F1 Singapore Grand Prix: A Race Through Time

You can’t see it, but you can definitely hear it coming. The 2015 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix is racing into town this weekend!

In the midst of all the hubbub that the annual race has been receiving, have you ever stopped and wondered just how much you know about the history of the iconic event in Singapore?

If your answer is ‘embarrassingly little’, fret not. Our reporter Crystal Tan tracks the history of F1 all the way back from its humble origins in the 1960s, back when still-developing Singapore was a far cry from the modern metropolis it is today.

1961: First ever F1 Grand Prix held in Singapore

One of the many bends featured on the Upper Thomson Road track. (Credits: John Hake)

Named the ‘Orient Year Grand Prix’ due to its association with Singapore’s then tourism campaign ‘Visit the Orient Year’, the non-championship race was held at the Thomson Road circuit, which stretched from Old Upper Thomson Road to New Upper Thomson Road.

The treacherous 4.8-kilometre stretch featured several ‘snakes’ – a series of four bends including the ominously-named Devil’s Bend, which gained its infamy for being notoriously difficult to manoeuvre and even having claimed a couple lives. Back in the day, there were a total of nine races for both cars and motorcycles, including vintage and post vintage cars (cars made from 1931 to the Second World War), of varying engine capacities.


1962 – 1966: Merger and separation on the track

Back then, spectators could enjoy the excitement of the race for free. (Credit: John Hake)

The race’s original title didn’t last long. Just a year later, in 1962, the event’s name was changed to ‘Malaysia Grand Prix’ and following Singapore’s independence, was renamed ‘Singapore Grand Prix’ in 1966.


1974: Putting the brakes on the golden years

After 13 editions, the event was banned in 1974 due to heavy traffic and safety concerns. A Formula Libre event held in 1973 would be its final lap before Singapore’s streets went silent for a good four decades.


2008 – Now: The city streets light up

Holding the race at night makes Singapore’s F1 event unique. (Credit: Reuters)

It was to be a historic race, being the first race in F1 history to be held at night and the first street race to be held in Asia.

In a move that all racing fanatics loudly applauded, Singapore turned the tables on its harsh stance against racing successfully bid S$150 million to host the event in 2008. Just like that, the Grand Prix made a striking comeback as a round in the FIA Formula One World championship.

It was to be a historic race, being the first race in F1 history to be held at night and the first street race to be held in Asia. The historic event was broadcast to as many as 600 million potential television viewers worldwide, including European viewers who could catch the event ‘live’ in the afternoon thanks to the convenient timing.

10,000 lamps, along with a system consisting more than 1,500 projectors, 134km of power and optic cables, and 240 steel pylons were used to light up the Marina Bay Circuit. The race included 10 competing teams who hit speeds of over 300km/h.

Fringe events such as concerts from popular artistes and parties also accompanied the event, adding to its glamour (read about this year’s line-up of fringe events!).

Since that year, F1 in Singapore has only been getting bigger and better, with more nail-biting races and famous artistes coming to perform.


You can catch this year’s F1 at the Marina Bay Street Circuit from September 18 to 20.

Check out our feature on the 4 fringe concerts happening in tandem with F1!