy and competent tourism, I reckon that the infamous night race will stay on the F1 calendar even after 2028.
With F1 approaching the streets of Singapore very soon, and for the first time in three years, I believe that we can expect an exhilarating fight. 2021 drivers’ champion Verstappen, who is currently at Red Bull, will go head-to-head, wheel-to-wheel, with championship contender Leclerc, who will be in his Ferrari. In fact, Verstappen can be crowned the 2022 drivers’ champion in Singapore on a few conditions. That is, he will have to win the race, with Leclerc finishing at least 9th and his teammate, Sergio Perez, at least 4th. Perhaps these conditions seem rather ambitious, as the rising talent of George Russell and veteran driver Hamilton are also fan favourites, and prove to be worthy competitors for Verstappen.
But, what matters is that we will be able to witness an exciting race this October!