Saturday, October 1, 2011

F1 in Singapore

Last year I saw my first F1 race in Malaysia and found it to be a great experience. So when my girlfriend told me she had a business trip to Singapore the week before the F1 was to be held there, I decided to accompany her and spend some time watching cars go really fast.

Singapore is the only night race on the F1 calendar and for that reason alone, it is very popular. Most tickets were good for all 3 days of the weekend (practice is held on Friday night, practice and qualifying on Saturday, and the race on Sunday night). I only wanted to see the race, but the Sunday-only tickets were sold out in advance. Fortunately, the organizers made some walkabout tickets available on Sunday morning and I was able to pick one up after queuing for an hour at the main ticket center in the Raffles Place Convention Center.

The walkabout ticket allows you into one of four "zones" but it includes the Padang, a large park area surrounded by concessions and a stage where concerts are held, as well as the Esplanade bridge, one of the faster areas on the circuit. At S$148 (about $110), it is the cheapest option. If you want to sit, you can expect to pay twice that at a minimum, but you do get all three days for that. The pictures here are from various points in the walkabout area, where you can see plenty of great skyline views.

The track is a city circuit, which means that the cars race on normal roads. The track is set up a week in advance, which is a nightmare for local drivers, but provides chances for fans to walk around the area and figure out where the best place to watch might be.

Two views of the skyline, the above from the Padang, the below from Esplanade Bridge.

The Practice

On Friday evening, I was fortunate to find myself next to One Raffles Link, which hosts an Irish bar called Durty Nelly's. From here you can watch the cars race along Raffles Blvd until they hit turn 7, a sharp left turn that requires sudden braking and immediate acceleration off the turn. It was amazing to watch the differences in the driver skills as those at the top of the sport and with better cars were able to brake much closer to the turn, while the bottom feeders slowed down well in advance.

This is a great place to watch the practice from and it is free, and you can enjoy a real beer as well. Even better, there are some areas where there is no fence as you can see in the pictures above and below. Just don't forget your earplugs!

The Race

The race was scheduled to begin at 8:00, but you can enter the track from 3:00 and enjoy the food and entertainment on offer. There are two other races involving lesser cars and younger drivers which can be mildly interesting. Most fans ignore these though, and wander about, looking for the best place to stand or sit. There are raised viewing platforms but these become extremely crowded as the race approaches and you are forced to stay there the whole time to save your spot.

About an hour before the race, the drivers are paraded about in classic cars, waving to their fans. That's Timo Glock below, checking his twitter feed instead of basking in the cheering throng.

I stood along the Esplanade Bridge for the race, as it was a spot where there was some space. Unfortunately, it is where the cars are zooming by at around 250 kph, so good pictures with my crappy camera are difficult to get. But it is a rush to be there and just watch these machines go by for nearly 2 hours.

I had my radio earphones I had bought last year in Malaysia, and I was able to listen to the race commentary and stave off deafness. The race itself wasn't very good as Sebastian Vettel led from start to finish. Jenson Button finished only 1.7 seconds behind, but this is only because Vettel had to fight through traffic near the end. Upon completion of the race, fireworks were set off which made for an interesting sight with the Singapore Flyer in the distance.

During the race, many fans didn't bother to watch the action live, but chose to follow on the large screens scattered about (below). The atmosphere at an F1 race is unique and I can see why these fans spend the money just to be a part of it.

Overall, F1 is something that any sports fan should experience. There are races all around the world, including one in Montreal. This season has been a bit boring with Vettel's domination, but the sport itself is one of the most thrilling out there. If you've yet to visit an F1 track, put it on your to-do list.



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