(*50 Shades of Red was the alternate title for this post, but I realized that not everyone will be able to appreciate the humor in that, so…)
The year 2012 was the last time I attended the F1 Night Race in Singapore, so to say I was excited to be back would be a major understatement.
Actually, I have Kimi Raikkonen to blame/thank for all of this. Why? See, I initially thought 2015 would be Kimi’s last year in Formula One, what with all the “not-so-good luck” and uncertainties surrounding him. I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t go see him race live in Ferrari colors again, and so I bit the bullet and booked the flights and race tickets (as well as convinced 2 of my non-F1 supporter childhood friends to come with me to Singapore) as early as February 2015.
Now if you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know that this is a lengthy post. I like to include most—if not all—of the inane details because it just wouldn’t be me if this was in any way abridged. If you’re new, a warm welcome and prepare yourself for quite a ride (pun very much intended):
Friday, 18 September: Just DO It!
Unlike my previous GP trips, I had to delay my arrival in Singapore this year because September 17 is my Mom’s birthday, and it goes without saying that I had to be present at the family celebrations (Daughter of the Year right here!). As a result, I had to miss a lot of the PR events attended by the drivers, most notably Kimi Raikkonen’s UPS Event outside Raffles City Mall that Thursday, but it wasn’t such a big deal for me because…I had a plan.
I was brimming with too much excitement to even attempt to get some sleep, and I’ve always been an insomniac anyway, so after having breakfast at midnight at home, I went straight to the airport and was checked-in at 03:00 for my 05:40 flight. The most curious thing that happened during my flight was that my expensive, precision timepiece suddenly stopped working just as the plane took off. I stared at it incredulously, shook and prodded it, to no avail. I’ve worn that wristwatch for all of the GPs I’ve attended and this was the first time it failed me! And why am I telling you this? The brand of the watch is actually a major sponsor of a huge F1 team, one that is currently struggling. Oh, the irony. Moral of the story: Bring an extra wristwatch if you’re a stickler for time like me.
I arrived at Singapore around 09:00, breezed through passport control, collected my luggage and paused to exchange currencies and to buy a local SIM card for my internet needs. I was supposed to contact my Airbnb host through Viber upon my arrival, but for some reason, the internet just wouldn’t work on my mobile phone! I tried to send an SMS through my other mobile phone but my international roaming service (which I activated the day before) was not working, either. Man, the effects of Mercury Retrograde were already pummeling me. I spent nearly an hour and a half trying to get the internet to work with the assistance of the foreign exchange shop personnel, and by the time it finally worked I was so exhausted I just wanted to pass out (and maybe eat).
All those tech glitches were forgotten by the time I stepped out of the airport and took a taxi. It finally hit me that I was back in Singapore for the race weekend! I checked into our awesome Airbnb flat (I’m so happy my friends and I decided to try Airbnb for this trip. Seriously guys, check it out and save loads), unpacked a bit and decided to take a catnap (at that point, I’ve been awake for 24 hours straight). An hour later, I woke up and decided to head to Orchard Road to have a bite to eat and for a bit of shopping.
Curiously, there wasn’t much of a racing-related atmosphere when I got to Orchard Road. I was so used to seeing loads of F1-related shops and activities strewn along the area during the previous years so I was a bit disappointed at their absence this year. Perhaps they were moved to a different part of the city? I had little time to contemplate and immediately deployed Shopping Mode instead.
However, I got a bit carried away (I blame Sephora and the Kinokuniya bookstore!) and before I knew it, it was already 5pm and I haven’t claimed my race tickets yet, let alone eaten properly! I considered bringing along my shopping bags with me to the track but ultimately decided against it because they were too heavy, so I had to make a quick pit stop to our flat before I can get my race tickets. Argh. Free Practice 1 starts at 6pm and I’m still in an Orchard Road bus stop at 5:15pm. The clock is ticking!
When I finally got to Swissotel Stamford, the race ticket collection center, I had another reality check: The queue for ticket collection was massive! Apparently, other race fans had too much of the TGIF spirit in them and waited until the last minute to collect their tickets, too. I could only sigh in resignation as I fell in line and waited for my turn. My only consolation was that without my wristwatch, I couldn’t tell how much of FP1 I was already missing. Oh, and I saw a Rob Smedley doppelganger. Silver linings and all…
At last, I got my race tickets! I then barreled outside and hurried my way towards Gate 3, but not without a mini pause outside to thank the racing gods for bringing me here safely after a 2-year hiatus. I am back, baby!
Unfortunately, as soon as I stepped inside the track, I heard the Practice Session got red-flagged due to an incident. Not even that could dampen my spirits as I immediately headed to the merchandise stalls, got myself Vettel and Raikkonen Ferrari caps, busied myself taking in the sights and sounds all around me and perused the circuit map, trying to formulate my plan of attack for FP2.
My friend HM, who arrived in Singapore around 18:00, was supposed to meet me for dinner at Raffles City, but she got a bit lost on the way to our Airbnb flat so we had to cancel our dinner plans. I have not had anything except water and a couple of crackers at that point, and the queues at the food stalls I passed were quite long, so I just decided to make the trek to Zones 2 and 1 early so I can check out the views before FP2 started.
One of my favorite “chill spots” inside the track is the area around the Singapore Flyer, and that’s where I ended up just before FP2, resting my tired legs and eating a small cup of gelato as my first “meal” of the day. Reasonably energized, as soon as FP2 started, I was ready to go.
Once I heard the sound of the V6 engine in person, I have to admit that it gave me goosebumps. Of course, it doesn’t have a patch on the roar of the V8 engines, but if you’re a legitimate racing fan, then certain engine sounds will always get to you. I found it half-amusing and half-disappointing that I really didn’t need to wear earplugs anymore while watching FP2 (don’t imitate Aunt Marj kids, her eardrums have been hardened by time already), but hey, that issue has already been flogged to death so I’ll let it go.
I hopped around different viewing spots and finally got around to reaching the viewing platforms just in front of the pit exit. What is incredibly cool about that area is that it allows the fans to see the cars really close as they zoom down the straight, and with the cars emanating sparks at that area, the spectacle just gets better! I almost felt like I was going to get hit on the face with sparks at certain points—luckily, it didn’t happen but if I had to take one for the team, then so be it!
Also, I finally got to see the drivers do practice starts—which was strangely mesmerizing. I had to constantly remind myself to keep my mouth closed lest I look like a crazed fan while ogling the cars just mere meters in front of me.
When FP2 ended, I again decided to get something to eat, but the food stalls I passed just didn’t pique my interest, so I decided to go back to the Singapore Flyer area and just get food from there. Imagine my shock and trepidation when I reached that area and found that all the food stalls were already closed! Worse, I checked my water bottle and saw that I was down to my last 3 inches of water. And I’m still planning to stay inside the track for at least a couple of hours. No bueno.
Dejectedly, I slumped down on one of the benches in the deserted food court and carefully rationed my water to avoid dehydration. I considered going to the Zone 4 Padang Stage to catch Pharell’s concert and get some nourishment there, but my internal battery was already running low so I decided to stay put and recharge. When midnight hit, I finally stood up and went to the area outside the Paddock Entrance, saying a silent prayer to the racing gods to make the wait for the drivers quick and painless.
Surprisingly, there were only a small number of fans gathered outside the Paddock Entrance, most of them Japanese fans. I settled in a spot just behind a white plastic barrier, chatted a bit with an Australian girl (who’s a Ricciardo fan) and tried to talk to a couple of Japanese Toro Rosso fangirls but we just ended up smiling at each other a lot due to the language barrier.
So without further ado, here’s the rundown of who I saw/met during my Friday Paddock Vigil:
(Sidebar: I know that selfies are the new autographs for this generation, but I’m old school and I hate taking selfies so I stuck with a good old notebook and a Sharpie pen for autographs.)
First notable person out was 1997 WDC and now Formula E driver Jacques Villeneuve. Amusingly, he was “blanked” by the fans and was allowed to walk away freely. To be fair though, he was busy talking on his mobile phone and barely looked at us.
Claire Williams and Susie Wolff: Super nice ladies who took the time to sign everything and took selfies with whoever requested for it. Gamely chatted with the fans, too. And yes, they are both very pretty in person.
Martin Brundle, David Coulthard and Eddie Jordan: The three came out together and even though Jordan and Coulthard didn’t look to be in the mood to interact with fans, they got into it anyway when Brundle stopped to take selfies and sign autographs. Brundle was the nicest and most interactive.
Toto Wolff: The ladies shrieked like schoolgirls when they saw him, I kid you not. It was hilarious, but totally understandable, because Toto does look quite dashing in person. He accommodated everyone’s request, and after he signed for me and said “You’re welcome” to my “Thank you”, I had to fight giggles because I so badly wanted to ask him, “Can you please say ‘I’ll be back’?”
Will Buxton: For someone I haven’t seen before in person, I immediately recognized this, er…very polarizing (at least for F1 fans on Twitter) journalist. I was a bit disappointed that he wasn’t wearing colorful trousers. He chatted with a group of Japanese fans about gifts and snacks and moon cakes that they apparently give him on a regular basis.
Karun Chandhok: Didn’t say much, signed and took selfies with whoever requested for them.
Just when I decided to take the tiniest sips of water, out came Kimi Matias Raikkonen. In the wheel of his usual golf cart. Naturally all the fans screamed, “KIMIIIIII!!!!” as he zoomed out. I didn’t even get to take a photo of him as I suddenly froze and just stared at his face (yeah, still gorgeous). Actually, I vaguely remember yelling “HI, KIMI!” to him as he passed by. He did raise his hand, waved and (Kimi-)smiled at us before his very speedy exit. Sigh. Always leaving us wanting more. Damn you, Kimi.
Esteban Gutierrez: He looks younger in person. Quite smiley. Chatted with fans a bit longer, considering that most of us gathered there were clear Ferrari fans. We spoke in Spanish, mainly “Por favor/Gracias” (Me) and “De nada.” (Him).
Eric Boullier: Initially reluctant to approach the fans but got convinced by all the “Eric!! Please?” requests that he heard. Left quickly.
James Allen: The Australian guy next to me mistook him for another journalist Tom Clarkson, but before I got the chance to correct him he was already in our area and was taking selfies with the Aussie guys. He even chatted with them about Ferrari engines and F1 gossip. I wanted to tell him, “Hey, you once followed me on Twitter!”
Mark Arnall: Kimi Raikkonen’s long-time personal trainer and friend, for those who don’t know him. I can’t recall if he was with Kimi in the golf cart earlier and he just came back to the paddock again or whether that was a completely different guy with Kimi in the cart. Anyway, he was super nice to the Ferrari fans and promised to pass on all the good luck wishes of the fans to the Iceman himself.
Romain Grosjean: I saw him last time in 2012 but didn’t get the chance to get his autograph. This year, he wasn’t in a hurry and seemed to be in a better mood, signing everything and completing all selfie requests.
Maurizio Arrivabene: Part Two of ladies (And yes, even gentlemen) shrieking unabashedly when they saw him. He cuts a distinguished (don’t-mess-with-This-Boss) air in person. He looks quite scary and intimidating but signed everything and took selfies with everyone. When it came my turn, I held my notebook out to him, he took my pen, stared at me (Why?! What did I do?! –my paranoid side was screaming in my head), slowly took my notebook from my hands, laid it on top of the barrier, signed it, stared at me again, and returned my things. For a few moments there, I seriously thought he was going to scold me/yell at me for some unknown reason. It was a miracle I managed a “Thank you.” He stared at me again and said, “Welcome” before walking away. I only realized I was holding my breath the entire time when he has gone. That man sure knows how to make his presence felt!
Britta Roeske: A group of Ferrari fans called out to her for autographs and photos, but it’s clear Sebastian Vettel’s PR maven has her feet firmly on the ground as she shyly replied, “But I’m not a celebrity! Sebastian will sign everything, don’t worry!” before saying goodbye to all.
Christian Horner: Wasn’t very chatty, bordering on formal, even. Still, he signed everything and gamely took selfies. I had to bite my tongue and not go, “Please say hi to Ginger Spice for me. Girl Power!!”
Will Stevens: Took a few selfies, signed some stuff and bypassed the rest.
Lewis Hamilton: He was going to take a car out of the paddock. Some fans spotted him exiting so they all ran towards him and surrounded him. He finished signing and taking selfies before getting into his ride (a Mercedes, of course).
Pastor Maldonado: Seemed in good spirits. Took a few selfies, signed a few things and bypassed the rest.
Fernando Alonso: Surprisingly interacted with zero fans. Fans went berserk when they saw him exiting briskly on foot, but as soon as he heard the commotion, he took out his mobile phone, “made a call” and went, “No, no, NO!” at fans who hounded him in hopes of getting selfies and autographs. Disappointing.
Max Verstappen: He looks even younger in person. When I was getting his autograph, I had to fight the urge to giggle because I cannot believe I’m getting the signature of this 17-year old kid who’s not even a boyband member but is a bona fide racing driver. Not very smiley.
Valtteri Bottas: Didn’t say much initially but signed everyone’s things and took selfies patiently. Funny thing: Australian Guy Number 1 asked Bottas whether he thinks his friend (Australian Guy Number 2, who was standing beside him) looks like him. Bottas stared at the friend, smiled and said, “A little bit.” They could be brothers, really, except that Aussie Guy No.2 happens to be a foot taller than Bottas.
Felipe Massa: Exited the paddock on foot and headed straight to a car waiting for him. He stopped though when the fans ran towards him and gamely signed and posed for photos. I asked a fellow fan when she came back, “Is Rob Smedley with him?!” Alas, he wasn’t.
Carlos Sainz: Interacted with the fans well. The object of affection of the Japanese girls beside me (with their Toro Rosso and Sainz banners) so he spent most of his time with them.
Nico Hulkenberg: There was a bit of a lull after Sainz, so when Hulkenberg came out, you can just imagine how much the ladies shrieked again. I can’t blame them though, even my sleepy self was awakened at the sight of him because he looks so darn good in person. He was in high spirits, and it took quite a while for him to get to our area because nearly everyone ahead took multiple selfies/photos with him. By the time he reached me, he was still bantering with some of the fans, and when I thanked him, he wiggled his eyebrows at me and went, “Good luck!!” Um. Wait, what? Before I could reply, other Japanese fans had dragged him away for photos, so I was left wondering, “What the hell was that good luck all about?!”
Nico Rosberg: The award for “best interaction with fans” goes to this driver, hands down. He not only signed all the stuff and took multiple selfies and photos, he also gave hugs to whichever fan requested for them and took his time to converse with fans. When he was signing for me, I noticed he kept looking at my right wrist (where I wear several bracelets), and even bent down to have a closer look at it after I took my pen back. He finally asked me, “Is that the one?” and thankfully, my brain quickly pieced together things and realized that he was asking whether I was one of the lucky fans he gave a Thomas Sabo bracelet to the day before in an event (he was apparently referring to my pink crystal bracelet). I replied, “Oh no, it’s not.” He laughed and said, “Yeah, it’s not. Sorry.” After that, he stayed for a while to chat with two massive Rosberg fans beside me who were practically melting with sheer joy.
Marcus Ericsson: Not too chatty, but nice to the fans. Gave me a smile when I wished him good luck. He should smile more often.
Felipe Nasr: He looked a bit tired but brightened up at the warm reception of fans. Took his time signing and taking photos.
Sergio Perez: Mr. Perfect Teeth in the flesh again. He’s still as smiley and warm to the fans as ever.
Sidebar: Stoffel Vandoorne and Alexander Rossi were also both stunners in person. Yeah, I said it. Perhaps we ladies should hold score cards from 1-10 and rate the drivers as they exit. Just kidding! Also, I’m still amazed at how…vertically-challenged most people in F1 are. I’m of average height myself, and for the longest time, I had this perception that most of them are taller than they actually are (barring some exceptions like Hulk, DC, Arrivabene). Anyway, this isn’t a diss, just an observation, much like TV makes people look older because they all look so much younger in person.
And so 03:00 has come and gone and a certain Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari was still MIA. At that point, I was operating on only an hour’s worth of sleep and the last “meal” I had (a cup of gelato) was more than 6 hours ago. Have I mentioned that my water supply’s nearly gone? Some fans have given up and left, and I seriously contemplated following suit. But I’m not a quitter, and I reminded myself that my main objective for that day was meeting Vettel again, so I just have to suck it up and deal with the wait. I sat on the ground, stretched my legs, checked Twitter for a bit, people-watched to pass the time. Still no Seb. I looked up, stared at the Flyer, imagined the refreshing shower, bed and unlimited drinking water waiting for me back at homebase. The Australian guys were already lying down on the makeshift platform next to me, and I had to hand it to them because while my body clock was on the same time zone as Singapore, theirs were on +3hrs, so technically it was already past 06:00 for them! I stood up and decided to make small talk with a Chinese girl next to me, who took the place of the Japanese Toro Rosso girls who already left. She asked me who I was still waiting for and when I said Vettel, she brightened up and said we’re on the same boat. We chatted a bit about Kimi and Ferrari, and I made her laugh by joking that I’m willing to sleep in the area just to wait for Vettel and by occasionally (half-jokingly) yelling, “Seb!!! Where are you?!!!” in the direction of the paddock exit. Still no Seb. “We can do this!”, I assured my new comrade. “Stay with me, okay?”
Timecheck: 04:00. Finally, after what seemed like several eternities in purgatory, we heard a commotion at the front of the queue, and I asked the much taller (and now fully awake and vertical) Australian guys, “Who is it? Is it Seb?!” and one of them replied, “Yes, Seb’s one of them!” Turns out Sebastian Vettel came out with the two Red Bull drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Danill Kvyat.
I didn’t even get to take proper photos of Ricciardo and Kvyat, as I was focused on monitoring Vettel’s movements. He signed things and took selfies wih a lot of the fans at the front of the queue, and I thought, surely Seb will finish the whole queue, right?
But then, as Seb got to the middle part, he suddenly walked faster and went, “Bye, guys!” Oh, hell no. You are not leaving without signing for me! Luckily, the leftover fans spilled over the barrier and swarmed Seb, blocking his way, so he stayed and patiently signed the things handed to him. I don’t even clearly remember hopping over the barrier, but I do remember suddenly standing in front of him, asking him to sign my race ticket (forget the notebook, he gets the honor of signing my ticket!). I thanked him, got an, “Okay” and moved away to give the other fans access to him. That commotion allowed the Red Bull drivers to make their quick exits, but some lucky fans still got their signatures and selfies through sheer persistence.
With Vettel finally completing my wishlist, my adrenaline level promptly came crashing down, and it was high time for me to finally leave the track. I bade a quick farewell to my Chinese friend (I never got to ask her name, silly me!), asked a security personnel to direct me to the nearest exit, and off I went.
After a couple of idiotic attempts at navigating my way out (Note: Do not Instagram while doing so), and several minutes of frantic arm-waving to taxis, I was at last on the way back to homebase. Amusingly, my driver kept me awake by chatting to me about F1 (or rather, his lack of knowledge of it), and even threw some pick-up lines at me (Who even attempts to flirt at past 4 am?). Before I alighted, I urged him to give F1 a try and to pray for a Vettel or Raikkonen Ferrari win on Sunday. One more prayer couldn’t hurt, right?
(During the taxi ride, I suddenly realized that Jenson Button hasn’t come out yet by the time most of us fans left. I originally wanted to get a couple of his signatures as 2 of my friends have crushes on him, but really, I’ve already pushed my body to its limit for the day, so…sorry, girls! Maybe next time!)
I got back at our Airbnb flat at around 4:40am, immeasurably exhausted, hungry and dehydrated, but still smiling at the sheer madness of my day. I stripped out of my sticky clothes, showered, downed a bottle of water and properly passed out in bed at 6:00am. Until tomorrow/later, F1 circus.
Saturday, 19 September: Taking It Easy(ish).
With the “Paddock Vigil” officially crossed out of my To Do List, I promised myself I’d take it easy for Saturday. My friend and I woke up late, left the flat at mid-afternoon and went to Orchard Road for a super late lunch and a bit of shopping (I finally got a new wristwatch. Yay!). At half past 5, I bade her farewell and went to the track, not wanting to be late for FP3 this time around. The former Gate 7 that I so often used in the past had been turned into Gate 8, and that was the entrance I used for the day. I loitered around Zone 4 for a bit, saying “hello” to my beloved Turn 14, before deciding to make the early trek towards Zones 2 and 1 in preparation for Qualifying. I made a pit stop at Zone 3 and watched the latter part of FP3 via a super clear widescreen. The Ferraris looked strong and the Mercedes cars looked off-pace. Say what? I was almost scared to hope but what have I got to lose? Anyway, post-FP3, I snooped around the Simulator Challenge (the queue was massive so I didn’t get to try it), had my photo taken at the mini podium, and ogled the promo personnel dressed in fancy F1-related garb. I was so coveting their F1 WDC Umbrellas like you wouldn’t believe!
During the lull in between FP3 and Qualifying, I found myself taking refuge in the Greek Theatre near the Singapore Flyer yet again, with a cup of gelato as my “dinner”. I considered getting into the Singapore Flyer, but it wasn’t free of charge to racegoers anymore, and without any cars at the track, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the ride as much. That break also turned into a “Meet your Twitter friends portion” of the night, as I finally got to meet Peiyi (@fanpeiyi), a Singaporean native, massive RBR fan and a Race Marshal that weekend, as well as Vicky (@F1_Obsessive) and Dom (@domcovkid), a British couple who’s also first-time Night Race attendees. Follow them on Twitter, they’re awesome!
I spent Q1 chatting with the couple and watching the action from the viewing platform in front of the T21 straight. After Q1, I bade them goodbye so I can further check out the other available viewing platforms in Zones 2 and 1 that I haven’t gotten around to yet. Surprisingly, the Ferraris remained dominant, and near the dying minutes of Q3 I chose to stay in a Zone 1 viewing platform near a widescreen to get a better view of just how the Top 10 will line up. As soon as all the lap times were locked in and it was announced that the top 3 were Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen, I let out a huge “Yesss!!!!”, along with numerous other Ferrari fans in my area who also shouted, “Forza Ferrari!!” in celebration of that much-coveted pole (and 3rd place). I watched the post-Qualifying press conference and then suddenly remembered, I have a Maroon 5 concert to watch!
Funnily enough, the last time I saw Maroon 5 live was when they performed at the Padang Stage at the 2012 Night Race, so there was a bit of a déjà vu element to it. As usual, the lads rocked it and I sang along to most of the songs they performed—who cares if I was by myself?! Near the end of the concert, I received a text message from another friend of mine HK, that she already arrived in Singapore and that she and our other friend HM would meet me in Mustafa Centre post-concert. Never one to turn down an opportunity to shop, I headed straight to the only 24hr shopping centre in Singapore and had a grand time telling my friends about my adventures so far, and shopping, of course.
We ended up going home at around 4:00 am. So much for taking it easy for the day!
Sunday, 20 September: I Don’t Want This Day To End!
For the first time ever, I had serious, legitimate pre-race nerves. Forget butterflies, I felt like I had rats in my stomach when my thoughts turned to the race. Why? Well, this was the first time that I fully felt emotionally-invested in the race result, with the Ferrari 1-3 in Qualifying the night before. With the previous Night Races I’ve attended, I’ve seen a couple of Ferrari podiums, but let’s be real, I’m not a massive fan of Fernando Alonso so they didn’t really fully hit me in the heart. My desire to see Vettel and Raikkonen in the podium for this race was so intense that it almost hurt.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself.
My friends and I went to meet our childhood friend J, her husband A and our godsons for some late lunch in Somerset. For a couple of hours, I shoved raceday to the back of my mind and just enjoyed the good food and company. However, as 5pm approached, the nerves kicked in real hard. I bade goodbye to my friends and went to the track early to scout for a good spot for the Drivers’ Parade.
Actually, who was I kidding? I knew in my heart that I would return to the same spot I stayed in last 2012, that certain viewing platform just opposite T21. To my delight, I found it sparsely-populated, as usual. Sadly, I read on Twitter that unlike the previous years, the drivers would not be riding individual vintage cars and they would all be lumped in one truck, making the parade shorter than usual. Oh, boo. During the wait, I considered making an impromptu sign to show to the drivers, something along the lines of “Wave If You’re Gonna Win”, or “Wave To Me, Damnit!” Unfortunately, I only have my collapsible fan with me and I wasn’t sure whether the drivers would even get to read it, so I scrapped that idea. Remind me to bring a proper (witty) banner next time, please.
Fast-forward to the parade and as the drivers made their way towards my area, most of them were facing the other way, and as my throat wasn’t up to screeching “Kimiiii!! Seb!!”, I stared at the back of Sebastian’s head and willed him to “Look at me!!”, and amazingly he did!
Now, a new dilemma: Where to watch the Race Start? I moved around different viewing platforms in Zone 1 prior to the warm-up lap, but I didn’t really get the view I wanted, so I opted to return to the viewing platforms in Zone 2 near the Flyer so I can check out a widescreen as well.
For the first several laps, I moved around the different viewing platforms in Zones 1 and 2, and I was staying near a widescreen yet again when the collision between Massa and Hulkenberg happened. Now I like Hulkenberg as a driver, so I couldn’t help but yell “Nooooo!!!” when I saw him hit the tyre barrier and retire after that tussle.
After that Safety Card period ended and Vettel kept the lead, I thought the race would be pretty straightforward. But, plot twist! WDC leader and defending Champion Lewis Hamilton decided to retire his Mercedes after battling with car issues for most of the race. I internally whooped (for the sake of the WDC fight guys, chill) but didn’t want to be rude to his fans who audibly groaned in the viewing platform I was staying, so I kept my poker face and just willed the Ferrari boys to stay strong until the finish.
However, there was another plot twist to the race, and no, it wasn’t from any of the racing cars: There was a track invader! Most of us in the viewing platform literally went, “WTF?!” as soon as we heard the commentators announce it, and my stomach lurched with nerves again as the Safety Car came out for the second time and diminished Vettel’s lead from Ricciardo. I swore to myself that I would hunt down whoever invaded the track and smack him silly if his stupidity in any way lost Ferrari the win/podium places! Luckily, Vettel was able to make a clean getaway from Ricciardo post-SC period, and Kimi was also able to keep a safe distance and hold 3rd.
A few laps before the end of the race, I loitered near Turn 22-23, trying to figure out where the security personnel would open up the barriers to allow the fans to enter the track after the race (that was the same area they opened up when I last went in 2012). I called the attention of a marshal passing by and asked him, and he told me that the barrier to be opened would be somewhere along the viewing platforms near the Pit Exit. I started walking/running towards that area, but still couldn’t find a clue where the barrier would be. I paused outside one of the Pit Grandstands and asked an Usher the same question I asked the marshal earlier, and he told me another thing and that the barrier to be opened would be the one near Turn 23, where I originally was! At that point, there were only 3 more laps to go in the race, so he urged me to hurry and run, which I did. On my way back, I saw a couple clad in Ferrari gear running towards the same direction as me, and when we reached the area near Turn 22, I asked the girl whether they knew where the barriers would open and she said that they were hoping it would be the area we were in. With 1 more lap to go, I was highly doubtful we were in the right area, as there were little to no activity there and there wasn’t much of a buildup of fans either, so finally, I approached a policeman and asked him. Surprise, surprise, he corroborated the answer of the marshal! Moral of the story: Listen to the officials (no offense to the Ushers but the officials are more privy to those kinds of info)! By that time, the checquered flag was already waved but I had no time to process the results yet, as I literally ran as fast as my feet would take me to that darn area. When I finally reached it, there was already a thick buildup of fans awaiting the opening of the barriers, and I literally looked like I stood under a showerhead with all of my clothes on, panting like a wet, overexcited puppy. It was at that point that the race results finally sunk in, and the combination of sheer emotions, extreme physical exhaustion, hunger and dehydration descended upon me like a wall of bricks. I felt tears pricking on my eyelids, but before I could properly emote, security finally opened up the barrier. Time to invade the track for the podium ceremonies and RUN again!
There wasn’t a part of my body that wasn’t screaming in pain, and I seriously felt close to fainting. Still, I willed myself to carry on: You cannot miss this podium! You can die later! GO GO GO! I ran-walked-ran and made my way to the podium. When I got there just in time to hear the German-Italian anthems, the gravity of everything crashed on me and despite myself, tears freely streamed down my face. Now I’m not usually such an emotional sap, but you have to understand that this was the first time I’ve seen a Ferrari driver stand on the top step of the F1 podium in person, and even though it wasn’t Kimi Raikkonen, I’m very happy that it was Baby Schumi himself, Sebastian Vettel. Add a Kimi Raikkonen podium finish to that, and I’m in Cloud Nine. Also, I couldn’t help but remember Michael Schumacher when I heard the German-Italian anthem combination, and how I wished he’s still part of the F1 circus so I could see just how proud of Vettel he is.
I must have looked such an emotional wreck because a guy besides me asked, “Are you okay, Miss?” in such a worried tone that I had to immediately assure him, “I’m okay, thanks. Sorry, I’m just SO happy!” He could only nod, fully understanding what I meant (I hope!). Thanks for the concern, man.
I barely heard the podium interview (conducted by the ever-polarising Eddie Jordan), as I was too focused on staring at the drivers and taking in everything. Before I knew it, the podium ceremonies were over, but I was still compelled to do one more thing: I zigzagged my way through my fellow racing fans until I found the Start-Finish Line, went down on my knees and kissed it.
Let it never be said that I don’t know how to give thanks in style.
I then slowly made my way back to Zone 4, picking up tire marbles along the way, and started reflecting on just how…poignantly astounding the race weekend has been. I’ve learned that I’m physically stronger than I give myself credit for; I’ve learned that if you don’t ask, you don’t get; I’ve learned that you may encounter glitches and roadblocks along the way but things will always work out in the end, and most important, I’ve learned that when the odds are stacked against you, that’s when you must have more than a little faith.
I paused outside Gate 3 before exiting and thought, “Thank you, Singapore. Thank you, racing gods.”
Because really, there is no other way for me to feel about this trip other than Grateful.
And would I do this all over again? Most definitely! I may look all serious and straight-laced, but when it comes to my passions, I go absolutely all out. Go big or go home. That’s what love (of F1) can do.
1. I wore at least one red article of clothing per day, not only because my favourite color is red but also as a sign of support for the Scuderia Ferrari drivers. Looked like the ritual worked!
2. With all the amount of walking/running/climbing stairs that I did, perhaps I really should invest in a good pair of running shoes to wear to future GPs.
3. Yeah, my photo-taking skills still leave a lot to be desired. I’m not comfortable using my mobile phone camera for high-speed objects, so I think it’s time I upgrade my digital camera.
4. I will update my A-Z Guide to Attending the Singapore GP soon. Stay tuned!
5. If you’re interested in attending this GP next year, then feel free to leave a message here or contact me on Twitter. Looking forward to hearing from you!