Singapore Grand Prix is back, bigger than ever
There are races. And then there's Singapore. Every year the race goes off script, and delivers something extraordinary.
Last year was a blockbuster.
Lewis Hamilton called it “crazy”. Commentator Martin Brundle shouted himself hoarse inside ten seconds, shrieking “Carnage!” as the green light triggered a melee. The lead three cars drew parallel on the opening straight, and then converged. The two Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen put Max Verstappen's Red Bull into a sandwich. The trio melded together in an explosion of smoke, sparks, flying carbon and bouncing wheels. Behind them 17 cars surged through the debris as photographers hammered the shutter buttons. Poor Fernando Alonso got T-boned by a Verstappen's sliding wreck.
At one moment Vettel appeared to undertake Kevin Magnussen...going backwards.
Injuries, mercifully, were zero.
Some sports clashes get a reputation for drama.
In F1, Singapore is the race to brace for. The contest is ferocious. The story-telling unpredictable.
There's a good reason for it.
Marina Bay Street Circuit has 23 turns, more than any other circuit. The straights are fast, and the transitions push the drivers hard – there are 5,000 gear changes per race. The tight bends, and surges of G-forces pull the cars together in waves. There's no cruising in Singapore. It's constant racing.
Just listen to the drivers. Lewis Hamilton says, “The race is always a highlight of the season. A great city, which looks spectacular under the lights with the tricky street circuit below – my favourite kind of track to drive.”
Even the weather can play a part. Last year's race was the first wet race. The slip and slide suited championship leader Hamilton perfectly. He danced past the drama (and collisions) for a win to treasure.
“The rain was a miracle,” he declared after his win. “I had no idea it would be such a positive outcome.”
Sebastian Vettel has a personal romance with the circuit. He's won four times, including an '11, '12, '13 hat-trick. He's also been dinged up, overtaken by surprise, hit with 25-place penalties, and had his wheels ripped off. Two years ago he raced from last on the grid to finish 5th – just the sort of surge that can happen at Singapore. His view: “Even though it hasn't been on the calendar for decades, it still feels like a classic and it's a very nice race to come to. It means a lot to me.”
The night-race aesthetics set the mood. The action is amped up in glorious saturated colours. The circuit weaves through the city like a strand of gold draped on a cloth of blue. Each crackle of sparks and belch of flames are visible.
Look up, and the skyscrapers around the Marina Bay’s central business district loom high, like props from a sci-fi movie. Photographers journey to Singapore for portfolio cover-shots. It's the closest they'll get to a Blade Runner set made real.
Better still, listen to the fans. From petrol heads to first timers, the enthusiasm is extraordinary. The ratings on TripAdvisor are near perfect: “Everything you could ask for and more in F1! The night race adds a whole new dimension to F1 racing. F1 purists will love this race!” says just one of nearly 500 rave reviews. “Racing cars in the middle of the city. It doesn’t get any better than that. The race conjures up a festival-like atmosphere with music, food and people...lots of people. Once in a lifetime experience,” says another.
Where else can you sit close enough to smell the tire fumes, dine on world-class cuisine so varied you could stay for a month and not exhaust the menu, party not only with a myriad of roving performing acts around the circuit, but also to international entertainment acts? This year’s line-up features Jay Chou, The Killers, Liam Gallagher, Martin Garrix, Dua Lipa, Simply Red, The Sugarhill Gang, Joe Hahn of Linkin Park, End of the World (Sekai No Owari), Young Fathers, Sampa The Great, Björn Again and many more.
Singapore is three days of pure adrenaline rush, peaking with the rawest, most brutal racing in motorsport.
If there's one race to go to this year, make it Singapore.
The FORMULA 1 2018 SINGAPORE AIRLINES SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX will be held from 14th to 16th September. To find out more visit: www.singaporegp.sg
Editorial credit: Charles Orton-Jones, Raconteur / Singapore GP. First published on 24 April 2018.
Photos credit: Singapore GP