History is mentioned a lot in Formula 1. Teams have history. Drivers too. Tracks especially. It usually takes years of hard work, lifetimes of dedication and incredible luck to carve out a name in the history books, however in just nine races Singapore has arguably one of the most infamous records on the calendar.
It all started in 2008…
The Marina Bay Street Circuit is a twenty-three-turn, 3.14 mile street circuit. It’s held nine races, and three of the four total winners at the track will be competing this weekend (Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso).
It’s a tough track, both with the sheer number of turns and the bumpy surface usually used by road cars. The tropical climate leads to immense heat in the cockpit, with temperatures reaching 60 °C.
The first event to be held at the Marina Bay Street Circuit was the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, and that first race has become somewhat of a historic one. It was the first time a race had been held in Singapore since the 1970s, and also the first time a race had been held at night. Those are not why it’s in the history books. Why, then? Crashgate.
2008 – It all started with a poor qualifying for the then Renault F1 Formula 1 Team. Teammates Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet Jr. qualified in a lowly fifteenth and sixteenth, and had their work cut out in the race.
With fuel refills allowed in the 2008 season, Alonso started on a light fuel load and came in on lap twelve for more fuel – an odd tactic, as cars lower-down the grid tended to start on heavier fuel to run longer into the race.
Three laps after Alonso’s stop, Piquet Jr. crashed into the wall at a corner with no crane, meaning a lengthy safety car period would be needed so marshals could recover his car.
The rules then were that the pit lane was closed until the safety car had collected all cars – meaning that anyone else who wanted to stop for more fuel would have to wait until the cars were bunched up, losing them more time.
Cars were collected, Piquet Jr.’s car was removed and the race re-started.
The remaining laps Fernando Alonso use the mistake of his teammate to come from behind and take the win. No penalties were handed out, and the circus moved on.
2009 – With fortunes favouring Alonso in the 2009 season, Piquet Jr. was dropped at the tenth race having scored no points. Following his unceremonious dumping part-way through a season, Piquet Jr. made a shocking revelation – he was told to crash in Singapore.
The claim of race fixing was not taken lightly. Less than three weeks was all it took for Renault admit race fixing, and that Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds had left the team.
Nonetheless, Renault were handed a suspended two-year ban from Formula 1, whilst Symonds received a five-year ban and Briatore a lifetime ban. Whilst Briatore’s and Symonds’ bans were overturned, Briatore and Piquet Jr. never worked in Formula 1 again, whilst Symonds (eventually) moved into the Williams Martini Racing team.
Whilst some careers were ended swiftly, Alonso was able to escape unscathed – the only one to do so. He’s taken points at all but one of the subsequent races. Can he do it again this year?
Fresh from their dominant 1-2 at Monza, Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team have a sixty-two point lead in the Constructors’ Championship, whilst driver Lewis Hamilton took the lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time this season. Singapore isn’t a strong track for them though, and they’ve already said it will be “damage limitation”.
Scuderia Ferrari are second in the Constructors’, with one driver head and shoulders above the other. Sebastian Vettel has a nearly 100 point lead over teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who’s so far made the podium four times this season. Conversely, Vettel has only missed the podium three times. At a track that Vettel has the most wins on, could we see him re-take the lead of the Drivers’ Championship and extend the gap to his teammate further?
Red Bull Racing are in a solid third in the title hunt, with drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen sitting in fourth and sixth in the Drivers’ Championship. Red Bull are tied with Ferrari for most wins at the Marina Bay Circuit – could we see them take the lead this weekend?
Sahara Force India F1 Team are in fourth, with dueling teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in seventh and eighth. Perez has never failed to score points at the Singapore Grand Prix, and Ocon has only raced here once. Will we see sparks fly once more?
Williams Martini Racing edged their gap to Scuderia Toro Rosso to just fifteen points last time out at Monza. This could be crucial in the title standings, as neither team seems to have what it takes to reach Force India. Expect something interesting from both teams on Sunday.
Haas F1 Team are clinging onto seventh in the Constructors’ by just one point over Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. With Haas on thirty five points and Renault on thirty four, there’s never been a more important time for Renault’s Jolyon Palmer to take his first points of the season.
McLaren Honda Formula 1 Team had a poor showing in Monza, with both cars failing to finish. They’re remaining upbeat though, and are hopeful that their car might suit the Marina Bay Street Circuit. They’re ninth in the Constructors’, with drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne in fifteenth and eighteenth respectively.
Sauber F1 Team are the final team in the standings, sitting tenth with just five points. They’ll be hoping that street circuits are their thing, having scored points in Baku earlier this season.
Why should you watch it?
In just nine years, the Marina Bay Street Circuit has seen international controversy, first-lap crashes and a lizard on the track. With Ferrari determined to mount a fight against Mercedes and warring teammates in Force India, it’s definitely one you won’t want to miss.