Fernando Alonso is the most successful driver at the Singapore Grand Prix with two wins from the four events held so far, in 2008 and 2010. Lewis Hamilton won the 2009 edition and Sebastian Vettel won last year’s race.
Prior to the inaugural edition of the Formula One race here in 2008, a Singapore Grand Prix had been run regularly from 1966-1973. The race was a Formula Libre event in which drivers raced a variety of car types. The winner of the final event in 1973 was Australian driver Vern Schuppan, who also racked up 14 F1 races during his career. He made his Formula One race weekend debut in Belgium in 1972, but did not start, as his car was raced instead by none other than Dr Helmut Marko, now an asdvisor to the Red Bull Racing team. Schuppan’s first start came two years later at the 1974 Belgian GP and his final race was at the Dutch Grand Prix of 1977. He later moved on to a career in sports cars and became Australia’s first Le Mans winner, racing for Porsche in 1983. Two years earlier he finished third in the Indianapolis 500 in a self-prepared car featuring a McLaren chassis, a Cosworth engine and a team of what he later described as “weekend warrior” mechanics and engineers!
Schuppan’s Indy 500 moment
The 2008 Singapore GP was a memorable one for David Coulthard. His seventh place for Red Bull Racing netted him the final points of his F1 career. DC bowed out of F1 following that season’s final event in Brazil.
Nick Heidfeld returned to racing here in 2010, having lost his F1 drive at the end of 2009 following the withdrawal of BMW from the sport. Nick spent the first part of 2010 as Mercedes test driver, then had a brief stint as Pirelli test driver. However, at the Singapore GP he was drafted in by Sauber to replace Pedro de la Rosa for the final five races of the season, thus rejoining a team he had raced for from 2001-2003, and, as BMW-Sauber, from 2006 until 2009. In Singapore, though, he retired following a collision with Force India’s Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Since the inaugural Singapore GP in 2008, Sebastian Vettel has finished in positions, five, four, two and one. It’ll be out of sequence but he just needs third this year to complete the set. That should be possible if he can maintain his qualifying form here. Seb’s only qualified off the front row once, in 2008. Otherwise, he’s registered second-place starts in 2009/10 and he was on pole last year. He’s set the wheels in motion already, running quickest in FP1 and FP2 so far this year.
Sebastian wins last year
The race has been won from pole three times in its short four-race history. Fernando Alonso’s win from 15th on the grid in the 2008 race is the exception, though that win of course was brought about by Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet Jnr aiming his car at the wall in Turn 17 midway through the 14th lap of the race. The ensuing safety car period boosted Alonso up the order and he drove on to his 20th career win. Piquet was sacked by Renault after the Hungarian GP of the following season and accused the team of plotting his Singapore crash. Team boss Flavio Briatore and tech chief Pat Symonds were later banned from the sport for their actions.
Fernando’s 15-place improvement isn’t the biggest number of places gained during a Singapore Grand Prix, however. In 2010, Felipe Massa suffered a gearbox problem in the first part of qualifying and failed to set a time. He started 24th on grid but by the chequered flag had climbed 16 places to eighth and thus bagged four points. Other big race movers over the years include David Coulthard, who in 2008 went from 14th on the grid to seventh in the race, Nico Rosberg, who started eighth here in 2008 but climbed six places in the race to claim the second podium finish of his career, and Jenson Button, who made a similar gain from 11th on the grid in his championship year of 2009.
Massa also holds the record for the biggest drop in places. Piquet’s deliberate crash in 2008 led to pole winner Massa eventually losing the lead of the race, though it might have more to do with Felipe deciding to take most of his fuel rig with him onto the track when he left the pits after his stop during that safety car period. After starting first he finished 13th.
Mark Webber has finished on the podium every time he’s finished the race here. OK, so there have only been four races but in his first two outings Mark failed to finish, a gearbox issue dumping him out in 2008 and brakes problems forced him to retire in 2009. In 2010 though he started fifth and finished third and last year started second and finished one place back.
Romain Grosjean, returning to action this weekend after his one-race ban, started his fourth F1 GP here in 2009. He had replaced Nelson Piquet junior at Renault following the Hungarian GP. Here in Singapore though his first act was lose control of his car in FP1 and dump his Renault into the wall at exactly the same place the disgraced Piquet had the year before!
Heikki Kovalainen briefly earned himself the nickname ‘The Fireman’ I the wake of the 2010 race. Racing for the new Lotus team (now Caterham), the Finn collided with Toro Rosso’s Sébastien Buemi two laps from the chequered flag. The accident caused Kovalainen’s car to burst into flame and wisely opting not to cause further problems by driving the blazing Lotus into pitlane stopped on the start-finish straight. He them calmly fetched a fire extinguisher and put the flames out himself.
The 2010 race, with Heikki’s fire
Former Red Bull Racing driver Christian Klien made his racing comeback after a four-year gap in the 2010 race here. Klien finished his time at Red Bull Racing at the 2006 Italian Grand Prix, after which he was replaced for the final races of that season by Robert Doornbos. Klien then had a brief stint as a Honda test driver before going to race sportscars. However, he came back to F1 in 2010 in a test driver’s role for HRT at the Spanish and European Grands Prix and then replaced Sakon Yamamoto for the race in Singapore when the Japanese driver reportedly contracted food poisoning. Klien retired from the race after 31 laps with a hydraulic problem. It was his last race to date.