18 September 2013
Singapore Grand Prix: Six of the Best: Attritional Races
With F1 returning to the streets this weekend, Crash.net columnist Will Saunders explores those races where the circuit took its toll on the result.
Like many of Formula One's street circuits past and present, Singapore's Marina Bay Circuit has a significantly above average rate of attrition. The combination of a narrow track, omnipresent concrete walls, the length of the race and the intense humidity of Singapore renders the grand prix a race invariably low on finishers.
Across the first five seasons of the Singapore GP, only Monaco (70.9%) and Melbourne's Albert Park (63.5%) have seen lower finishing percentages than the Marina Bay Circuit (75.7%). Bearing testament to this, the safety car has made an appearance in each of the five editions of the Singapore Grand Prix to date - a record unmatched over the equivalent time period.
Singapore still has some way to go to produce a classic attritional race though, with improvements in reliability and a reduction in accidents over time meaning that the days of single digit finishers being commonplace have long passed. With 2013 on course to break last year's record and become the most 'finished' season of all time (with 84.7% of race starts seeing the chequered flag to date), races like the six classic wars of attrition below are unlikely to come around again – even at circuits such as Singapore.
1956 GERMAN GP
(6 running at flag, 5 out of 19 starters classified finishers)
The 1956 German GP at the old Nurburgring saw the 45-year old Juan Manuel Fangio break a 17-year old lap record around the 'Ring en route to victory and the championship lead for Ferrari.
The race is as notable for the litany of retirements that ensued behind Fangio's serene stroll to victory though, as surprisingly only two could be attributed to accidents. With a race time of 3 hours 38 minutes around 22 laps of the 'Green Hell', the 1956 German Grand Prix saw the Nurburgring live up to its lesser-remembered reputation – as a fearsome car breaker.
The race boasted an entry list populated by Italian powerhouses Ferrari and Maserati, alongside French constructor, Gordini. Fangio started the race from his customary pole position, joined on the four-strong front row by team-mates Peter Collins and Eugenio Castelloti, and Stirling Moss, who had qualified a game fourth as the leading Maserati.
Although Collins took the lead off the line, Fangio came through in the lead at the end of the first lap, and there he would stay for the duration, sailing to victory by 46 seconds from Moss' Maserati, and an astonishing 7 minutes from third-placed man Jean Behra.
The rest of the field slipped by the wayside one-by-one, most notably Collins, who, having been forced into retirement when his fuel line split, took over Alfonso de Portago's car before making a rare mistake and spinning off into a ditch. Bruce Halford also made a notable exit from the results, disqualified en route to hospital for treatment for fuel inhalation having received an illegal push-start from spectators during the race.
1966 MONACO GP
(4 running at flag, 4 out of 16 starters classified finishers)
Monaco's unique challenge has provided attritional races across F1 generations, seeing six finishers five times, five finishers in the wet in 1968, and famously a record four classified finishers in 1966.
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