F1 Singapore Grand Prix: 5 of the most memorable moments

Sebastian Vettel kisses the F1 Singapore Grand Prix trophy as he celebrates after winning the 2019 race.
Sebastian Vettel kisses the F1 Singapore Grand Prix trophy as he celebrates after winning the 2019 race. (PHOTO: Reuters/Feline Lim)

SINGAPORE — With 12 races in the bag since the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix began in 2008, the event has amassed its fair share of drama in its history. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights:

Crashgate (2008)

One of the biggest cheating scandals in F1 history happened in the very first race on the Marina Bay street circuit.

Renault's Nelson Piquet Jr had crashed into a the circuit wall in front of The Float@Marina Bay, resulting in the deployment of the safety car while the debris was cleared. His teammate Fernando Alonso, who had already made a pit stop, was able to take the lead while other drivers pitted, and eventually won the inaugural race.

No one suspected any foul play at first, but Piquet revealed in 2009 that he had been ordered to crash by Renault's managing director Flavio Briatore and executive director of engineering Pat Symonds, so that Alonso could gain an advantage.

As a result, Briatore was initially given a lifetime ban from F1, while Symonds received a five-year ban. Those bans were eventually reduced. Alonso, meanwhile, was absolved of wrongdoing as he said he was in the dark over the incident.

No pole position, no problem (2019)

From the biggest scandal to arguably the finest race victory, as Sebastian Vettel proved that he is the king of Marina Bay by clinching his fifth title with a masterful drive in 2019.

Starting from third position, the German timed his first pit stop to perfection, ahead of teammate and pole-sitter Charles Leclerc, enabling him to take the net lead when the Monaco driver made his pit stop.

Despite a spirited attempt by Leclerc to catch his teammate, Vettel was able to weather all challengers and emerged as winner again. For a Grand Prix which is usually won by drivers in pole position, Vettel's superb victory proved his technical mastery on the circuit and gave hope to drivers of similar come-from-behind heroics.

Massive crash chaos at the start (2017)

The Singapore GP has seen its fair share of spectacular crashes, but probably the biggest crash of them all came in 2017, right at the start of the race.

With the narrow circuit offering very few overtaking opportunities, the race start offered the best chance for drivers to steal an advantage on their rivals.

That was probably what Vettel had in mind, as the Ferrari driver swerved aggressively towards his left when the lights went off, sandwiching Red Bull's Max Verstappen between him and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, resulting in a wipeout of the front row barely 10 seconds into the race.

It would prove a costly mistake, as Vettel's rival Lewis Hamilton was able to seize the lead amid the chaos and win the race, extending his lead atop the overall table and eventually winning that season.

Pit stop tragi-comedy (2008)

Here's another costly error that resulted in comical scenes at the pit lane. Ferrari's Felipe Massa had taken pole position in the inaugural 2008 race, and had come into the pit lanes for a routine stop.

What happened next was anything but routine. Massa was given the signal to move off too early, and he sped off with the fuel hose still attached to his race car. The Brazilian went the full length of the pit lane before the frantic Ferrari team radioed him to stop.

It was a surreal scene as the red-faced Ferrari crew ran towards Massa's car, removed the fuel hose and carried it back to the amusement of the rival teams. To add salt to the wound, the slip-up cost Massa the race and the eventual overall title as he lost to Hamilton by a single point.

Intruders on the track (2015, 2016)

With the high-velocity F1 race cars hurtling around the circuit, it is highly dangerous for anyone to go onto the track while the race is still happening.

Yet, British tourist Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia inexplicably eluded race marshals to climb onto the track midway through the 2015 race. jogging across the street as cars were racing past him at speeds approaching 270kmh. He claimed later that he wanted to take a video of the incoming race cars.

For his rash act, Dhokia was sentenced to six weeks' jail.

Dhokia was not the only intruder on the Marina Bay circuit - although he was the only human being. In the 2016 race, a large monitor lizard wandered onto the circuit during the final practice session.

Not surprisingly, it garnered plenty of amusing tweets on Twitter. It also resulted in this hilarious radio conversation between Verstappen and his Red Bull crew: "There's a giant lizard on the track," the driver exclaimed before his crew told him, "You came face to face with Godzilla."

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