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WATCH: Piquet’s crash and 9 other Singapore surprises

12 Sep 2016

Singapore only joined the calendar in 2008, but F1’s original night race has already played host to a number of unforgettable moments…

Piquet crash helps Alonso to victory, 2008

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The very first race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 2008 will ultimately be remembered for what was arguably the most controversial crash in F1 history. At the time it simply looked like Nelson Piquet Jr had had an unusual accident in an unusual place, but almost a year later the full truth was revealed: the Brazilian had crashed deliberately. Why? In order to help Renault team mate Fernando Alonso who, unaware of the plan and having started 15th, was able to use the timely safety-car intervention to jump up the order and set himself on course for an unlikely victory. Renault subsequently admitted to conspiring to cause a deliberate crash and team chiefs were handed lengthy bans.

 

Grosjean spins at ‘Piquet corner’, 2009

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You simply couldn’t make it up. Romain Grosjean, competing in his first Singapore Grand Prix for Renault since replacing the sacked Nelson Piquet Jr, goes out in FP1 and noses his car into the wall at exactly the same corner where Piquet had controversially pranged his 12 months earlier. At least this time the accident was just that - an accident…

 
Kubica storms back from puncture, 2010 

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In his short but memorable stint in F1, Robert Kubica was known as one of the hardest charging drivers on the grid - and the 2010 race in Singapore was a perfect example of why. The Pole had been challenging Rubens Barrichello for sixth before picking up a puncture 15 laps from the flag, forcing him into the pits and relegating him back to P13. But over the remaining laps the relentless Renault driver would use his fresh rubber to the full, passing six cars in a breathless surge back to seventh. And they say overtaking is difficult in Singapore…

 

Verstappen recovers brilliantly from nightmare start, 2015

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Two minutes into last year’s race at Marina Bay and Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen found himself a lap down on the rest of the field in last place. But after a timely safety-car intervention allowed him to regain the lead lap, some typically bullish overtaking and a forceful (if understandable) refusal to follow team orders, the Dutch teenager recovered to finish a brilliant eighth. “After stalling at the start I thought it was over,” he said. “But I just kept on pushing…”

 

Kovalainen puts his firefighting skills to the test, 2010 

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In the 2010 race in Singapore, it wasn’t so much Heikki Kovalainen’s driving skills that stood out as his handiness with a fire extinguisher. The race-winning Finn took firefighting matters into his own hands after his Lotus erupted into a ball of flames following an innocuous incident in which his car’s fuel tank pressure release valve was cracked. “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.” Now that’s what we call quick thinking in a crisis!

 

Pit-lane problems derail Massa and Coulthard, 2008

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According to Felipe Massa, the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix was the weekend in which he lost the world title to McLaren's Lewis Hamilton - and not the nerve-jangling season finale in Brazil just over a month later. The Brazilian, who went on to lose the drivers’ crown to Hamilton by just one point, led in the early stages of the race before a disastrous pit stop in which he was given an erroneous signal to leave his pit box whilst the fuel hose was still attached. Remarkably, as if one dramatic fuel hose incident wasn’t enough, Red Bull's David Coulthard suffered a similar mix-up at his pit stop, though it was Massa who would suffer the most. His race ruined, the Ferrari driver trailed home in 13th - ten places behind title rival Hamilton, who extended his championship lead to seven points.

 
Webber tangle dents Hamilton’s title hopes, 2010

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When Lewis Hamilton spotted an opportunity to overtake title rival (and erstwhile championship leader) Mark Webber for third immediately after a safety-car period in the 2010 race, he leapt at the opportunity. Sadly for the McLaren man, his move on the Red Bull would backfire. “I’m still not exactly sure what happened,” Hamilton said. “I saw that he’d made a mistake, and had got caught up with the backmarkers, so I was in position to slipstream him. I was on the outside going into Turn 7, and he was in my blind-spot, just behind me. I braked, turned in, and tried to leave enough room for him on the inside - and the next thing I knew I’d got clipped, my tyre was blown and that was it…”

 

Perez leaves it late, 2014

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After qualifying down in 15th and then smashing his front wing in a mid-race clash with Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, the prospects of Sergio Perez scoring points in the 2014 race at Marina Bay looked extremely bleak. But then Force India decided to role the dice and bring the Mexican in for a fourth pitstop with 16 laps to run. "At the time it looked quite outrageous,” said the team’s deputy team principal Bob Fernley. “It was a gamble and it could have gone the other way." As it was Perez carved his way up the order from P15 to P7 as those around him - including Kimi Raikonen and Valtteri Bottas, both of whom the Mexican passed on a dramatic final lap - struggled to keep their tyres alive. "The race really had everything for me,” said Perez. And he was right.  

 
On-track clash sparks off-track confrontation between Hamilton and Massa, 2011

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On numerous occasions in 2011 Ferrari's Felipe Massa and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton found themselves disputing the same piece of asphalt - and more often than not it resulted in contact. The 2008 title rivals collided no fewer than five times during the year, with this incident in Singapore - which saw the Brazilian pick up a race-ruining puncture and Hamilton earn a drive-through penalty - prompting an angry Massa to interrupt Hamilton during a post-race TV interview with a slap on the arm and a sarcastic “good job” jibe. “After the race I tried to talk to him to clear the air but he walked away without even answering,” Massa explained. “So I told him what I thought when we found ourselves in the interview area…”

 

Alonso sees of Vettel challenge, 2010

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From his chop across the bows of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull at the start of the race it was abundantly clear that Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was determined not to give his title rival even a sniff at victory. 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. The very definition of cool under pressure…