100 Unusual/Hilarious/Random/Awesome Things That Happened To Me During An F1 Race Weekend

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​If you’re not new to this blog then perhaps you already know that the 5 F1 GPs I’ve attended weren’t necessarily smooth sailing and were almost always action-packed.

Since I like long lists, I would like to share with you some of my most memorable moments during an F1 weekend. Some I have written about, while the others are yet to be expounded.

In no particular order:

1. (Nearly) meeting Nico Hulkenberg while in a taxi queue outside a mall.
2. Having one shoe fall off while running towards the podium post-race. (Yes, my friends all say I should wear running shoes when I watch GPs from now on.)
3. Seeing a Rob Smedley doppelganger and wondering why more fellow fans are not seeing that eerie resemblance.
4. Standing next to a Yoann Gourcuff/Fernando Torres lookalike and not getting the chance to surreptitiously photograph him.
5. Nico Rosberg bending down to take a closer look at the bracelet I was wearing.
6. Getting stared down by Maurizio Arrivabene.
7. Befriending a fellow fan while waiting outside the paddock entrance for Sebastian Vettel and then realizing after we’ve said goodbye that we didn’t even get to exchange names.
8. Getting squished next to a British Juan Mata lookalike during a Red Bull Racing event.
9. Finally meeting Michael Schumacher in the flesh after 15 years of dreaming about it. (Read about it here: http://wp.me/p10DmM-zz )

Schumi! ❤

10. Crying tears of joy/exhaustion underneath the podium after witnessing my very 1st Ferrari double podium. 

Post-Podium Ceremonies selfie!

11. Getting photobombed by a bunch of rowdy Irish & Australian teenage boys.
12. Meeting fellow fans in the flesh after years of Twitter interaction!
13.  Receiving strange/confused looks from sales assistants whenever I asked, “Do you have an Alguersuari cap?”
14. Having a mini-argument with a sales assistant who didn’t think Kimi Raikkonen has what it takes to win that year’s F1 Night Race.
15. Convincing a staff member to unveil at least the nose of the Ferrari display car so me and my friend can take a photo with it.
16. Trackwalking post-race holding a ziploc bag, collecting tire marbles along the way.
17. Nick Heidfeld passing me by as he made his way back to the pits after an on-track shunt. 

Hallo, Nick!

18. Taking home a piece of the foam barrier that Sergio Perez hit on-track.
19. Being overwhelmed by seeing Michael Schumacher for the 1st time in person (sans his racing gear) during the Drivers’ Parade that I took a photo of a trash bin instead of him.
20. Standing next to a group of friends who jeered both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher and doing my best not to punch them all.
21. Inadvertently yelling “Jaime Alguersuari!” so loudly during the Drivers’ Parade that he looked my way and waved.
22. Being so sleepy and exhausted that I started yelling “Sebastian Vettel! Where are you? Please come out!” towards the Paddock Entrance (It was already past 4am & I only had 1 hr of sleep that entire day, okay?!).
23. Praying earnestly not to get injured as I mounted multiple barriers and ran up several slopes just to make the podium ceremonies.
24. Finding out our house got completely flooded due to a major typhoon barely 24hrs before attending my very 1st F1 race.
25. Wearing a headband decorated with lots of tiny Lego mini-tires.
26. Buying expensive caps that I didn’t really need but I absolutely wanted. 

Ogling the overpriced merchandise that I still could not help but buy…

27. Sneaking surreptitious looks at the KangarooTV (remember them?) of my fellow fans.
28. Foregoing eating for nearly 12 hours because the queues are too long/I didn’t have much of an appetite/I’d rather go around the track.
29. Having a hulk of a guy, who was bald and wearing a sleeveless top, borrow my fan and then ask me, “How are you not sweating in this weather?! I am dying here!” (It’s true, I was cool as a cucumber in the heat and humidity while he was as red as a tomato and sweating like a whore in church.)
30. Speaking of fans, while waiting to cross in a pedestrian footbridge, another Western guy stood beside me and made almost-inappropriate sounds of pleasure when he caught some of the air I was producing with my fan.
31. Having a fellow fan snatch my Sharpie pen in excitement while waiting for Heikki Kovalainen to sign stuff because his own pen didn’t work. Heikki saw the look of annoyance on my face and signed my stuff first. Ha. The fan apologized to me after so it’s all good.
32. Having a fellow fan graciously lend me his pen when it was my turn to have my stuff signed by Max Verstappen, because I dropped my pen inside my blackhole of a bag before taking a photo of him.
33. Nico Hulkenberg telling me, “Good luck!” after he signed my notebook. I’m pretty sure I made a “Huh?” face but he just smiled and moved on.
34. Standing outside a pop-up store for nearly 2 hours just to see Nico Rosberg up close for the 1st time.
35. Sneakily placing my mobile phone in between a cameraman’s legs just to be able to take a photo of Jenson Button for a friend.
36. Considered gatecrashing an F1-related event but changing my mind at the last minute to go shopping instead.
37. Getting lost on my way out of the track because I was too busy posting my Vettel autograph on Instagram.

I waited nearly 5 hours for this!

38. Bumping into an elderly track personnel while trying to find the track exit at past 4 am & getting told, “You’re still here, Miss?! Go home & get some sleep, lah!”
39. Having to explain to a semi-flirting taxi driver what makes F1 such a great sport at past 4 in the morning. Completely sober.
40. Having a whole conversation with our taxi driver about the 2008 F1 Night Race on our way to the airport while my friends rolled their eyes at the back.
41. Being too lazy to chase after Felipe Massa and then asking a fellow fan “Was he with Rob Smedley?” after.
42. Going to a McLaren-related exhibit inside a mall just to check out the Kimi Raikkonen bits. 

Spot the misspelled word there…

43. My friends freaking out on my behalf when they saw a huge Michael Schumacher billboard outside the Petronas Towers. “You have to take a photo with that!” I’ve trained my friends well.

Where Schumi goes, I go…

44. Nearly not being on time for a Qualifying Session due to a delay at the border, so I had to tell the taxi driver, “Please channel your inner F1 driver, I cannot be late!” We got to the track on time.
45. Dishing out the “You’re kidding me, right?” face everytime a sales assistant asks, “Are you getting this for your boyfriend?” when I’m browsing F1 merchandise.
46. Being given tons of free Singapore GP goodies by a staff member of the Singapore’s Visitor Centre when she found out it was my first GP ever.
47. Being too starstruck/awestruck to even properly take a photo of Kimi Raikkonen as he whizzed past us fans in his golf cart.
48. Starting conversations with fellow fans with, “So, who do you support?”
49. From crying my eyes out of sadness the night before to experiencing internal bliss the next day during my very first GP.
50. Getting invited by a fellow fan to “watch Fernando Alonso sunbathe in his hotel”. Yeah, I gave that a pass.
51. Being given free bottled water by generous track marshals.
52. Getting the stink-eye from Hamilton fans when my friend and I let out a whoop when he retired.
53. Having a fellow fan start a convo with me by opening with, “You’re a Kimi fan, right? You look like a Kimi fan” even though I wasn’t wearing anything Kimi-related. He’s a Kobayashi fan, by the way.
54. Getting the “You came all the way from the Philippines?!” response from fellow fans when I tell them where I’m from. Seriously guys, it’s not that far from Singapore.
55. Using all my charms to convince a bus conductor not to leave me and my friends in Johor Bahru (I had to attend a Qualifying Session in Sg that night) by distracting him and appealing to his Ferrari-supporting side.
56. Seeing someone I know through Twitter in person but getting too shy to approach them and say hello.
57. Receiving a dazzling smile from Sebastian Vettel after I wished him “Good luck!”
58. Yelling “Hello, Kimi!” everytime Kimi enters the pits mere meters away from me.
59. Nearly falling asleep while taking a shower after getting back to home base at nearly 5 am.
60. A fellow fan asking me, “Who is he? He’s a driver, right?” when Felipe Nasr exited the Paddock area and started signing for the fans.
61. Being all superstitious and wearing at least 1 red item per day for Ferrari’s sake (hey it worked for the 2015 F1 Night Race!).
62. Watching a Free Practice Session from a height of 165 meters for free, thanks to the Singapore Flyer.

The Singapore Flyer

63. Getting amused laughs from security personnel at the Gates during bag check whenever they see how huge my bag is and how it’s usually filled with shopping bags.
64. Falling in love with a promo umbrella emblazoned with the faces of past F1 Champions. 

I want that umbrella!!

65. Sending a text blast to selected friends (and most probably waking them up) at like 2 in the morning saying I’ve met Michael Schumacher. In all caps. I regret nothing.
66. My Spanish basically getting reduced to “por favor” and “gracias” when I met the Spanish-speaking drivers.
67. Seeing 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve blanked by fans.
68. Seeing Grumpy Fernando Alonso refuse to sign/take pics for fans and telling them a resounding, “NO!”
69. Seeing Kimi Raikkonen’s trainer Mark Arnall get a warm reception from fans, even getting autograph/selfie requests!
70. Randomly getting stopped by a fellow fan to ask why there was a Safety Car on track at that moment (Due to the Hulk-Massa shunt, F1 Night Race 2015).
71. Receiving a text from a friend that went something like, “Hey I’ve just heard that someone invaded the track mid-race. That’s not you, right?!” And yes, it was NOT me. (F1 Night Race 2015)
72. Running through nearly 1/3 of the track (back & forth at that) just to be able to make the podium ceremonies.
73. Watching Maroon 5’s concert post-Qualifying Session behind a couple who made out for 80% of the duration. Ick.
74. Randomly getting complimented by a fellow fan on the lipstick I was wearing during raceday (MAC Ruby Woo).
75. Immediately storing the Sharpie pen that was touched and handled by 3 World Champions (Schumacher, Vettel & Alonso) inside a ziploc bag and never touching it with bare hands again.
76. Resisting the urge to pee for 4 hours for fear of missing any on-track action.
77. Being told “You know a lot about F1 for a woman” by a taxi driver. (SIGH.)
78. Riding on the same elevator with fellow F1 fans who could not disguise their friskiness and looked just about to get it on.
79. Forgetting to remove my earplugs post-race which resulted to me talking really loudly to my friend and a few fellow fans for nearly half an hour.
80. Forgetting to bring my earplugs during raceday, buying a pair on-track but not using them anyway (this is during the V6 era already; and don’t follow my example, kids!).
81. Having a GP weekend survival kit that consists of: Paracetamol, band-aids, Tiger Balm and Salonpas strips.
82. Surreptitiously doing yoga-like stretches in between sessions (sometimes in the middle of a race) to prevent my legs from cramping and to relieve my poor back.
83. Unabashedly brandishing my foldable binoculars to get a better look at the cars (and to people-watch better).
84. Getting sad at seeing the discounted Kimi Raikkonen caps during his F1 sabbatical (circa 2010), but knowing in my heart he’ll return to F1 once again. I kinda wish I bought a couple of those now! 

I guess they thought Kimi wouldn’t be coming back…

85. Having this weird fascination with kerbs and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
86. Having the same fascination with tire marks on the walls and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
87. Nearly (deliberately) stepping on the foot of a motormouth fan behind me when he very loudly proclaimed that they should just skip interviewing Kimi Raikkonen because he is so dull (among other things) during the 2015 F1 Night Podium Ceremonies.
88. Shivering (in a good way) every time I hear the sound of an F1 car accelerating.
89. Overhearing a fellow fan tell his girlfriend, “Get Fernando to sign this, will you?” Girlfriend: “Why me?” Guy: “You’re a girl, he’ll pay more attention to you!”
90. Marvelling at how…vertically-challenged most drivers are.
91. Realizing though that most, if not all of them are much better-looking in person.
92. Overtaking slow-walking fans with F1 engine sounds playing inside my head.
93. Learning that when in doubt, go ask a track marshal/policeman directly.
94. Drinking more water in 3 days than I do in a whole month.
95. Regretting not being able to make and bring a witty banner.
96. Discovering a good spot for the Drivers’ Parade where they’re close enough to hear you when you yell their names.
97. Foregoing watching the musical acts in favor of waiting for the drivers & personnel.
98. Finding out that (most) F1 fans are really very nice and good fun.
99. Bending down the start-finish line and leaving a red kiss mark on it post-race.

Leaving my (kiss)mark on the track!

100. That strange mixture of happiness and sadness that envelops me as I leave the track post-race which leads to an iron resolve of, “I WILL BE BACK, NO MATTER WHAT!”

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I’m sure I have missed many more anecdotes, but anyway, perhaps they’ll make it to a part 2 of this post.

Meanwhile, I’m already planning my next GP weekend because I cannot wait to see what other adventures/misadventures await me.

(What are your own unforgettable F1 GP mini-anecdotes? Tell me in the comments section!)

Michael Schumacher: Meeting The Man and What He Means To Me.

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You have no idea how exasperating it is when I talk to someone about Formula One (sometimes at length, with mostly me talking) and they reduce the whole conversation to, “So you have a crush on Michael Schumacher?”

The short of the long answer is: NO, I do not have, and never had, a “crush” on Michael Schumacher. And I mean that in the best, most respectful way possible.

But in order to better explain my point, let me retrace my F1 history.

I began liking F1 as a prepubescent tomboy, when boys were still gross/annoying and I only wore skirts because they were part of my Catholic school uniform.

I chanced upon his name on a scaled model of his Benetton F1 car. I was a full-fledged Benetton kid/snob, so I immediately fell in love with that colorful car. And then I saw the name by the side.

Michael Schumacher. That sounds like a badass name, my preteen self thought. Surely someone who has a name as badass as that and who also gets to race an equally badass car, should be legitimately badass in real life, right?

And so my F1 story progressed. I scoured the newspapers, went to the library to peruse the magazines, watched the international sports news for snippets, until I finally managed to watch the races on TV. My memory is hazy on when I put a face to his name, but by that time, what he looked like mattered little to me; I’ve already claimed him as my Racing Icon.

Years went by and I fell even more in love with the sport. It was my awesome little secret, growing up in a basketball-crazy nation. I officially defected from the Enstone team the moment Schumi moved to Ferrari, a little bit sad to leave Benetton but secretly delighted that his new main color is my favorite: Red.

Even during his “barren years”, I was never really worried; I knew in my heart that he’s destined for more championships and that he would end up as the Greatest Racing Driver ever.

As a racer, Schumacher was everything I wanted: He was blindingly fast, he was ruthless, hardworking, and insanely focused. Self-contained but surrounded by ride or dies. His hunger to win was insatiable. He toed the fine line between Hero and Villain unapologetically. You either loved him or loathed him. There is no in-between.

I did not support him because he won so much to the point of domination. Something inside me chose him. And the rest is, history.

It never really occurred to me that it’s possible for me to meet him. During the time when budget airlines were still scarce and I was restrained by the duties of finishing my schooling, attending an F1 race was nothing but a pipe dream.

However, everything changed when my mother met Michael Schumacher. Yes, my own mother actually met Schumi a decade ahead of me.

Fate has a quirky sense of humor, at times.

It was during a work trip that coincided with the Malaysian GP. Everything was spur-of-the-moment and a bit of a blur. She didn’t get to have a photo with him but she did get to shake his hand and chat with him a bit. My mother had nothing but good words about him. Most notably, she said he’s really humble and you wouldn’t think you’d be talking to a sporting superstar by the way he put her at ease. “He’s very kind”, she’d repeat over and over again.

I knew he wasn’t the cold, ruthless, heartless, arrogant bastard/machine that the media proclaimed him to be, I thought with a mixture of relief and smugness. I chose my Racing Icon correctly! Ever since then, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I stand a chance to meet him, too. Imagine my disappointment when he announced his retirement from F1 in 2006. My dream was shattered into tiny pieces.

Three years later, as I sat alone in the office, I found out that he’s returning to Formula 1, this time as a driver for Mercedes GP. I’m not ashamed to say I let out a whoop and danced like a lunatic. The dream is alive again!

I finally watched Michael Schumacher race an F1 car in person when I attended my 2nd GP: The 2010 F1 Night Race in Singapore. I remember standing there on the viewing platform by Turn 14 as he drove past, my mouth unabashedly open and my eyes might as well have had cartoon hearts on it. To say it was a joy to see him race again would be an understatement. I felt like I was on some sort of pilgrimage, paying respects to my racing god.

However, It wasn’t until the 2012 F1 Night Race when finally, FINALLY, the dream of meeting him came to fruition. With the help of a fellow F1 (and Kimi) fan, we waited patiently outside the Paddock Entrance/Exit to try to catch the drivers after Qualifying. To be honest, I didn’t really expect to meet Schumi that night (or day, as it was already past midnight in Singapore then); I mean, why would he choose to exit the paddock by feet when he could easily leave via a chaffeured Mercedes car? Also, I was exhausted, hungry, sleepless–I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. Numerous drivers came and went and I even managed a few autographs. There was a lull for several minutes so I stepped back from the throng of fans to drink some water and hopefully catch a breeze, but then there was this gasp from another fan that my ears miraculously picked up.

I was still rooted to my spot when I saw my fellow fans stir. I couldn’t understand why there was a sudden…reverential silence outside the paddock. “Who’s that?” I asked out loud. My friend had no idea and moved towards the crowd. All of a sudden, someone went, “Michael!” which sent my brain into overdrive.

“Holy shit! Michael? THE Michael Schumacher?! No. What? Seriously? NO WAY!!”, my brain screamed.

I surged forward and true enough, there he was, just starting to sign for the small(ish) group of fans gathered behind the barrier. Hilarious but most of them had this “Oh my gosh, it really IS Michael Schumacher” look on their faces, and I bet that not all of them are even fans of his. I wish I had taken a pic of that moment but at that point, I was so awestruck that my motor skills were close to zilch. I managed to take a pic of him, and then proceeded to internally freak out just as he was slowly inching towards my side of the barrier:

There he is! It really is him!

“Shit. What do I do? What do I say to him?”
“Stay calm, FFS. Whatever you do, don’t scream ‘I LOVE YOU, SCHUMI!’ and scare him off.”
“You can do this. Just breathe. Be polite and look him in the eyes, okay?!”

Schumi is getting closer!

A picture of me taking a picture of Schumi. As you can see, I’m already having trouble controlling my camera’s zoom function out of nerves. Ha!

At last, he was right in front of me. The Man Who Was Responsible For My Formula One Love Affair. The world may as well have stopped spinning. The concept of time disappeared.

I meekly held out the orange collapsible fan I had the other F1 drivers sign to him. “Michael, please?”, I managed to say in a prim voice that sounded completely alien to my ears.

“Sure!” He replied cheerfully.
He held a part of the fan while signing, and paused in the middle of it to look at me, probably because my hand was shaking out of nerves and multitudinal feelings. He gave me such a reassuring, “It’s okay, don’t be nervous”-smile and I will never forget the kindness in his eyes. I wish I could have talked to him and told him how important this moment was to me, but I was so overwhelmed that I could only manage a, “Thank you, Michael. Good luck!” along with an “I’m trying my best not to spontaneously combust right in front of you, please forgive my lack of eloquence” smile.

Schumi looked me in the eyes once again, smiled and replied, “No problem at all. Bye!” gave me a farewell wave, and moved on to a group of Japanese girls who immediately and happily encircled him.

I finally got my Schumi autograph!

I couldn’t believe that just really happened. I just had a legit face-to-face interaction with him. And breathe.

I vaguely remember sending out a text blast to my friends screaming in all caps that I’ve met Schumi. I bet they weren’t amused to receive a text at such an ungodly hour but hey ho, no regrets.

In all seriousness, the thing about Michael Schumacher is that he really had that aura of being “somebody” without being arrogant or self-aware about it. He was kind, he was patient, he had time for everyone who was there, he was polite, he was grounded. “He wore his greatness with grace” was how I described him to my friends and anyone who would care to listen to me tell the tale of how I met him.

Before, I wished I’d have done more: I wish I talked to him, asked him stuff, begged him not to retire yet, shook his hand, took photos with him, asked for a hug, gave him a gift or a letter, the list goes on and on. But then, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t devalue the moment by dwelling on regrets. That moment was how it should have been and that is the beauty and uniqueness of it.

Not every racing fan got the opportunity to meet him while he was still a part of the F1 world, and I shall forever hold that memory and experience dear in my heart.

We all know by now what happened to him after he left F1 again, this time for good. Every single day, I wish and pray for his wellness and recovery, as I’m sure thousands (maybe even millions) of his other supporters also do.

He’s a man who shared his passion with thousands of others and became an inspiration to so much more. Mine is one of those lives he had changed and affected in some way; I will always defend him and wish him well, no matter what.

It was a pleasure and an honor to have been in his presence and whoever said never to meet your heroes is absolutely wrong because they’ve obviously never met Michael Schumacher.

He’s more than a racer. He’s a kind, charitable man, a great friend to many and a once-in-a-lifetime type of person.

While there is still a fighting chance, I will never give up. We will never give up.

Keep Fighting, Michael.

All Good Things Come To Those Who Wait: The 2012 Bouncebackable Trip To The F1 Night Race.

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Madness. Absolute madness. This was my fourth consecutive year of attending the race weekend and yet, I always bring back a renewed sense of wonder and affection with each return. Let me just say though, that this will be long, wordy and descriptive—mostly for my own benefit so I won’t ever forget a moment of what transpired in this extended race weekend. This won’t be objective or technical and for sure this will be tongue-in-cheek, emotional and at times, maybe a tad hyperbolic.

So there, you all have been warned.

Wednesday, 19 September: It’s Like I’ve Never Been Away…

This year, I have decided to fly to Singapore early for the race weekend, mainly because I wanted to try to catch some of the PR events of the drivers and also because I wanted to get some shopping done (yes, I’m still very much female, in that regard). I arrived in Singapore a little before high noon, and decided to catch a powernap first before heading out mid-afternoon for my first meal of the day and to check out the shops and the events. I knew that Mercedes GP driver Nico Rosberg had a 5pm event at a Puma pop-up store, but I did sort of lose track of time while doing some retail therapy, and before I knew it, it was well past 5pm and I had to channel my inner F1 driver to get to Raffles City quickly. When I got there, the emcee was already thanking the crowd outside for coming, and as I got closer I realized that it was an invite-only event and that Nico was already well ensconced inside. There was a sizable group of fans outside the store but as time went by, a lot of them became impatient and left, so I was able to get just in front of the velvet ropes, opposite the store entrance. From there, I briefly chatted with some hardcore F1 fans who’ve managed to meet Nico previously, and they told me that he’s very nice to fans. They’ve also met loads of other drivers and the consensus is that the most elusive of the bunch are Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher (no big surprise there!)—either they’re both heavily guarded or they just zoom past the fans. We’ve been waiting outside for nearly 2 hours then, and my feet and back were already hurting from standing for so long with a heavy handbag and shopping bags to boot, and I was already considering leaving the venue when all of a sudden, Nico Rosberg came out of the shop and went straight to the area where the fans were waiting. There was a lot of jostling—ironically, it was the male fans who got rowdy and kept screaming “Nicoo!!”—which made the security guys become a bit strict and surrounded him even more. I managed to get some shots of him and before I knew it, he was holding out his hand to reach for my notebook and pen (at that point, I didn’t even realize I was holding them out to him, must be an automatic “fan response”). One security guy started pushing Nico away and I got worried that he won’t be able to sign, so I called out a very polite, “Nico, please sign..?” and thankfully he heard me and reached out again to take my pen and signed my notebook. After that, he managed to sign quite a few more things (and certainly looked like he was willing to sign more) but the security team got impatient and hustled him to the waiting car, ready to take him to his next event at Butter Factory. To be fair though, Nico said, “Sorry, guys!” to those fans he wasn’t able to sign stuff for, before getting into the car and speeding away.

Oops, forgot to reset my zoom function–so here’s Nico UP CLOSE.

First autograph of the trip! Danke, Nico!

Window display advertising Nico’s appearance at the Butter Factory. Shame they spelled his surname wrong, it said: Nico ROSEberg!

That was my first experience of getting that close to a Formula 1 driver, and I honestly couldn’t believe I was able to stay that calm. I even joked to my friends online and through SMS that I finally popped my “stalker cherry”, much to their amusement. The trip certainly started off on a good foot. What better way to celebrate that small victory? Why, with more retail therapy, of course!

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Thursday, 20 September:  Putting the “I” in Multitasking…

I started off Thursday by making a detailed “To Do” list, and on top of that list was to claim my race tickets at the Swissotel Stamford. I knew that there’s a big possibility that F1 personalities and other famous people would be staying at that hotel, given its proximity to one of the track gates, so I spent quite a bit of time people-watching (to no avail) before finally getting my race tickets. I was pleasantly surprised that the organizers have redesigned the ticket packaging, doing away with the box and replacing it with a sleeker, slimmer ziplock pouch for easier carriage, and this year also marked my first purchase of the Premier Walkabout Tickets (I’ve always bought the Zone 4 Walkabout Tickets previously) so I was quite excited to finally have “branded” lanyards and not the ordinary ones. Having quite a bit of time to kill, I then took the train back to Orchard Road to hit the shops. Hard. And the first shop on my agenda? The Official Grand Prix Merchandise store!

At the Swissotel Stamford, Ticket Collection Centre.

Glorious, precious, shiny race tickets!

It was like being a kid let loose in a candy shop. Looking around, everyone had smiles and grins on their faces as they perused the different items on the store. I had to keep my hands wrapped around the strap of my bag several times as I walked around to keep myself from grabbing all the stuff I wanted, but in the end, I decided to purchase a Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari cap (children’s size, it’s less expensive and fits me, anyway!), a Michael Schumacher keyfob, and a Lotus GP Ladies shirt as keepsakes. My wallet was screaming in pain but my heart certainly was happy.

The Grand Prix Store: The apple of my eyes, the bane of my finances.

My racing-related keepsakes for the trip. Not budget-friendly, but they’re most certainly worth it.

By mid-afternoon, I was yearning for some rest and nourishment, but I noticed a bit of a commotion at the opposite side of Orchard Road and suddenly remembered that McLaren driver Jenson Button had an event at the Wisma Atria Tag Heuer store. Even though I’m not really a fan of the British driver, I decided to brave the heat and the crowd and crossed over to check out the event.

Jenson arrived looking dapper in a suit, albeit a few ticks late, and I have to admit that he does look good in person, He seemed very amiable, joked around a lot and thanked the crowd several times for braving the heat to see the event.

Jenson Button donates a signed racing helmet to the Tag Heuer shop.

Button with Tag Heuer’s Big Boss.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, he was taken inside the store for the private party, and I knew that it would take at least an hour for him to come out again, so I didn’t hang around anymore and decided to move along to do some more window-shopping and exploring.

Yet again, I lost track of time and had to hurry to make it to Orchard Central to check out the opening of the Red Bull GP store, which was to be attended by Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. The event hasn’t started yet when I got there, but the place was already jam-packed with fans and my only consolation was that I managed to find a semi-decent spot near the “stage” where I was squished against an English version of footballer Juan Mata (Thank you, lucky stars). The crowd went even wilder when the 2 drivers arrived, with Vettel and Webber fans trying to outdo each other with cheers for their fave drivers. Sadly, it was a very brief appearance for the both of them, as Vettel was scheduled to do the Drivers’ Press Conference that day later at 6pm, so they only got to do a few signings and interviews before they were rushed out of the venue.

Mayhem at the Opening of Red Bull Racing World!

Webber talks about the helmet design competition he held for his fans for this GP.

Seb and Mark quickly signs stuff for fans before they were whisked away by security for the “store opening proper”!

I knew Michael Schumacher also had an appearance the same day, but it was a private, invite-only event in a place not very near where I was at the moment, so I decided to forego that and end the day early—after all, getting to see 4 drivers and finishing all my shopping in 2 days wasn’t a bad accomplishment at all.

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Friday, 21 September. No Rest For The Wicked…

Proper rest, preparation and nourishment were crucial for the day, as this was the “official” start of the race weekend on track. For the past 3 years, I’ve always passed on watching FP1s, mainly because I always meet my now Singapore-based dear friend J for dinner after her work to catch up. However, this year, the new mom took a child-care leave and was able to meet me for lunch instead so I can finally meet her adorable new son. As normal with two close friends, we spent nearly 5 hours chatting and eating (mostly chatting), and with a bit of a heavy heart, I had to bid her and cute Baby A farewell to make the trek to the track to catch FP1.

Reporting for duty for FP1!

FP1: Schumi!

FP1: Nico Rosberg.

I arrived at the track early in order to familiarize myself with the new areas that are now available to me, as a Premier Walkabout Ticket holder. You also get unlimited rides at the Singapore Flyer with your ticket, so after four years of delaying this experience, I finally managed to try out the flyer, and I have to say watching the FP1 up there was really quite a whole new perspective! Afterwards, I walked around some more to check out the different viewing platforms and to “plan” my route for Saturday and Sunday, and settled at the Greek Theatre to rest my legs for FP2 and savored the sights and sounds of the handsome beasts on track (the cars are quite alright, too).

View of the track from the Singapore Flyer.

FP1 Views from ground-level and from the Singapore Flyer:

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Saturday, 22 September: When There’s A Will, There’s A Way…

I woke up late, but with an inexplicable feeling of excitement and…purpose. I knew that I had a very full day ahead, but I had no idea just how much the day was out to surprise me. Just before I left, I received an SMS from a fellow KRS member, asking me if I wanted to meet up later in the day at the track, and this only heightened my excitement as I wanted to personally thank her for all her invaluable help towards me on this trip. For once in the trip, I willed the time to move faster, as I spent the afternoon lazily going in and out of nearby shopping centers to escape the heat and window-shop, and finally decided to just head to the track early to avoid the crowds at the train stations and entrance gates.

Reporting for duty for FP3 and QLF!

There was a bit of a “traffic jam” near the area where the pedestrians can cross over to get to the Singapore Flyer, for the reason that it was just moments after the GP2 Sprint Race and security temporarily closed the path to give way to the teams’ logistical transfers and handling of the cars parked along the road. At some point, this guy in a racing suit came around our area, and he looked so happy and was pumping his fist repeatedly. Amusingly, the crowd with me didn’t really took much notice of him, so I decided to call out, “Congratulations!” in a whim as he walked past me, and he replied with a cheerful “Thanks!”. It was only much later when I found out that the guy was Davide Valsecchi–he finished 4th in the race but was crowned GP2 champion that day.

The GP2 cars, post-race.

Qualifying, honestly, went by in a blur. I hopped around different areas to test out viewing and photo-taking opportunities, but as soon as Kimi Raikkonen went out of the running for pole as he clocked in at P12, I pretty much stayed in a viewing platform opposite a widescreen and finished watching Q3 from there.

FP3: Red Bull charges.

FP3: Fernando Alonso.

FP3: Kimi Raikkonen.

Q1: Schumi attacks.

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Post-qualifying, I hurried over to the opposite side of the track, the Padang Stage, to catch one of my favorite bands, Maroon 5, perform. The place was absolutely packed with people, and while they gave a really good (but quick) show, before it was finished, I was already barreling my way towards the Singapore Flyer yet again, half-excited and half-afraid I’d miss the opportunity to see the drivers up close.

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine sings “Won’t Go Home Without You”: Exactly what I felt that night–I won’t go home without seeing the drivers up close!

The ginormous crowd at the Padang Stage.

Hey, Schumi has his own merchandise stand!

And this is where it got really, really interesting.

A from KRS and I casually waited outside the pathway of the Entrance/Exit, and while there were several other fans with us, it wasn’t exactly crowded. Several luxury cars as well as golf buggies came around, and we thought those were probably sent to fetch the drivers. One of the cars backed up and stayed close to the exit. The first driver we spotted leaving was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, and 2 or 3 of fans who managed to escape security went up to him and had flags and things signed. From the zoomed lens of my camera, I saw that Lewis didn’t mind at all and was very nice to them, chatting and agreeing to take photos before getting into the car and going the opposite way, not passing by the path that me and the other fans were waiting in. More cars arrived and at this point, I was getting scared that most of the drivers (if not, the more popular ones like Kimi and Michael), would be leaving the track by tinted cars and not pass by us. Next to leave was Williams’ Bruno Senna, who stopped to sign for some fans but quickly left. Nico Hulkenberg also briefly signed and posed for photos but did not look to be in a cheerful mood (or was that just his “default” expression? He was so much more cheerful when I saw him last year). Lotus GP Team Boss Eric Boullier left on foot but didn’t stop to sign for fans, though he looked to be in a jovial mood as he acknowledged some fans who bade him good night.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton chats with fans.

Williams’ Bruno Senna. I wasn’t able to take a proper photo as I was too busy staring at him!

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, aka Kimi 2.0.

Lotus Renault’s Big Boss, Eric Boullier.

Now, this needs a separate paragraph. Right, just when we started to relax a bit, the crowd erupted into massive cheers and I craned my neck to have a good look at an incoming golf buggy, saw that it was carrying Lotus personnel and then realized that THE Kimi Raikkonen was on it, sitting on the middle bench and hunched over, pretty face resting on his left hand. People started screaming “KIMIII!!!” and as the buggy drove past me, merely inches away, all my photo-taking capabilities flew out the window as I could only stare as time stopped while I got a good look at him. He looked half-grumpy and half-sleepy, but yes, I can now attest to the fact that photos and videos do not do him justice as he looks a zillion times better in person (how is that even possible?!) and his pointy nose and his eyes and his skin are supernaturally magnificent. Oh, and he was wearing his usual, now-famous plaid shorts. To be honest, after that, my weekend was made.

The (blurry) back of Kimi Raikkonen’s golf buggy.Again, I wasn’t able to take a proper photo of him as I could only stare at his Finnish Perfection in person!

However, there was more fun to be had, as Marussia’s Charles Pic exited next, and several minutes later, cheers erupted yet again from some fans at the sight of a guy wearing Ferrari gear, and It turned out to be test driver Marc Gene. I took photos of him and quickly grabbed my Sharpie, but my notebook got lost in my blackhole of a bag, so I just held out my collapsible cloth fan for him to sign and he did so (his was the biggest sig in there, funnily enough). Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne was next, and while I originally wanted to just take a photo of him, we somehow got face-to-face with each other, and he was looking at me expectantly so I held out my fan yet again and he signed it (what was I going to do, say, “Oh no, I don’t want your autograph, thank you. Go on.”? Haha.) Romain Grosjean and Kamui Kobayashi sauntered out next, and I decided to catch my breath for a bit and take a few steps back from the crowd, thinking that it might be several minutes before another significant driver/personality-sighting.

Marussia’s Charles Pic.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Marc Gene.

Gene’s signature.

Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne. More than happy to sign for autographs.

Vergne’s signature.

Lotus GP’s Romain Grosjean.

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I was wrong.

There was this rather audible collective gasp, and at first I thought it was just one of the team bosses exiting. But then I heard someone scream, “MICHAEL!!!” and I literally froze in place as I said to A, “Who’s that? Michael, as in Michael SCHUMACHER?!”

I stood on tiptoes and caught sight of a guy wearing an orange t-shirt, with that unmistakable prominent chin, starting to sign stuff for fans several meters away. I could not believe my eyes—Schumi was exiting the track on foot. Mingling with us mortals. I rushed to the side to take some photos but a security guy restrained me from getting too close, so I patiently waited until he reached my area and prayed to all entities that would listen that he won’t suddenly rush off and walk away. Before I knew it, he was signing the magazine of the guy besides me, and as he turned to me, I willed myself to be calm/keep a straight face/not scream “I love you, Schumi!!” or other inappropriate things to his face. So here’s how our exchange went:

Me: *holds out my fan and sharpie* “Michael, please?”

Schumi: *takes pen* “Sure.”

*looks at me, must have seen the star-struck look on my face, smiles and holds the edge of the fan because my hand was shaking before signing it*

Me: *dying inside, but stays calm and composed*

Schumi: *returns pen*

Me: *smiles* “Thank you very much, Michael. Good luck.”

Schumi: *smiles back* “No problem at all. Bye.” *waves and walks away*

Me: *feels the earth start spinning on its axis again*

THE Michael Schumacher is approaching! What do I do?!

I’m just a girl…standing in front of a Living Legend…asking him to sign my fan. 😀

Schumi’s signature!

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Did that just really happen?! Yes, it did, and I’m very surprised I did not faint right then and there and/or did a silly and ridiculously embarrassing celebratory dance worthy of becoming a viral video. Forgive me for stretching this out, but see, I’ve been a Schumacher supporter for 19 years now, and while I’ve dreamed of seeing him up close many, many times, that unexpected encounter will forever be embedded in my memory. Also, I half-expected him to be aloof and not-so-accommodating to fans, he could have just walked past us all and I would have forgiven him—after all, he is the F1 icon Michael Schumacher—he doesn’t have to please fans or prove anything to us anymore, but he was completely nice and down-to-earth and…normal, that it was difficult not to be awestruck by his presence. So I guess he just disproved what they say about not meeting your heroes, because sometimes, they will surprise you in ways that will renew your faith in humanity.

So there. After that Twilight Zone moment, #Bottas, Paul DiResta, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen left in quick succession. Funny story about Heikki, though: As I held out my fan and Sharpie to him, this overzealous guy besides me grabbed my pen because Heikki was trying to sign his magazine but the pen wasn’t working. Heikki looked at me and must have seen the annoyed look on my face, because he laughed and signed my fan first, signed the guy’s mag and then returned my pen. The guy apologized to me after and thanked me for the pen, so all’s well that ends well. Next up was another fan favorite of a driver, defending champion Sebastian Vettel. I rushed to the front of the line to get an autograph for fear that he’ll only sign a few and leave immediately, but he was very patient and signed nearly everybody’s things. By the time I got back to the end of the path way, I got to say, “Bye Seb, Good luck!” to him and he acknowledged with a smile. Really good guy, and he has that certain “X Factor” quality that endears him to you in person, too.

#BOTTAS!!

Force India’s Paul DiResta. Why the long face? :p

Red Bull’s Mark Webber and his jaw and cleft chin.

Nice guy Heikki.

Kovalainen’s signature.

Defending champ and crowd favourite Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel’s signature.

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Team owner Peter Sauber looked to be in a hurry to leave and might have said something about not having the time to sign stuff, but after the fans collectively groaned, “Awwwww!”, he mocked-exasperatingly said, “Oh, alright!!” and stopped for autographs. Timo Glock wasn’t very smiley or cheerful but was nevertheless very accommodating to fans. Sauber’s Sergio Perez proved to be quite popular too, and I have to say that he has every right to smile all the time as his teeth really do look blindingly-white and near-perfect up close. I’m jealous, actually.

Sauber’s Big Cheese, Peter Sauber.

Marussia’s Timo Glock.

Glock’s signature.

Sergio “Mr. Perfect Teeth” Perez.

Perez’s signature.

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Last, but certainly not the least, was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. There were a lot of Ferrari fans in the group and so he spent quite a bit of time signing stuff. I originally wanted to speak to him in Spanish, but by the time he got to me, I could only manage a meek, “Fernando, please?” (I suppose that is my “signature line” to the drivers now?) and he replied with an accented “Suuure!” and signed my fan, smiling.

Fernando Alonso! Hola, que tal, hombre? :p

Alonso’s signature.

It was nearly 3.00am by that time, and I decided to follow A out of the track to finally head back to the hotel. My whole body, from the tips of my toes to the roots of my hair was screaming in agony out of sheer exhaustion, but it was nothing a little Tiger Balm and Paracetamol couldn’t take care of. Besides, I wouldn’t have traded that experience for anything in the world. I honestly could have skipped, hopped, and crawled my way back to the hotel after that.

Mission Impossible? Accomplished.

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Sunday, 23 September: Keep Calm And Race On.

Raceday. Truth be told, after the night/early morning I had, my expectations for the race were well and truly in check, as I didn’t want to push my luck with the racing gods for asking for too much. My body by then had returned to “European time” and I woke to find out I’ve missed both the morning Mass and lunch. Never mind, I quickly got ready, headed over to a nearby church to say a quick prayer of thanksgiving (and yes, a prayer for my fave drivers and for good weather later), and then went to Orchard Road to meet up with the brother of my friend for some late lunch. Time whizzed by and I decided to forego any more last-minute shopping and went straight to the track to try to catch the support races.

Raceday! Yes, that’s my “Kimi-eating-IceCream” shirt from Unlap.

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Of course, one of the things I look forward to during the raceday is the Driver’s Parade, but I have to say that I was a little less obsessive and a bit more relaxed this year after seeing most of them up close just several hours before:

Hamilton and Maldonado.

Button and Vettel.

Alonso and DiResta.

Webber and Grosjean.

Rosberg and Schumacher.

Raikkonen and Raikkonen 2.0…I mean, Hulkenberg.

Massa and Perez.

Vergne and Kobayashi.

Ricciardo and Kovalainen.

Petrov, Senna and Glock. Bruno’s car “broke down” during the parade and he had to hitch a ride with Vitaly!

Pic, Karthikeyan and Dela Rosa.

Now, I won’t even attempt to gloss this over—the race wasn’t the most exciting or thrilling one, and it only ever started to get interesting after race leader Lewis Hamilton retired, HRT’s Narain Karthikeyan’s incident and of course, the Schumacher-Vergne collision. During the first SC period, I was in Zone 3 moving around the different viewing platforms when I heard huge gasps from the commentators, and as soon as I heard the word “Schumacher”, I quickly ran over to the nearest widescreen and watched in horror the replays of his surprising crash, collecting Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne in the process. I held my breath as I watched the two drivers get out of their cars and walk towards each other (Ooh, will there be a fistfight?) but as soon as Schumi put his hand around Vergne, and the Frenchman did the same thing, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief, although loads of people in my area were very audibly disappointed, as they wanted to see Vergne having a go at Schumi! Interesting to note as well that the incident happened near Turn 14, which used to be my favourite spot to watch for the past 3 years. I was tempted to make a run for it to see if I can catch sight of Schumi or the stranded cars, but calculated in my head that the area was too far away from where I was and I won’t beat the Marshals’ efficiency in clearing it out.

Here’s a video of the first lap:

And a clip from the Safety Car Period:

With Schumacher’s DNF, I focused nearly all of my attention on Raikkonen—the Singapore street circuit has not been very kind to him in the past and he has yet to score points there—and so I cheered and willed him on to push and get that car to the chequered flag. While the first half of the race seemed to drag on, the last part seemed to have gone by in a blur, (despite the extended SC period making it literally a race against time and not the number of laps) and before I knew it, the chequered flag was waved and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was crowned the winner, followed by McLaren’s Jenson Button and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. I thanked the racing gods for letting Kimi finish 6th and score good points, and although Schumi retired, at least he was safe and unscathed from the crash. The final results belied the vanilla-quality of the race and certainly made the WDC fight more exciting, as it looks to be a possible 3 to 4-horse race to the finish this year.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel wins the 2012 Singapore GP!

As fireworks erupted in the Singapore skyline, I felt myself getting a bit emotional, as they were, in a way, a signal of the end of that memorable trip. I trekked to the viewing platform nearest the area where I can just about see the podium, but after a few minutes, I saw spectators spilling onto the track—the track invasion has begun! But wait, how do I get in there?!

I quickly ran over to where people were exiting, but to my dismay, the security people did not open the metal barriers, and so everyone had to climb through them to get onto the track. I crossed my fingers, sent a silent prayer to protect me from injuries, threw my heavy handbag to the other side and proceeded to climb through 3 barriers and a 6-foot hill, and ta-daa! I barely had time to marvel at my newfound athleticism—I guess when you have adrenaline pumping through your system, you can truly do some anecdote-worthy things. What’s important was that I was able to get into the track and watch the podium ceremonies up close!

The podium finishers!

Champagne shower time!

The “much-awaited” podium interview with BBC pundit Eddie Jordan was barely audible in our area because loads of the spectators were too busy laughing and making fun of what he was wearing, but just the same, it was an unbelievable experience to be one of those people on track watching the podium finishers celebrate up close—something that I’ve only seen in the telly for the past 19 years!

Eddie Jordan and his “absolutely dire” (quoting the Englishman next to me) shirt.

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I walked around and checked out the different garages (behind the barrier, of course) for a bit before the marshals shooed the crowd away and closed that section of the track. I began the long walk back to Zone 4, soaking in the sights and sounds of all the happy spectators taking photographs and whatever track “souvenirs” they could get their hands on. I watched a bit of Katy Perry’s concert and perused the many activities and offerings in the F1 Village before deciding to finally call it a night.

The cars at Parc Ferme.

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As I slowly made my way to the Gate 7 Exit, I stood on the steps, turned around and blew a huge farewell kiss to the track. I do intend to return of course, but if ever this was my last trip to this track for some time, then I have absolutely no reason to complain, as it was well worth every body ache, sweat, effort, and penny.  The things I do for love of racing.

Farewell, Singapore race track! Until we meet again!

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The following day, everything will have gone and things will have gone back to normal, and yet, amazingly, I will never be the same.

 

 

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P.S.

I’ve always included some friendly, personally-tested tips on attending the Singaporean GP at the end of my trip reviews, but this year, I have decided to make a more comprehensive guide on attending the GP, so there will be a separate article on it posted soon. Thank you for reading!