SINGAPORE: The 10th edition of the Singapore Grand Prix revs off this weekend with the big elephant in the room (finally!) cleared in time for the big event.
The renewal deal was signed, sealed and delivered on Friday - and the gorgeous Marina Bay Street Circuit will continue to see action for four more years.
Now, while it remains a superb product popular with Formula One (F1) fans, tourists and locals, the Singapore Grand Prix does have its many detractors who moan about the disruption a street race brings to daily life here.
If only we could look past minor inconveniences that last barely a week and take in the bigger picture.
For it is worth remembering that the Singapore Grand Prix changed the face of Formula One. Never had this long-storied sport raced under lights until it arrived on these shores in 2008.
And what a spectacle we presented to the world: The brightly-lit track set against our terrific skyline and under a criss-crossing set of flyovers seemed like something out of Blade Runner.
So in this landmark year, a glance back at the some of the highlights of this spectacular event over the past nine years.
THE FIRST RUN ON THE CIRCUIT
You never forget your first, as they say. Years later, the first memories of walking inside the street circuit in 2008 remain vivid.
The evening air then crackled with anticipation as the setting sun drenched Marina Bay with a warm golden hue that made the beers go down even faster. Tens of thousands from the world over gathered and made merry even before the drivers got into their jumpsuits.
And then, action.
Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella and teammate Adrian Sutil were the first two drivers on track for first practice that Friday.
As they wound their way through the circuit to where most of the spectators were - on the Padang and at the Bay Granstand – there was a collective sense of awe at the sight of history being made.
And the sound the cars made to us F1 virgins was nothing short of brutal. Taking off one’s earplugs, we felt, was out of the question; it would have been like asking someone to look directly at the sun during an eclipse.
Oh, what memories. Be still my beating heart. Be still.
NO WAY, HOSE EHH!
Some of us have this recurring nightmare. We are on the toilet in some office or hotel and the fire alarm goes off and we must leave in an instant.
We are running halfway down the corridor when we realise have this long piece of toilet paper flapping from behind. Oh, the horror.
Well, the F1 equivalent of that (or sort of like that) played out in the debut night race in 2008 with Felipe Massa’s Ferrari as the main protagonist.
Massa was leading the race when the safety car was called in, meaning no one was allowed in the pit lane to fuel. When the pits reopened Massa plunged in to tank up, but such was his haste to ensure he didn’t lose his lead, he took off with fuel hose still attached to his car.
Not only did he narrowly avoid clattering into Sutil’s car on the way out. He had no idea the fuel hose was flailing about in the wind behind him until he was almost out on track. Funnier still, were the three Ferrari mechanics who dashed after the car like extras on The Benny Hill Show
Apart from Nelson Piquet deliberately crashing into the grandstand wall, this was the defining image of the first Singapore night race.
THE RETURN OF THE KING
Every sport has its “Greatest” - that one person whose deeds stand beyond anything his peers, predecessors and successors have ever achieved. Boxing, of course, has Muhammad Ali. Tennis, Roger Federer. And golf, the smooth Jack Nicklaus.
While the late Ayrton Senna is often considered as F1’s most iconic figure, it is Michael Schumacher’s feats that remained unrivalled to this day.
Schumi had already been retired for two years when the Singapore Grand Prix debuted in 2008. Who would’ve thought then that he would return to sport in 2010 with Mercedes.
And so when he drove out of the paddock for the Friday practice session in Singapore, it was a bucket-list moment for thousands of racing fans here. Talk about hairs standing on the back of our necks. Geez.
(Schumacher was left in a coma after a skiing accident in 2013. Information on his current condition remains very scarce.)
THE KILLERS IN 2013
Among the best things about F1 in Singapore are all concerts within the circuit. Very bang-for-buck. Over the years, we’ve be spoilt for choice with the likes of Linkin Park, Katy Perry, Travis, Jennifer Lopez and Robbie Williams.
Even Bob Geldof took a break from arm twisting world leaders to perform in 2013. Still doesn’t like Mondays, he sang so.
Queen – with Adam Lambert up front – rocked the Padang last year. Let’s just say that while Adam is no Freddie, the late mustachioed maestro would’ve have been proud.
And this year, Duran Duran is set to shake, shimmy and maybe even have the odd underwear thrown at them as they party like it’s 1984.
But, the one of the most unforgettable moments was when The Killers turned up in 2013. The New York outfit had to cancel the Asian leg of their tour in 2010, leaving fans in Singapore pretty upset.
However, all was forgiven the moment frontman Brandon Flowers walked on stage and said: "It's nice to finally see you all tonight, they didn't tell me you were all so good looking. Now, let's do some singing!"
Best of all, the crowd was in fine fettle as they sang and jumped in unison to The Killers’ anthemic tunes.
There were two comical moments on the track in 2016. First, a monitor lizard was spotted on during a practice session. To be fair, they are fast creatures themselves and this one fancied himself a little bit as it tried to steal the drivers' limelight.
Then, during the race proper itself, a marshal had to scramble to safety after clearing debris from track. Let's just say it was a less glamourous side to life on an F1 track.
Never mind those two, the top prize goes to Yogvitam Pravin Dhokia.
In 2015, he found himself moseying about on the track without a care in the world, and seemingly dropped off at an unfortunate landing spot by an alien craft. Or maybe there was a Dr Who phone booth nearby.
Sebastian Vettel was the first to push panic button, as he radioed his team to say: "There is a man on the track! A man on the track!"
There were loud gasps of disbelief among spectators as the cameras found him in time to show him jumping back to safety behind the barrier.
Anyway, no mystery over where he eventually ended up: Changi Prison, for six weeks.