Crashgate controversy leaves a shadow over the first ever night race
In 2008, Singapore joined the F1 calendar and held the first race under lights in the long history of Formula One. However, its debut event will always be remembered for the wrong reasons.
Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who looked tremendously quick in the free practice, broke down at the start of Q2 thanks to a fuel feed problem. It left him 15th on the grid and any chance of a podium seemed to be gone. Yet, the next day there would be dirty tactics played.
Alonso pitted on lap 12 for his opening stop and was topped up with a lot of fuel for a long middle stint. Two laps later, Nelson Piquet, under instructions from Briatore and Pat Symonds, crashed out of the race on purpose. It brought out the Safety Car.
Chaos ensued in the pits. Felipe Massa was given the green light to go, but it was too early. He brought the refuelling rig with him and ended up at the back of the field. Alonso’s stop before the plan came into action left him at the head of the pack.
The Spaniard would go on to win the race ahead of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton – but this race will go down as one of the darkest moments in the history of F1.
Nelson Piquet told the FIA in 2009 that he was ordered to crash his car. This all came to light following the Brazilian’s sacking from Renault. Flavio Briatore was given an indefinite ban from the sport. Pat Symonds received a five-year ban for his part in it. Renault copped a two-year suspended ban.
Last year’s event produces carnage at the start
There was a heavy rain shower just before the Grand Prix last year and it would prove to be critical when the five lights went out.
Pole sitter Sebastian Vettel didn’t get away well and tried to cover Verstappen. As he was doing that, Kimi Raikkonen was coming up alongside the Dutchman on the inside after making a stunning start. Max ended up squeezed between the Ferraris and made contact with Raikkonen. Raikkonen’s car went into the side of Vettel’s and it was game over for all three of them within a matter of seconds.
Alonso became an innocent victim when Kimi’s broken car hit Verstappen for the second time and the McLaren was sent airborne at turn one. The Spaniard retired due to the damage the car suffered a few laps later.
On a weekend where Vettel should have taken points out of Hamilton, the Brit inherited the lead from those collisions and eased to the win and championship after a terrible night under the lights for the Italian squad.
Alonso and Vettel’s great head-to-head
It isn’t talked about much, but these two giants of 21st century F1 had a superb duel at the 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.
In qualifying, there was nothing to separate them. Alonso secured pole by 0.067s after trading fastest times with his German rival throughout the three segments of it.
On race day, they were in another league compared to the rest of the grid. Over the course of the 61 laps, they traded the fastest lap and there was never more than 2 to 3s covering them. Ultimately, Alonso held track position and won by a margin of +0.293 over Vettel. Despite seeing no overtaking, it was a classic contest between two special talents.
Singapore GP stats
Previous winners: Sebastian Vettel (4), Lewis Hamilton (3), Fernando Alonso (2), Nico Rosberg (1); Red Bull, Mercedes (3); Ferrari, McLaren (2); Renault (1)
Most poles: Sebastian Vettel (4); Lewis Hamilton (3)
Most podiums: Sebastian Vettel (6); Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso (5)
Who will win the eleventh edition of the Singapore Grand Prix? We’ll find out on Sunday.