Postcard from Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2012

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2012

Exactly one week ago at this time, I was really excited because the fifth Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix was going to take place later in the night under the lights. I’m so glad that the contract got renewed – to be honest I was expecting it to be renewed. I feel really proud when I see Singapore on the Formula 1 calendar.

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I got my FIA media accreditation – a journalist pass, which means I get access to the F1 paddock and the media centre. This does not include access to the pit lane nor the specified photographer areas around the track (basically the holes in the fences that they can shoot from).

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The media centre is always the first room on the right side of the pit lane building and sitting above the first two pit garages. That means Red Bull Racing and McLaren this year. Pit stops are very crucial during a race and I was watching the McLaren crew practise their pit stops on Friday – that’s not Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button in the driver’s seat by the way.

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Sebastian Vettel was fastest in all three practice sessions and there was some level of expectation for him to clinch pole position.

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Pole position is extremely important for Singapore and its narrow Marina Bay street circuit, as proven in the past three years which were all won by the pole-sitter.

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It was Hamilton who clinched pole position, with Vettel qualifying in third and Pastor Maldonado in between them. Hamilton was using a specially-designed Singapore edition helmet that weekend.

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Driver helmets is one of the ways to recognise them, especially when you want to distinguish between the two drivers within the team. Look at Heikki Kovalainen’s Angry Bird helmet!

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Another way to help you differentiate between the two cars is also the camera box on the car above their heads – the first driver for the team will have a red camera box, while the second driver’s one will be yellow. In the case of the Mercedes AMG PETRONAS team, Michael Schumacher is the first driver and hence his is red.

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Coincidentally, Schumacher’s helmet is also red and his team-mate Nico Rosberg with the yellow camera box sports a yellow helmet.

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Quietly confident Fernando Alonso who claimed that of all the title contenders he can afford to lose one race while they can’t, qualified in fifth behind Jenson Button.

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Despite Kimi Raikkonen being the Iceman he is, I was still happy to see him back on the track. I think there is more to him than when he left F1 then. His Finnish fans were proudly waving the flag up high.

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Raikkonen has been doing decently well on his comeback – he was lying third in the driver standings coming into Singapore. Qualifying didn’t turn out too well and he only came in 12th though.

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Mark Webber, whom I interviewed on Thursday, was telling me how P1 or P3 would be good on the starting grid as the left side of the track is slippery. He did qualify on the right side of the track, though it was in 7th position.

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Paul di Resta of Force India, who recently appointed Richard Goddard as his manager (who also manages Jenson Button), qualified 6th. The Force India guys are pushing out some good results this year.

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On race day, there is always a drivers’ parade before they get ready on the grid and in Singapore, this has always been done with classic cars.

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I like how Vettel had his leg out of the window for his ride.

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Oh look, it’s Raikkonen the Iceman smiling!

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I remember Bruno Senna as a really friendly guy when I interviewed him. I don’t know why he had to share a car though.

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Then it was time to race.

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Singapore is known for drama, due to its tight track with limited overtaking opportunities. The first disappointment came when Hamilton’s gearbox failed on him and he had to forcefully retire from the race after 22 laps, walking away from the track with his hands behind his back. Then Narain Karthikeyan of HRT kissed the wall so the safety car was brought out. During this time, Vettel came in quickly to pit.

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But shortly after the race resumed, Schumacher ploughed into Jean-Eric Vergne’s rear in a spectacle of flying debris.

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Source: Internet

Admitting that it was his mistake for failing to anticipate the braking performance of the car with lower tyre grip due to the safety car period, he was handed a 10-grid penalty at the next race in Suzuka. This is the second time in the season that Schumacher has committed such an offence. The safety car was brought out again and after the 42nd lap, Vettel was free to run.

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He held on to that lead all the way, with just a little pushing from Button at first, but eventually stretched it to an 8.9-second lead to win. Button settled for second. The race ended at the two-hour mark with just 59 laps.

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Vettel was a very happy boy that night – his disappointment from not turning his quick practice times into a pole position was replaced by joy from winning. That makes it two years in a row that Vettel wins the Singapore night race.

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Vettel is aware that his win was in part due to Hamilton’s mechanical failure, but that’s racing. Now second to Alonso, Vettel is back in the hunt for the drivers’ title.

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When I spoke to Rosberg on Wednesday, he was setting a realistic goal of a top five finish and he did. He came in fifth. That’s his interior designer girlfriend Vivian Sibold giving him a kiss after the race.

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Alonso always has this characteristic frown on his face…

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… but I managed to catch a smile out of him. He has reason to smile – After third place from Singapore (he was promoted to third from fifth after Hamilton and Maldonado retired from the race), he still holds on to the overall drivers’ championship lead with 29 points ahead of Vettel.

Although he has not won a race since Germany, he has been silently chalking up the points as the other contenders trip over themselves. At the post-race press conference, he said, “In Monza, it was Lewis winning the race and Sebastian retired. Here it is Sebastian winning, Lewis retiring. So for me, it’s ok if they keep doing it like this.”

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From 12th, Raikkonen fought to a respectable sixth.

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A Grand Prix weekend is not just about Formula 1 – don’t forget the support races!

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This year there were three support races to the Singapore Grand Prix – the GP2 series, Porsche Carrera Cup Asia and Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific.

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GP2 is a renowned feeder series to F1, with drivers such as Hamilton, Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg progressing to F1 after winning GP2.

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There was the fair share of crashes too and Luca Filippi, pole-sitter for the first of the two GP2 races that weekend, had horrible mechanical issues and went into the wall along the main straight in the closing minutes of the race.

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In the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, the 30-minute qualifying session was red-flagged with 19 minutes more to go because Keita Sawa spun and found himself in the wall. By the time the session resumed, there were less than 7 minutes left and everyone had to give it their all.

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Singaporean Yuey Tan qualified 2nd fastest in Class B (a separate classification from overall for amateurs) and 13th overall.

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The other Singaporean in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is Ringo Chong, who is racing in Class A. He qualified 12th, just ahead of Tan.

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Chong is a well-known veteran household name in the local motor racing scene. He drove in two series last weekend – the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia AND the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific (which he won overall last year).

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Chong came in 3rd in the Ferrari on Sunday, but finished 16th in the Porsche after that. Tan also got a podium, coming in 3rd for Class B in his Porsche.

It was Craig Baird who won the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia, making a guest appearance for this round. It is his third victory on the Singapore track for this Porsche series.

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New to the Marina Bay street circuit were the Ferrari 458 GT3 cars. Other than Chong, Gregory Teo was the other Singaporean racing in it. Chong is competing in the Trofeo Pirelli professional category, while Teo was under the Coppa Shell category for gentlemen drivers. Teo finished 15th overall and 6th in class.

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A very iconic Ferrari featured in this Challenge that weekend was the one helmed by Scuderia Ferrari test driver Marc Gene. Gene was making a one-off guest driver appearance in the last round of the Ferrari Challenge Asia Pacific. Draped in a special livery with ‘Shell 500 Races’, the Singapore Grand Prix 2012 marked the 500th Grand Prix between Ferrari and Shell as technical partners.

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One special group of people who deserve great credit are the race officials!

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They are on the feet the whole time, ensuring the safety of the track…

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… and also clearing the track quickly in times of incidents so the racing can carry on.

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I really love their enthusiasm and the bonding between each team. See this group doing Oppa Gangnam Style? Just to clarify, this wasn’t done during a race of course.

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The cameramen around the track also deserve credit – we have them to thank for our awesome ‘live’ coverage on television!

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My home Grand Prix is something I am glad to be part of and here’s to at least five more years of the Singapore Grand Prix!

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For more of my photos, view here.

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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