Singapore: where the nights
are hot and red

Singapore: where the nights are hot and red 01

Singapore’s Formula 1 debut turned out to be a race that would get talked about for years afterwards. On Sunday 28 September 2008, the night sky above Asia’s answer to Monaco was lit up brilliantly for the first time (courtesy of a futuristic Italian illumination system) but the colour of the weekend looked set to be red. Ferrari red. Felipe Massa got underway from pole position alongside Lewis Hamilton, his rival for the world championship title. 

Yet it turned out to be a memorable weekend for another infamous reason, which took the race in a different and darker direction. The Renault pit wall issued an order to one of its two drivers, Nelson Piquet Jr, to deliberately hit the wall and cause the grand prix to be neutralised. The person who took the biggest advantage from the accident was conveniently his team mate Fernando Alonso, who had just made his pit stop and put himself well on course for victory. Nonetheless, the team would eventually pay a heavy price for its wrongdoing. As soon as the fraud came to light, the full weight of punishment came crashing down: team boss Flavio Briatore and technical chief Pat Symonds were summarily expelled from Formula 1.

Singapore: where the nights are hot and red 02

But the squad that felt the most pain in Singapore that year was actually Ferrari – and this was nothing to do with Renault’s antics at all. Massa duly took the lead of the grand prix, but an unlucky pit stop ruined his chances. Those images of his Ferrari making its way down the pitlane with the fuel hose still attached, wriggling like a snake and splashing petrol everywhere, will remain engraved in the memory. The missed win would have massive consequences for the championship, as at the end of the year Hamilton beat Massa by only one point.

Ferrari would win again in Singapore in 2010 with Alonso, who remained in contention for the championship right up to the final round in Abu Dhabi. Then there was yet another Singapore win for Ferrari in 2015, with Vettel leading the way. And there were high hopes in 2017 too after Vettel claimed pole position. Then there was an unfortunate clash after the lights went out that claimed both Ferraris, caught on the back foot after an exceptional start from Max Verstappen – who ended up also being involved in the subsequent accident.

Singapore: where the nights are hot and red 03

And so to today. The night race at Marina Bay will be one of great expectations for Ferrari, which enjoys a heady level of support in the Far East. The team comes to Singapore off the back of two consecutive wins in Belgium and Monza, courtesy of rising star Charles Leclerc. Yes, a third win in the space of four weeks won’t turn the tide of a championship that already practically belongs to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. But you have to go back to 2008 to find the last time Ferrari won three races on the trot: that year when Massa nearly won the title. A repeat of this achievement is an electrifying prospect for the long night of the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend.

Pirelli is ready, with the three softest compounds in the range: C3 as the White hard, C4 as the Yellow medium, and C5 as the Red soft. A trio of tyres that over the slippery streets of Singapore, with its succession of 90-degree corners and just one long straight close to the pits, has always delivered maximum performance.

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