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Moments in time - the Singapore Grand Prix

15 Sep 2014

In our series exploring the history of Grands Prix through selected iconic images, we turn our attention to one of the youngest and most unique on the calendar: Singapore.

This look back through the archives takes in the first race at Marina Bay, the infamous 'crashgate' affair, brilliant wins for Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel, a spot of impromptu firefighting, and more...

The first ever F1 night race is go! 2008

The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008 was one of the most eagerly anticipated races in Formula One history - and it didn’t disappoint, with drivers and fans declaring the event an instant hit. A huge crowd turned out to see Ferrari’s Felipe Massa (red car, bottom right of picture) lead the field away at the start of the first ever F1 night race, with the famous Singapore Flyer big wheel providing a spectacular backdrop to the action. Over the course of the next 61 laps the fans would be treated to thrills, spills and a surprise winner, but more on that below…

(© Sutton Images)

Controversial Piquet crash hands victory to Alonso, 2008

When Nelson Piquet Jr (pictured) slammed his Renault into the wall coming out of Turn 17 on lap 13 of the 2008 race in Marina Bay, it looked like a strange crash. Little did people know at the time just how unusual it was. What was evident was that the accident - and subsequent safety car - helped Piquet’s team mate Fernando Alonso considerably. The Spaniard was able to gain crucial track position, which eventually proved decisive in handing the double world champion - who’d started down in 15th - an extremely unlikely victory. Alonso had been incredibly fortunate, or so it seemed until new evidence emerged almost a year later which indicated that Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds had ordered Piquet to crash in order to benefit his team mate’s strategy. The FIA launched an immediate investigation into the incident, during which Renault admitted to conspiring to cause a deliberate crash. Unsurprisingly Briatore and Symonds were handed lengthy bans from the sport.

(© Sutton Images)

Nightmare pit stop puts Massa on the back foot, 2008

This moment didn’t cost Felipe Massa the 2008 world championship, but it certainly didn’t help. The Brazilian, who went on to lose the title to McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by just one point, led in the early stages of the race before the disastrous pit stop pictured here dropped him down the order. The problems began when Massa was given an erroneous signal to leave his pit box whilst the fuel hose was still attached. As his mechanics tumbled like dominoes, the Brazilian carried on down the pit lane, dragging the severed hose with him. After a minor kerfuffle, Massa eventually got going again, but there was worse to come. At his next pit stop he earned a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release into the path of Adrian Sutil’s Force India, and then later on he spun whilst trying to fight his way back into the points. He eventually finished 13th, ten places behind title rival Hamilton, who extended his points lead over the Ferrari driver to seven points.

(© Sutton Images)

Hamilton makes amends for Monza slip, 2009

Having ended the previous race in Italy in the barriers, Lewis Hamilton entered the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix sorely wanting to make amends, not just for his mistake at Monza (which occurred on the last lap whilst chasing Jenson Button for second), but for what had been a pretty poor season all round. In the first part of the year the reigning world champion and his McLaren team had struggled to match the pace of the dominant Brawns and Red Bulls, but a dramatic mid-season performance upswing enabled Hamilton to return to contention in Hungary, where he took a fine victory. When the action shifted to Marina Bay four races later, the Briton - out of the title race and with nothing to lose - was on the attack again and duly stuck his KERS-equipped MP4-24 on pole, before easing to a comfortable victory in the race. “I wanted to redeem myself after the last lap in Monza,” Hamilton said afterwards. “We came here hoping for a good result - and we got it!”

(© Sutton Images)

Kovalainen indulges in an impromptu spot of firefighting, 2010

“That was not quite how I thought my race would end!” exclaimed Heikki Kovalainen after seeing his Lotus spectacularly go up in flames on lap 58 of the 2010 race at Marina Bay. The Finn had been dicing with Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi for 13th place when the pair made contact, forcing Kovalainen into a spin. The former McLaren race-winner spun his car back around, but in doing so unwittingly cracked the fuel tank pressure release valve, causing a fire in his T127’s airbox. “I didn’t want to come into the pits as it definitely wasn’t safe enough to do so, so I pulled over on the main straight,” explained Kovalainen. “A couple of guys from Williams gave me an extinguisher, so I put the fire out on my own.” Although disappointed to retire, he was able to see the funny side of the incident after the race: “I told Tony (Fernandes, Lotus Racing’s team boss) and Mike (Gascoyne, technical chief) that they maybe need to pay me more as I’m now a fireman as well…”

(© Sutton Images)

Alonso jumps for joy after seeing off Vettel challenge, 2010

There are not many drivers who could sustain intense pressure from Sebastian Vettel for lap after lap, and even fewer that could do it in an arguably inferior machine, but that’s just what Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso did in the 2010 race at Singapore. The Spaniard made his feelings clear on the very first lap, chopping across the front of Vettel’s faster starting Red Bull to establish what would be a crucial lead. From then on, whilst he couldn’t shake the German off, Alonso controlled proceedings, remaining error-free for nearly two hours of racing in hot and humid conditions to claim his third win in five races and thrust himself into second in the championship standings. Rarely has the phrase ‘cool under pressure’ seemed so apt. No wonder he was so happy on the podium…

(© Sutton Images)

Hamilton and Massa tangle - again, 2011

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa collided no fewer than five times in the 2011 season, with the moment pictured here leading to the duo’s most heated post-race exchange. It occurred on lap 12 of the race at Marina Bay as Hamilton, trying to find a way past the fourth-placed Brazilian, clipped Massa’s right-rear tyre with his front wing endplate, puncturing it instantly. The Briton was handed a drive-through penalty for the incident, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy a furious Massa. “There’s no point in me hiding the disappointment and anger I feel at the end of a race that could have delivered a very different result,” he said after coming home ninth, four places behind his rival. “The damage following contact with Hamilton penalised me a lot because I lost so much time in the early stages when the traffic was still very heavy. After the race, I tried to talk to him to clear the air but he walked away without even answering, so I told him what I thought when we found ourselves in the interview area…” Two further collisions would follow before the season was out.

(© Sutton Images)

Schumacher runs into the back of Vergne, 2012

Michael Schumacher wasn’t a driver predisposed to making mistakes, but on lap 39 of the 2012 Singapore race he made a big one. The seven-time world champion (silver car, right of picture) was running close behind Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne when he inexplicably ran into the back of the Frenchman’s tenth-placed car (left of picture) under braking, taking both drivers spectacularly out of the race. As you can see from this picture, both cars suffered considerable damage and the safety car was instantly deployed whilst the debris was cleared. Schumacher immediately accepted blame for the unusual incident and apologised to Vergne, but that didn’t stop the stewards handing the Mercedes star a 10-place grid drop for the next race in Japan.

(© LAT Photographic)

Sparkling Vettel completes Singapore hat-trick, 2013

In recent times Sebastian Vettel has developed a knack for raising his game as the season swings into its latter stages, and over the last three years his charge has begun in Singapore. The four-time world champion was a victor at Marina Bay in 2011 and 2012, but his most dominant win at the demanding street circuit came in last year’s event. After claiming pole by 0.091s on Saturday, Vettel led every lap of Sunday’s race, setting the fastest lap along the way to complete his third career grand slam. So, how did the German explain such perfection? “When others are already sitting at the poolside we (Red Bull) are still in the paddock working meticulously on the smallest detail.” Ouch.

(© Sutton Images)

Webber hitches an expensive lift with Alonso, 2013

There are many famous examples of drivers hitching a lift back to the pits on other cars - think back to Ayrton Senna perching on the side of rival Nigel Mansell’s Williams at Silverstone, or Jean Alesi memorably celebrating his maiden F1 victory whilst clinging to the back of Michael Schumacher’s Benetton in Canada. But when Mark Webber took a ride on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari following last year’s race in Singapore, the duo found themselves in hot water. The problem, according to the stewards, was not the lift itself but the fact that the Red Bull driver, whose RB9 had expired on the final lap, had entered the track without the permission of the marshals. Alonso, meanwhile, was punished for ‘actions that could have been dangerous to other drivers or persons’ after the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were forced to swerve around his slowing car. Both Webber and Alonso were, unsurprisingly, handed reprimands.

(© Sutton Images)