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First F1 Grand Prix is held at Marina Bay street circuit Sep 2008

The inaugural Formula One (F1) SingTel Singapore Grand Prix (GP) at the Marina Bay street circuit was held from 26 to 28 September 2008. It was a milestone event for F1 racing as the grand prix was the first F1 night race and the first to be held on a street circuit in Asia.[1] The Singapore GP marked the return of motor racing to the Republic after a 35-year absence. Prior to this, Singapore had been part of the racing calendar for 12 years from 1961 to 1973.[2] The earlier Singapore GP was discontinued due to various reasons, one of which was safety.[3]

Singapore’s interest in the F1 grand prix was sparked in 1991 when property tycoon Ong Beng Seng tried to bring the race to Singapore. However, the proposal was shelved due to the lack of support from both the private and public sectors, as well as concerns over cost.[4] In March 2006, talks on holding the F1 grand prix in Singapore re-surfaced when F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone invited Singapore to host one of the races in the 2008 racing calendar.[5] This time, the outcome was different as the government was supportive of the idea, and agreed to foot the bulk of the cost of staging the race.[6] In March the following year,Ong and Ecclestone signed the deal that enabled Singapore to host the F1 night race for five years starting from 2008.[7] 

In anticipation of the Singapore GP, a 350-m long building was constructed off Raffles Boulevard to serve as the pit building for the F1 teams. Costing about S$33 million to build, the three-storey structure housed the race facilities, winners’ podium, grandstand and guest hospitality lounges.[8] At the same time, the F1 organisers also identified the Marina Bay street circuit for the Singapore GP, on which the cars would run anti-clockwise.[9] As the 5.067 km race track cuts through downtown Singapore, various landmarks along the route – such as the Singapore Flyer, Marina Bay Sands integrated resort and Fullerton Hotel – and the central business district skyline would be showcased to the rest of the world.[10] To ensure that the F1 drivers could race safely at night, a total of 1,500 lighting projectors were installed to light up the entire circuit, including the grandstands located at different corners of the race track.[11]

The Singapore GP began with practice sessions on 26 September 2008. The qualifying session was held the next evening while the actual race day was on 28 September.[12] A total of 20 drivers representing 10 teams contested the race. Victory went to Spanish driver, Fernando Alonso, who drove for the Renault team.[13] The race was a sell-out event attended by some 100,000 spectators and witnessed by more than 500 million television viewers worldwide.[14] Following the race, both Singapore and the F1 Singapore GP received glowing reports and praise from various international media. Ecclestone had also described the Singapore GP as the “crown jewel of F1”.

1. Ee, S. (2008, September 29). The greatest F1 show on earth. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. De Cotta, I. (2008). The Singapore Grand Prix: 50 years in the making (p. 1). Singapore: MediaCorp. Call no.: RSING 796.72095957 DEC.
3. GP shock: 1974 meet is off. (1973, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. De Cotta, 2008, pp. 258–259; Lim, L. (2007, May 13). Formula One deal signed on Friday itself. The Straits Times, p. 39. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. De Cotta, I. (2006, March 28). Singapore pit-stop for F1? Today, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Yeo, W. (2007, May 12). F1 comes to Singapore. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. The Straits Times, 13 May 2007, p. 39.
8. Ee, S. (2007, September 1). Work to start on $33m F1 pit building. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. De Cotta, I. (2007, July 30). Lights, ready, go – in the opp. Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Today, 30 Jul 2007, p. 2; The Business Times, 29 Sep 2008, p. 2; Foo, A. (2008, September 19). City's image will be the big F1 winner. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ee, S. (2008, August 19). Philips lamps to light up F1 night race. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lim, L. (2008, September 26). ‘Impressive’. The Straits Times, p. 62. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. The Business Times, 29 Sep 2008, p. 2; A battle right to the end. (2008, September 28). The Straits Times, p. 47. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Lim, L. (2008, September 29). Historic night race wows world. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Lim, L. (2008, September 28). Crown jewel of F1. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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