The Singapore Grand Prix is one of the newest additions to the Formula 1 calendar, but it certainly stands out from the rest.
The circuit’s main unique selling point is its style, a tight street track which punishes those who make a mistake. The event itself is also different, with the start time for the lights out being at night. The race is the sole night race on the calendar, with the Singapore streets being lined with artificial lighting. The races may be a bit processional, but we have seen a few exciting moments and stunning drives. The 2012 season now moves east, to Asia where Singapore is followed by Japan, Korea and India. Stay tuned at the formula1blog for more previews.
Here I count down my top 5 Singapore GP moments, previewing the next race weekend on the F1 2012 calendar.
1) Opening race controversy
The first Singapore Grand Prix was covered in controversy; however the incident in question took a year to come out. Fernando Alonso clinched his first win of the 2008 season for Renault, after benefiting from an early safety car thanks to his team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr crashing. Fernando took over the lead from Jarno Trulli and pulled out an impressive lead, emerging from his second stop well clear of the chasing pack. However, a year later a slightly bitter Nelson Piquet Jnr revealed he had been told to crash, allowing Alonso to benefit from the safety car. Crashes like that rarely ever happen on purpose in F1, but this one did. After an early stop, Alonso re-joined just a few laps before the safety car came out. Effectively Renault’s strategy to win was to eliminate one of their own cars. The team did not contest the charges given, with both Pay Symonds and Flavio Briatore leaving the team immediately.
2) Hamilton vs. Webber
2010 was not Lewis Hamilton’s year, after getting caught up in a number of incidents. After winning the event at the previous attempt, Hamilton was confident for the 2010 weekend. He had qualified third on the grid, but lost positions at the start. He negotiated both safety car periods and had moved up to 4th place. The restart brought a close field, and with fresher rubber Hamilton took the outside line for turn 7. He got the slipstream off Webber’s car and pulled out to attempt a brave move around the outside. It looked like he had cleared the Aussie, but as they turned in to take the 90 degree turn they touched. Hamilton’s rear wheel hit the Red Bull driver’s front, breaking his rear suspension. Hamilton pulled onto the run off area and retired, for the 2nd time in as many races. Weber just managed to finish on the podium, his RB8’s front tyre was in danger of deflating. It did, but while the car was sitting in parc ferme.
3) Kobayashi attempts to fly
The “Singapore Sling” is an odd corner complex, consisting of 3 kerbs. Despite the kerbs being lowered for the 2009 race, drivers still fly across them with quite a lot of force. The height was the main problem, with drivers being concerned that they could get launched into the barrier. Someone who is known for their attacking nature is Kamui Kobayashi. He got away with it in Free Practice for the 2011 race, after getting airborne at the controversial corner. He managed to continue, but he went a step too far in Qualifying. After progressing through to the second session, and in an attempt to progress further, Kobayashi launched himself across the kerbing. He momentarily went airborne, in a similar way to his earlier incident, but this time his Sauber C30 found the wall, bringing out a red flag.
4) Vettel takes lights-to-flag victory
2011 saw Sebastian Vettel dominate in the Red Bull, but the title was not yet won by the time the Singapore GP ended. Just. On a weekend were Vettel dominated, he eliminated 3 drivers from the title contention, leaving just Jenson Button left. The race itself was easy for Vettel, with the only drama coming from a late surge by Button. We also witnessed a stunning overtake around the tight street circuit by his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber. The move showed immense commitment and trust, as he out braked Fernando Alonso bravely going into the formidable Singapore Sling. It is a tricky place to pass, making the move even sweeter. Commentator Martin Brundle dubbed it “opportunistic”. Webber also praised the move, describing it as “spectacular”. You don’t see many overtakes around the streets of Singapore, so it was a welcome pinch of drama.
5) Hamilton takes controlled win
The 2009 Singapore Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton win the race, where he was relatively unchallenged. Some criticised his driving in 2009, but Lewis really showed his maturity and control to keep his car out of the barriers. He qualified his McLaren on pole position, with a clear margin of 4 tenths. Off the grid, the Brit got a clean start and pulled away from the chasing pack. He negotiated a safety car, where his lead was slashed, and kept his car out of the barriers. Pure dominance would be a phrase to use, with the start and restart being the closet anyone came to challenging him. Unlike 2008, there were no controversies over the win. He had won fair and square. 2009 was a tough year for Lewis, after a rough start. However he soon found his form and won 2 races during the season.
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