Singapore and its spectacular urban night race arrived in the Formula 1 World Championship in 2008, but we can trace our history with the Singapore Grand Prix right back to the 1960s, where the forerunner of the modern event was held on the Thomson Road street circuit.
In 1968, New Zealander Graeme Lawrence bought an M4A chassis from us, building up his car in our factory. In Formula 1, our founder Bruce McLaren was driving an M4A with a BRM V12 engine, but we adapted the chassis to fit a Ford FVA engine for Lawrence to use in the Tasman racing series.
Over the Easter weekend in 1969 Lawrence fielded his M4A, immaculately turned out in Air New Zealand colours, at the Singapore Grand Prix. In those days the event was a Formula Libre race, allowing a broad variety of cars to compete. The 50-lap race came down to a straight fight between Lawrence and Roly Levis, also running Air New Zealand colours but driving a Brabham. In the heat and humidity of the day, Levis set the fastest lap but Lawrence ultimately prevailed. You can read more about his exploits Down Under in our new book The Wins.
40 years later a McLaren would win the Singapore Grand Prix again. In 2008, Singapore’s debut year as a World Championship venue, Lewis Hamilton had started second but finished third after being held up behind another driver after the intervention of the Safety Car. In 2009 he won from pole position by a commanding 9.6 seconds.
After a challenging start to the year, we thoroughly developed the MP4-24 and by the end of the year we had one of the most competitive technical packages. We arrived at Singapore with another set of upgrades, built some momentum over the course of the weekend, and then on Saturday Lewis delivered a searingly quick lap in the final qualifying session. He was about to go even quicker when the session was stopped owing to an incident elsewhere on track.
Lewis held the lead from the start, and remained in front for all but four laps (after his final pitstop). It was a tremendous result for the team, who had worked flat out all season to make the car a race-winner.