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The Light Fantastic: Top 5 Singapore Grand Prix Moments

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 9:32am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 July, 2018, 9:32am

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Watching Formula 1 cars being taken to the limit under a blaze of lights around Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit is an experience not to be missed.

Since the inaugural night race in 2008, the Singapore Grand Prix has produced drama, excitement and spectacle and an amazing weekend for visitors from waround the world.

As the sun sets, the intensity rises, and every Singapore Grand Prix has provided unforgettable moments. Here are just five from the first amazing decade of racing under the lights.

2008: Felipe gets hosed

Felipe Massa looked unbeatable in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix after producing one of the all-time great qualifying laps to take pole position. The Brazilian hustled his Ferrari between the walls to posted a time an amazing 0.664sec quicker McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton on Formula 1’s first visit to the Marina Bay Street Circuit.

All went well in the race until Massa pulled into the pits at the end of lap 17 having led the early stages. He was released from his stop before refueling was completed, meaning he took the hose with him.

Eventually, he parked at the end of the pitlane as bemused rivals drove past and spotted the long silver tube hanging off the car. Moments later, mechanics from the Ferrari team arrived and removed the hose, sending Massa back out. But even under the safety car, the time lost meant he finished only 13th, despite being the fastest man under the Singapore lights that weekend.

2010: The closest finish

Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari was a little slow off the last corner on the penultimate lap of the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix, allowing Sebastian Vettel to tuck his Red Bull under the leader’s rear wing. For the next 23 intense turns, he stayed there, searching desperately for a way past. 

Alonso held his nerve and position, and crossed the line just 0.293sec ahead of Vettel, making it not only the closest Singapore Grand Prix finish, but one of the top 20 closest F1 races of all time.

Alonso’s trademark precision ensured he never gave Vettel the tiny opportunity he was looking for, even though the Red Bull driver had the edge on speed.

“He didn’t make a mistake,” said Vettel. “It would have been too risky to try for a gap that wasn’t really there.”

Even so, the result was in doubt to the checkered flag, with the pair flashing across the line almost as one after an epic duel.

2012: Hamilton’s heartbreak 

When Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren gearbox failed while leading on lap 23 of the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix, more than just the race result was on the line. The record books show Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, then running second, went on to win on his way to the world championship, but the impact of Hamilton retirement is still felt today.

That weekend, Hamilton’s discussions with Mercedes about a possible move had become very serious. The gearbox failure, a reminder of just how many times that year problems outside of his control had cost him, gave Hamilton the final nudge he needed to commit to leaving a team that had nurtured him for so long.

The rest is history. As Hamilton pulled into the runoff area to retire, it set him on a path to another three world championships and countless victories with the Silver Arrows. Mercedes announced it had signed Hamilton just five days later.

2013: Webber hitches a ride

Mark Webber never had the best of luck in the Singapore Grand Prix, but at least after his engine failed on the last lap of the 2013 race he found a quick way back to the paddock. Fernando Alonso, who’d finished second to Webber’s Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel, stopped his Ferrari at Turn 7 on the slowdown lap to let his Australian mate climb on.

Webber climbed aboard the Ferrari, his right leg in the cockpit as he balanced on the sidepod while Alonso cruised back to the pits. It created one of the Singapore Grand Prix’s iconic images, as one rival driver showed his respect for another. Sportsmanship at its finest. 

2017: The start-line squeeze

The Singapore Grand Prix always produces one of the most spectacular starts of the season, but things went a little crazy in 2017 as four of the biggest names in Formula 1 collided.

Ferrari duo Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, as well as Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, were all caught up in a crash triggered on the run to the first corner. Vettel, starting on pole, had a slow launch in damp conditions and moved to his left. There, Raikkonen had made a great start from the second row and was squeezing between the pitwall and Verstappen. Three into two didn’t go and the trio made contact, with the damaged Verstappen unable to avoid torpedoing Alonso at the first corner. 

Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, jumped from sixth place to lead after Vettel spun his limping car on the next straight. The Mercedes ace went on to the victory – a decisive moment in him winning the 2017 world championship. 

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Editorial credit: RACER Magazine / Singapore GP. First published on 21 June 2018. 

Photos credit: Singapore GP