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Did the MRT Cause F1 Gearboxes to Fail in the Singapore Grand Prix?

Mark Webber in the 2008 Formula One World Championship Season. (Photo: Reddit)

Mark Webber in the 2008 Formula One World Championship Season. (Photo: Reddit)

The Marina Bay Street Circuit has been the venue for the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix since 2008. The temporary street circuit has 23 corners, spanning over five kilometres around the Marina Bay, Kallang and Downtown regions of Singapore.

The Grand Prix is notoriously known for not only being tough on the F1 drivers themselves — losing up to four kilograms of body fluids during the two-hour race on Sunday — but tough on the F1 cars as well – especially suspension, cooling and transmission systems like the gearbox.

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MRT Network Underground Caused F1 Gearboxes to Fail?

Mark Webber’s gearbox failure in the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix

During the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in 2008, former Red Bull F1 driver Mark Webber was forced out of the race due to a gearbox failure, costing him a podium finish.

In layman’s terms, Formula 1 gearboxes are semi-automatic, where F1 drivers are still required to manually change gears through paddle shifters on their steering wheel, but they are assisted with an automatic clutch system for seamless up and downshifts.

Post-race analysis by the Red Bull F1 team and their gearbox supplier noted that Webber’s gearbox had seemingly attempted to select two gears simultaneously.

Suspicions of external electrical interference came about after Red Bull’s sister team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, also had one of their cars suffer a similar gearbox failure near the same location on the track, between Turn 12 and 13, during the Friday practice session then.

MRT trains on the East-West Line were speculated to have caused electrical interference from underground

According to a 2008 article by London-based motorsports publisher, Autosport, it mentioned that there had been theories about “metro tram interference” after examining “detailed maps of the Singapore track area” to judge if a passing train played a part.

Its analysis apparently showed that beneath the location of both Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s failures was along the path of the East-West Line (EWL).

Speaking to AFP, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also suspected the same, saying that “a tram line runs beneath the track at that corner and it seems as if static from a passing tram at the very moment Mark was in the corner passed through the ground”.

In an Autosport article the following year, they mentioned that both gearbox failures had occurred “close to the railway line near Raffles Place underground station”.

LTA says that it is unlikely that the MRT caused the gearbox failures in 2008

In response to queries by SGTrains, regarding both Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s gearbox failures seemingly caused by “electrical interference”, a spokesperson from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that “there was no MRT track beneath Turn 13”.

It added that the North-South Line (NSL) northbound section, from Raffles Place to City Hall MRT stations, is the nearest underground MRT tunnel sector towards Turn 13, and they are “about 200 metres away, with a depth of 10 metres”.



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Related Links
East-West Line – SGTrains
North-South Line – SGTrains


External Links
Red Bull still puzzled by Singapore failure – Autosport [Accessed 02 Oct 2022]
Red Bull moves to avoid gearbox issue – Autosport [Accessed 02 Oct 2022]
Train Static Blamed – AFP via Eurosport [Accessed 02 Oct 2022]


Image via Reddit.
This article first appeared on SGTrains.

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Loh

I'm a train enthusiast who is broadly interested in the different means of technology which powers Singapore's train network.