Marina Bay Circuit

2015 Singapore Grand Prix

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At some point it was decided that the Singapore Grand Prix was one of the marquee events of the Formula 1 season. While the nighttime backdrop of one of Asia’s premier cities is certainly stunning, the racing has always been kind of a slog. Sunday’s 61 lap running felt like a 2 hour chore compared to the brisk Italian Grand Prix 2 weeks ago. While it was refreshing to see neither Silver Arrow finish on the podium, Sebastian Vettel’s commanding drive from pole to the top step was very much the same plot we’ve seen all season long with a different actor in the title role.

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NBCSN’s Leigh Diffey did his very best to make sure we all knew that Lewis Hamilton was 1 win away from tying Ayrton Senna’s record in Singapore. Despite Hamilton and Nico Rosberg qualifying 5th and 6th respectively, it didn’t stop the network’s bias for Mercedes as the drivers were featured almost exclusively in the broadcast’s opening montage. What happened instead was the more significant achievement of race winner Sebastian Vettel becoming the 3rd all-time most successful driver in Formula 1.

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Daniel Ricciardo in the RB11 didn’t really have a shot at beating Vettel and ultimately finished 2nd. The numerous safety cars which have become synonymous with Singapore presented plenty of opportunities for a scrap but overtaking on the Marina Bay Circuit is a near impossible task. Ricciardo’s best opportunity was ruined when a lunatic fan entered the track on lap 37 – a gate onto the track which was left unguarded may have had something to do with it. The oversight is yet another occurrence where negligence by the staff at a flyaway race may have produced costly and dangerous results. Remember the trackside marshals’s treatment of Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso in China earlier this year?

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Singapore saw the retirements of more big name drivers than any Grand Prix this season. McLaren executed a now routine showing of retiring both cars due to gearbox issues. This came after Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both had opportunities to score points. While it’s convenient for all fingers to point at Honda, Button’s overtaking tactics and the pit crew suffering from a bout of heat stroke didn’t help turn things around.

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The mishaps continued with a collision involving Force India’s Nico Hulkenburg and the Williams of Felipe Massa exiting pit lane. The crash ultimately ended the races of both drivers with Hulkenberg receiving a 3 grid spot penalty for next week’s Japanese Grand Prix. It was a hasty ruling from the stewards who probably should have waited until the race was over and clearer heads prevailed. 50/50 blame could be taken from the situation but I’m of the opinion that Hulkenberg had the right of way. Surprisingly the 5th retirement of the day was the Mercedes of Hamilton who’s car lost power from a coupler issue on the turbo.

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Meanwhile, the Formula 1 drinking game just got more interesting with the addition of “American Alexander Rossi”. Rossi seems like a great guy and deserved of the Manor drive for the remaining 5 races, but this really is a non-story that took up way too much of the race broadcast. No folks, contrary to what Diffey or the NBCSN team might have you believe, there is absolutely no chance of Rossi winning a Formula 1 Grand Prix in a Manor and it’s highly likely he won’t score any points either. The day’s other non-story, Ferrari mechanics exhibiting “thug-like” behavior and shoving photographers aside to celebrate Vettel’s win on pit lane.

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What is becoming more and more clear every race weekend is that Formula 1 really isn’t that great anymore. It is in many ways like Sir Elton John. The days of hitting the high notes on ‘Tiny Dancer’ are long gone, but fans still amass because of what the singer was, not who he’s become. Formula 1 has a rich and celebrated history and most of us suffer through the current product because we’re still hanging onto that history. “This is Formula 1” we tell ourselves, hoping that this race will be different. The reality however is that there hasn’t been a genuinely great race since Bahrain in 2014 and Britain the year before that. It’s a sport that on average produces one good showing a season and when you consider the other 19 races are duds, that’s a poor success rate.

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Members of the Formula 1 media have been quick to combat this notion. Will Buxton told all of us to get over it following the Italian Grand Prix. He and many others hark back to the days of Ferrari-Shumacher dominance, but ultimately they’re as guilty as we are for using the past to justify the present. Too often are we concerned with Formula 1’s history, always hoping to find a way to weave it into the modern context of the sport. The MLB also does this as they become increasingly irrelevant on a playing field dominated by the NFL, NBA and European football. The only thing any of us should be concerned with is what is right in front of us and what’s in front of us isn’t Formula 1, it’s not even racing.

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The Japanese Grand Prix is next weekend and Suzuka should favor the Silver Arrows who will likely be back on form after today’s misstep.

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Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.

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The Grand Prix Of Singapore

The Grand Prix of Singapore. Just sounds exotic doesn’t it? Let me start off by saying that I like so much of what this race offers. It being the only night race on the Formula 1 calender is enough to make it stand out as a truly unique event. The Marina Bay Circuit is a fickle one and with the added equatorial heat, a true challenge for the drivers. If anything, the Grand Prix of Singapore makes me want to see more night races. Rosso corsa never looked better and blue flames from the car’s exhausts looks spectacular under the lights.

However, Sunday’s race left much to be desired. Rather than my usually long winded Formula 1 summary, a few thoughts.

Sebeastian Vettel appeared emotional on the podium after winning on Sunday.

Shockingly, it’s been a rare sight to see Vettel holding 1st place trophies in 2012. Maybe he was overcome by victory after a long draught? Maybe he was worried about Eddie Jordan conducting the post race interview? His light up helmet was fantastic though.

Say what you will about Felipe Massa, the man can still drive. Those of you watching the race will recall a particular move against Bruno Senna that could’ve ended in tears. Instead it proved to be one of the few highlights of the race. It was the precision, speed and danger of Formula 1 in a nutshell. Despite his best efforts, Massa probably completed his last Singapore Grand Prix with the Scuderia.

Michael Schumacher showed his age after using Jean-Éric Vergne as a barrier following the first safety car. Some have questioned Schumacher’s relevance in the sport, but as things stand he’s still out pacing and out performing Nico Rosberg. Imagine what he could do in a better car?

McLaren can’t seem to get it right can they? For all the great qualifying sessions and performances of the last few races, they have yet to see both drivers finish the same race since the August break. This week the bad luck followed Lewis Hamilton, who suffered a gearbox failure after 22 laps.

The team’s radio transmission alluded to this being a problem they were already aware of. I would assume rather than suffer a 5 grid spot penalty for a gearbox change, the team decided to take their chances with Hamilton in pole. It was a big gamble that didn’t pay off. Hamilton can’t seem to win these days and that mishap could’ve been the final nail in McLaren’s coffin. He should do himself a favor and make a decision already.

It’s that time of the season when reliability is crucial and I suspect it’ll play a major role in determining the WCC and WDC in the coming months. Suzuka is less than 2 weeks away.

Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.