FORMULA ONE AND SOCCER IN SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX

The Singapore Grand Prix is a motor race on the calendar of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The event takes place in Singapore on the Marina Bay Street Circuit and was the inaugural F1 night race and the first street circuit in Asia. Spaniard Fernando Alonso won the first edition of the grand prix, driving for the Renault F1 team. The Singapore Grand Prix will remain on the F1 calendar through at least 2017, after race organizers signed a contract extension with Formula One Management on the eve of the 2012 event. [Source: Wikipedia +]

First organised in 1961, the race was initially known as the Orient Year Grand Prix. The following year, the race was renamed the Malaysian Grand Prix. After Singapore attained its independence in 1965, the race at the Thomson Road circuit was renamed to the Singapore Grand Prix. The event was discontinued after 1973 and a variety of reasons have been suggested, including an increase in traffic, the inconvenience of having to close roads for the event and fatal accidents during the 1972 and 1973 races. It is also thought that a surge of oil prices stemming from the Suez Crisis might have been to blame (although the 1973 oil crisis would probably be a more plausible reason than the 1956 Suez Crisis). +

An agreement for a five-year deal was signed by Singapore GP Pte Ltd, the Singapore Tourism Board and Bernie Ecclestone. In November 2007 it was announced that the telecommunications company SingTel would sponsor the event. The official name of the event will be the FORMULA 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix. The race was co-funded by the Government of Singapore, footing 60 percent of the total bill, or $90 million SGD, out of a total tab of $150 million SGD. +

Around 110,000 tickets were made available for the country's first Formula One race. Corporate hospitality suites and packages went on sale at the end November 2007, three-day passes to the public went on sale in February 2008. Single-day passes went on sale a month later. The event went on to achieve a full sell-out for all of its tickets.

The first race held at the new Marina Bay Street Circuit was the 15th round of the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship, and was also the first night-time event in Formula One history. The timing of the night event meant that it could be broadcast live at a convenient time for European TV audiences. The track was also illuminated by a series of projectors which adapt their output to match the shape of the course. The race was won by Fernando Alonso driving for the Renault team, however that result has since been tarnished by controversy.

For the 2009 race, the circuit was reprofiled slightly, including modifications to turns 1, 2 and 3 to aid overtaking, and also at turn 10 where high kerbs caused many accidents in 2008. On September 22, 2012, the AP reported that Bernie Ecclestone and the Singapore Grand Prix agreed that the Grand Prix will remain on the Formula One calendar through the year of 2017.

Before the first modern race took place, Malaysian Sports Minister Azalina Othman Said said that the proximity of the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia, which hosts the Malaysian Grand Prix and is about 300 kilometres from Singapore, would create unhealthy competition. The Malaysian Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Liow Tiong Lai stated that the Malaysian Government is unconcerned about possible competition from Singapore.

Race information; Laps: 61; Circuit length: 5.067 km (3.148 mi); Race length: 309.087 km (192.066 mi); Number of times held: 13; First held: 1966; Most wins (drivers): New Zealand Graeme Lawrence (3); Most wins (constructors): McLaren, Red Bull and Ferrari (2); Last race (2012):; Pole position: United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton; McLaren-Mercedes; 1:46.362; Podium: 1. Germany Sebastian Vettel; Red Bull-Renault; 2:00:26.144; 2. United Kingdom Jenson Button; McLaren-Mercedes; +8.929 secs; 3. Spain Fernando Alonso; Ferrari; +15.227 secs; Fastest lap: Germany Nico Hülkenberg; Force India-Mercedes; 1:51.033;

Singapore Hosts Formula One’s First Night Race, in 2008

Singapore hosted Formula 1's first night race in 2008. Night races in Asia are watched in the afternoon on television in Europe. Before the event, Vicky Karantzavelou wrote in the Travel Daily News, “The world`s first Formula 1 night race in September will be held on an anti-clockwise street circuit of public roads around the famous Marina Bay area in Singapore, on 28th of September 2008. Positioned as the “Monaco of the East”, there is a big difference between Singapore and Monaco, which is also a street circuit. Singapore’s tracks are much wider and faster, with its narrowest areas equivalent to Monaco’s widest parts. To ensure the safety of drivers, marshals, and spectators during the night race, state-of-the-art lighting, which is four times brighter than those at sports stadiums would be installed along the 5.067km track, with the help of 108,423m of power cables. [Source: Vicky Karantzavelou, Travel Daily News, June 30, 2008 ++]

“The track will have 24 turns, consisting of 14 left hand turns and 10 right hand turns, will be the first Formula 1 street race in Asia and will bost a floating part. The track also offers three turns where the drivers will get overtaking opportunities. The maximum speed a driver can zoom across the circuit will be in excess of 300 kph. The practice race sessions along the track will start from September 26 and the qualifying session will be on September 27. The main 2008 Formula One Singtel Singapore Grand Prix will be held on September 28 and there will be an estimated 90,000 spectators. ++

“Indonesia's industrial island of Batam is predicted to earn revenues from global Formula 1 enthusiasts who cannot get hotel rooms in Singapore. Batam, located just 20km from the state city, may reap 20 million U.S. dollars in foreign exchange revenues from F1 spectators who choose to stay on the island before the race, as hotels in Singapore are likely unable to accommodate them all. An estimate of 13,000 people will be forced to seek hotels outside Singapore, including Batam and Malaysia's Johor. ++

Entertainment, Crashgate and Static Electricity at the Singapore Grand Prix

Entertainment has become a big part of the Singapore Grand Prix. At the 2013 race, Justin Bieber headlined on Monday, Rihanna headlined on Sunday and The Killers headlined on Saturday. Tom Jones, Bob Geldof and others also performed.

In 2008, AFP reported: “The Red Bull racing team suspects static electricity from an underground train forced driver Mark Webber out of last Sunday's Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, British-based Autosport magazine reported. The gearbox on Webber's car tried to select two gears at once when he was at Turn 13 on the track, team official Christian Horner was quoted on the magazine's website as saying. He said there was "a momentary electrical surge" at the time. "A tram line runs beneath the track at that corner and it seems as if static from a passing tram at the very moment Mark was in the corner passed through the ground." [Source: AFP, October 3, 2008]

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won the 2008 Singapore GP, but that victory was tainted by the 'Crashgate' scandal which emerged the following year. Alonso's then Renault teammate Nelson Piquet Jr. was ordered to deliberately crash to bring out the safety car to manipulate the running order and help Alonso win. [Source: Associated Press]

Racing Formula One in Singapore

Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton told Associated Press that qualifications hold the key for the race due to a lack of overtaking opportunities. "Overtaking is going to be very tricky, as it is at all street circuits," Hamilton said. "There will be a little bit less overtaking than at the other circuits we have. "It's going to come down to qualifying." [Source: AP, September 25, 2008]

Associated Press reported: “The lack of potential passing will take little away from the Singapore spectacle, with F1's first ever night race to pass through the downtown marina district. Added to that is the constant threat of rain in tropical Singapore, combined with the floodlights to make the most challenging of driving conditions. "We are driving at 200 mph with lights flashing in our eyes and we will have to see how we deal with that," Hamilton said.

Red Bull's David Coulthard, a veteran of 243 grands prix, said heexpected little difference between night and day racing aside from aesthetics. "The night experience is more of a marketing thing than an influence on the race," Coulthard said. "I don't think anyone will say after the race 'I could have won if I saw a wee bit better.'"

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen acknowledged the team's struggles when it loses tyre temperature in wet conditions. "Last year, in the second part of the season, we had a great set up forthe car and I was able to win many races," Raikkonen said. "It was much more difficult this year. "Especially as far as the tyre temperature is concerned. "When the temperature is right, the car is very competitive "We'll give it our best at Singapore, so that we can fight for the win, which still remains the main objective. "We have to give it all in these four races and then we'll see what's going to happen."

Vettel Says 'Singapore Sling' Curve One of the Most Dangerous in Formula One

Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel said a notorious corner dubbed the "Singapore Sling" was one of the most unsafe in Formula One and called for urgent remodelling. AFP reported: “After several collisions along the Singapore Grand Prix's tight street circuit in practice and qualifying, Vettel singled out turn 10, a sharp chicane at the end of a long straight near the city's historic cricket club. "We've discussed it many times, every year actually," the Red Bull driver said. "We need to find a better solution in turn 10 which probably requires to take a little bit of land for those couple of days from the cricket club or maybe remove the pavement for three or four days. [Source: AFP, September 22, 2012]

“Turn 10, christened "Singapore Sling" after the famous cocktail, is in a venerable area of Singapore surrounded by colonial-era architecture, and has long been a source of controversy. Before Saturday's qualifying session, officials shifted a barrier to make it easier to negotiate. But Vettel called for a more comprehensive solution. "I don't know, but I would imagine if you consider the costs of this whole event, taking a pavement away and putting it back again shouldn't be a big problem," he said. "In terms of safety it's one of the worst corners we have in the calendar, because you've got this big kerb, big bounce and it's tricky. To find another solution right now, that's something we've got to work on."

Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber punctured a rear tyre when he ploughed into a barrier, and Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov and Williams' Bruno Senna also came to grief. Lotus's Romain Grosjean was another to hit a wall and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, after setting the fastest lap in the final qualifying session, came dangerously close to a scrape in the dying seconds. Several drivers have spoken of the challenges of the narrow, twisting Singapore lay-out, which is restricted by the width of its streets and has few grass or gravel run-off areas, meaning mistakes often result in contact with the barriers.

Alonso Holds off Vettel to Win Singapore Thriller in 2010

In 2010, Associated Press, “Ferrari's Fernando Alonso held off Sebastian Vettel in a thrilling finish to the Singapore Grand Prix. The Spaniard led from start to finish but was pressured throughout by Red Bull's Vettel, who closed markedly over the final two laps to almost snatch a win. Alonso won his second Singapore GP, crossing a finish line clouded in smoke. Lotus' Heikki Kovalainen had just stopped nearby with the rear half of his Lotus on fire. Red Bull's Mark Webber finished third—surviving a mid-race collision that eliminated McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. [Source: AP, September 26, 2010]

Hamilton nosed in front of Webber approaching a corner on lap 35 of 61 but the Australian did not yield the inside line and collided with the McLaren. While Hamilton's race was finished, Webber's Red Bull was unharmed and continued in the race. The incident was investigated by stewards, but they chose to take no action, deeming it a fair racing incident.

Sebastian Vettel Wins the Singapore GP in 2013 after Lewis Hamilton Retires

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel cruised to victory in the Singapore GP after Lewis Hamilton's McLaren retired. Hamilton headed Vettel from the start but a gearbox failure dealt a major blow to the Briton's world title hopes. [Source: Andrew Benson, BBC, September 24, 2012]

Andrew Benson of the BBC wrote: “Vettel's pace following Hamilton's exit suggested the McLaren might have been holding up the Red Bull slightly but Hamilton was in control of the race until his car lost drive on lap 23 coming out of the first chicane. He had known for about a minute that there was an impending problem. "It's one of the toughest races all year," said Vettel. "It's very long, we did the full two hours, the circuit is a killer, there are many bumps and there is no room for error. "Obviously I benefited from Lewis's failure, which I could see for a couple of laps. I'm very happy, it's such a tough race and very proud to win it. [Source: Andrew Benson, BBC, September 24, 2012 *=*]

“Hamilton’s ouster left Vettel in front from Button, Williams's Pastor Maldonado and Alonso but they raced only until lap 33, when a crash by Narain Karthikeyan's HRT brought out the safety car. Maldonado dropped down the order after pitting to change tyres, even though he had made his second pit stop only four laps earlier at the same time as Alonso. The Venezuelan, who had qualified second, retired before the race was restarted with a hydraulics problem. *=*

“The re-start came on lap 39, but the cars raced for only half a lap before Michael Schumacher smashed into the back of Toro Rosso's Jean-Eric Vergne, who was battling with Sauber's Sergio Perez. It was the second time in succession Schumacher had retired in Singapore after running into the back of another car - and the second time this season after doing the same to Williams's Bruno Senna in the Spanish Grand Prix. He said there was a problem with the car that meant it did not brake in the normal way, however he later admitted to the stewards that it was his mistake. As a result, he was given a 10-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix. *=*

“The race was restarted again on lap 42, when it was already clear it would reach the two-hour time limit before the full 61 laps were complete. In the end it was stopped two short of full distance. Vettel and Button exchanged fastest laps for a while before Vettel began to open the gap and establish a comfortable lead. He was eight seconds ahead before backing off on the final lap. Behind them, Alonso measured his pace to ensure his tyres would last to the end - they were four laps older than those on the Force India of Paul di Resta behind him. *=*

“Fernando Alonso has a strong record in Singapore, finishing on the podium in four of the five races held. After the race, Webber was given a drive-through penalty for passing Kamui Kobayashi off the track around the outside of Turn Seven on lap 50. Twenty seconds were added to his race time which dropped him down to 11th and promoted Perez to 10th. The closing stages of the grand prix were enlivened by some exciting racing as closely-packed drivers battled for position. Massa might have helped secure his Ferrari future with a strong drive, including an improvisational pass on Williams's Senna into Turn 13. The Brazilian was last at the end of the first lap after picking up a puncture. Vettel was investigated after the race for an incident at the first safety-car re-start in which he slowed unexpectedly and Button nearly hit him from behind, but after a lengthy deliberation the stewards decided to take no action.” *=*

Foreign-Born Soccer Players Help Singapore Beat Rival Malaysia

In 2011, Agence France Presse reported: “Singapore's press heaped praise on the city-state's foreign-born footballers following its 6-4 aggregate win over arch-rivals Malaysia in the Asian World Cup 2014 qualifiers. "Born in China, 100 percent Singaporean" said local tabloid the New Paper, with the words juxtaposed to a photograph of a euphoric Shi Jiayi, the China-born midfielder who scored the equalizing goal in Thursday's 1-1 draw. The picture's background featured banners unfurled by Malaysian fans with the messages "100 percent Malaysians, NO FOREIGNERS" and "100 percent PURE MALAYSIAN," highlighting pre-match sneers of Singapore's over-reliance on its naturalised players. Singapore drew 1-1 with Malaysia on Thursday evening at Kuala Lumpur's Bukit Jalil Stadium in the second leg of its round two Asian World Cup qualifiers. [Source: Agence France Presse, July 29, 2011]

“This ensured the city-state's progression after a 5-3 win in the first leg in Singapore. But the euphoria was tempered by criticism from many Singaporeans that all six goals scored over the two legs came from naturalised players Aleksandar Duric and Fahrudin Mustafic who were born in Yugoslavia, as well as China-born Shi Jiayi and Qiu Li. Singapore's coach, Raddy Avramovich is Serbian. The criticism reflects a general sentiment against the influx of foreign workers into the wealthy island-state, which Singaporeans say has resulted in overcrowding and loss of jobs for locals.

In a commentary entitled "Pride of Singapore, no doubt about it", the New Paper's sports editor said the foreign-born football players displayed their loyalty and affection for the city-state on and off the pitch. "Enough of this talk," S. Murali wrote, apparently referring to criticism over foreign-born players. "Singapore won the match. Though he was born in China, Shi Jiayi is 100 percent Singaporean," he said. In the Straits Times, a photograph of the Singapore team celebrating its win dominated the front page, with the picture's focus on naturalised player Daniel Bennet, formerly a Briton, raising his arms in triumph. The headline next to the photo declared "Lions Tame Tigers" in reference to the teams' respective mascots.

Soccer Match Fixing, See Separate Article on Gambling

Iran thrash Singapore 6-0 in Asian Cup football qualifier

Singapore has a hard time qualifying for the Asian Cup let alone the World Cup. In 2009, Red Sports reported: “Iran thrashed Singapore 6-0 in Tehran in their Group E AFC Asian Cup qualifying match. In a game played in -1º C weather before just 3,000 spectators in the 100,000-seater Azadi Stadium, Iran led 1-0 at half-time before they hit Singapore for five in the second half. The Lions played a compact defensive game to keep the Iranians at bay but the complexion of the game took a dramatic turn in the 40th minute, when Ismail Yunos was shown the straight red card for a tackle from behind on midfielder Reza Khalatbari. [Source: Red Sports, January 14, 2009]

“Left reeling, Singapore soon conceded a goal three minutes later in the 43rd minute when Iran’s Gholamnejhad Mageed scored. Seven minutes into the second half, Iran scored again through captain Bagheri Karim before Gohamreza Rezaei scored Iran’s third just three minutes later in the 55th minute. Singapore held on for a little longer but conceded another when Mazyar Zare Eshghdoost scored to make it 4-0 in the 79th minute. The humiliation was complete when Nori Mohammad scored two goals in two minutes in the 82nd and 83rd minute to hand Singapore a most unwelcome start to their Asian Cup qualifying campaign.

“Captain Indra Sahdan was replaced by Muhd Ridhuan at the start of the second half while Agu Casmir came on for John Wilkinson in the 67th minute. Juma’at Jantan also made an appearance when he came on for Shahril Ishak in the 57th minute. "This was a very heavy defeat for us but we played very well in the first half. Until the sending off, we were very organised and compact. We did not let them play,' said coach Avramovic. "But things were very difficult in the second half as we had one man down and against a good team like Iran, this makes a very big difference. "They also had very physical and tall players and they took advantage of that as we had difficulty in dealing with their crosses," he added.

Manchester United Almost Floats Company on Singapore Stock Exchange

In September 2011, Manchester United's plan to float the company on the Singapore Stock Exchange was cleared, allowing the world's best-supported soccer clu to open dialogue with potential investors. The Guardian reported: “Although precise details of United's plans are yet to be announced, it is thought the Glazer family are looking at selling 25 percent of the club, which they hope will net them £600m. It has been suggested two-thirds of United's offering will be in preferred shares, which may carry at least double the dividend of ordinary stock while lacking voting rights. United want to complete the process, called an initial public offering (IPO), by the end of the year. That dual-share structure would allow the Glazer family to retain control of the football club after the IPO. [Source: The Guardian, September 16, 2011]

Nine months later, Daniel Stanton and Fiona Lau of Reuters wrote: “Manchester Unitedhas ditched its plans for an Asian stock market flotation and is preparing to list in the United States, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. After first eyeing a Hong Kong IPO, the former English soccer champions had planned a $1 billion listing in Singapore in the second half of last year before putting plans on hold because of market turmoil. [Source: Daniel Stanton and Fiona Lau, Reuters, June 13, 2012]

The club's American proprietors, the Glazer family, are well known in the United States as owners of American football team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as well as First Allied Corp, which owns and leases shopping centers. However, they have faced opposition from United fans after taking over the club in 2005 in a leveraged buyout that left it saddled with hefty debt repayments.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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