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Iconic moments in the 14 years of F1’s Singapore Grand Prix

Singapore hosted F1’s first ever night race in 2008 when the venue arrived on the calendar and since then, it has been a mainstay, only missing two seasons during the pandemic.  

Carlos Sainz, Ferrari SF-23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, the rest of the field at the start

Photo by: Lionel Ng / Motorsport Images

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The narrow barriers around the city-centre circuit, coupled with extreme climate that pushes the drivers to the limit of exhaustion, make it one of the toughest races of all and there has been plenty of action under lights over the years. 

As F1 prepares to return for this year’s race, here is a rundown of the biggest moments of the last 14 years and where they happened. 

Start line: Hulkenberg in a spin 

There was drama on the start line in 2016 when Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India ended up in the pit wall having been squeezed by two Toro Rossos. The German driver’s car snapped left and only narrowly avoided being hit by Max Verstappen before ending up sliding backwards as the rest of the field flew past. 
 
Six years before, in 2010, Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus had burst into flames on the straight after a fuel valve broke. The Finn had to grab a fire extinguisher from the pits to put it out while the rest of the field continued to race and after the incident, he quipped: “Maybe they need to pay me more as I’m now a fireman as well!” 

Turn 1: A first corner collision 

There was a frightening moment for Max Verstappen in 2017 when he found himself in a Ferrari sandwich heading into the first corner. He and pole sitter Sebastian Vettel had got a slow get-away on a damp track and Kimi Raikkonen shot out from behind to make a move. However, three-into-one simply did not go and when Verstappen was squeezed into Vettel, he speared into Raikkonen who then collided with Verstappen and took Fernando Alonso’s McLaren out with him. 

Turn 3: Hamilton halted 

It was here in 2012 when Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren ground to a halt, putting him out of the race after he had built a dominant lead. At a time when the Briton was considering a move to Mercedes, that broken gearbox on lap 23 not only lost him vital ground in the championship battle, it also potentially influenced a decision that defined his career.

The Singapore Sling  

This section of the track, which was reconfigured in 2013 from a chicane to a single apex left-hander, saw a lot of drama. The high kerbs that were once in place often launched cars into the air and it caught out many drivers including Giancarlo Fisichella, Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi. Hamilton once called it the ‘worst corner he has ever driven in F1’. 

Turn 7: Webber catches a lift 

It was here in 2013 that Mark Webber hitched a lift with Fernando Alonso, having ground to a halt on the final lap in his Red Bull. The Australian left his stricken car and jumped onboard the sidepod of the Ferrari – only to later be handed a 10-place grid penalty for illegally entering the race track, with Alonso also penalised for picking him up. 

Michael Schumacher ended his race here two years earlier, in 2011, after a battle with Force India driver Sergio Perez. Schumacher, in the Mercedes, got a better run out of the preceding corner but failed to pull across enough and his front left wheel went over his rival’s rear right, sending his car flying into the air and straight on into the barriers. 

Turn 13: Webber’s gearbox failure 

Mark Webber’s Red Bull retired from the 2008 race at Turn 13 due to a gearbox failure. Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner claimed that the failure was caused by a sudden electrical surge, which could have been due to the underground train system running beneath. However, a spokesperson for the public transport provider set the record straight that there was no underground train track directly underneath. In addition, they said: “train wheels and running rails are made of metal and therefore do not generate static electricity charges during train operations.”     

Turn 14: Schumacher goes flying 

Michael Schumacher experienced an embarrassing exit here in 2012 when he rear-ended the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne. Carbon fibre went flying as the two cars went straight onto the escape road and the drivers were lucky to escape unscathed. The former champion apologised immediately and said afterwards that he was “not totally sure why it happened” as he complained of reduced braking power on his Mercedes. 

Turns 16, 17, 18, 19 

This group of corners was re-aligned in 2023 into a 397.9m long straight, due to the redevelopment of The Float @ Marina Bay into a community and events venue. This change brought the total number of turns at the Marina Bay Street Circuit to 19. The change was welcomed by the drivers, including George Russell, who said that it made the final sector and the lap as a whole “much more flowing.” He added: “it definitely improves the experience behind-the-wheel and should help create better racing.” 

Final corner: Stroll’s lucky escape 

Last year, Lance Stroll missed the race after he crashed heavily at this corner during the first part of qualifying. The Canadian lost control at high speed and went straight into the barriers, destroying much of his Aston Martin but, thanks to the incredible safety levels of F1, he was able to walk away. Unfortunately, the car was too damaged to repair in time and Stroll was too sore to race and sat it out to recover so he will be keen to get back on track here and make amends this year. 

Pit lane: Massa’s fuel hose failure 

In that debut race, there was also drama here when Felipe Massa was released from his box too early after a stop for refuelling and drove off with the fuel hose still attached to his Ferrari, with mechanics running after him to release it at the end of the pit lane. Many years later, in 2022, there was a fire in the pits when Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri caught light. 

Special moments: Hamilton’s pole, Vettel’s victories and some very special helmets 

On top of the corner-by-corner action, there have been some very special laps and races down the years. The drivers have also always gone the extra mile to make racing at night extra special for the fans. 

There were few more spectacular qualifying moments than Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap in 2018, which was described by Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff as “the most epic lap I have ever seen from him.”  

And in the races, Sebastian Vettel has two very happy memories – the first when in the dominant RB9 he crushed the opposition to finish more than half a minute ahead of his nearest challenger and the second in 2019, when he sliced through the field after an early pit stop to secure what would be his final Grand Prix win.

There would be a whole other article about the lengths F1 drivers go to make the Singapore race so special. Who will ever forget Vettel’s light-up helmet in 2012? The special lid contained a number of small white battery-powered LEDs in the top and as night fell, these flash for the entire race. They have never appeared since, however – because the use of lights and batteries on helmets was banned from the next race onwards! 

There were some more special lids on show in 2022, when Lando Norris sported a Halo-inspired ‘Master Chief’ helmet while Alex Albon wore one based on a drawing created by children at the Wat Sakraeo orphanage. Leclerc brought back the sparkle that year too, not with flashing lights but instead with a golden lid covered in glitter that reflected the bright track spotlights. 

Watch the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix 2024 live this 20 to 22 September, where nothing else comes close. Book now at www.singaporegp.sg.

The F1 FORMULA 1 logo, F1 logo, FORMULA 1, F1, FIA FORMULA ONE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX and related marks are trademarks of Formula One Licensing BV, a Formula 1 company. All rights reserved.

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