The Bouncebackable Guide: The A-Z Of Attending The F1 Singapore Night Race.

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So you want to experience the first and only night race in the Formula One Calendar? Congratulations! You’ve made a very wise decision, indeed. However, no F1 fan (whether you are a GP virgin or not) should embark on a journey unprepared. Be not afraid, for help is right here!

While I’m most certainly not an expert, I would still like to share some tips and tricks I’ve accumulated throughout my numerous years (2009-2012, 2015 ) of attending this GP. So be prepared to sacrifice an hour’s worth of your life (or just minutes, if you’re a speed-reader) if you’re serious about maximizing your F1 Night Race experience.

Ready, steady, GO!

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A

ASK!

Let me veer away from alphabetical order for a bit just to state this very important tip: Do not be afraid to ask questions! If you know of any fellow fans (real-life or virtual) who’ve been there, then drop them a line and let them know that you need their help. F1 fans and Singaporeans (natives and residents alike) are quite helpful, so if you need help with anything, whether GP-related or not, do not hesitate to ask.

Airport

Singapore’s Changi Airport is world-famous for being one of the travelers’ most-preferred airports, and with good reason. It is well-designed, extremely clean, organized, and just 1000 shades of awesome (it has a pool, for goodness’ sake!). It will seriously make you change the way you look at airports. It takes around 30-40 minutes to get to the city from the airport, and transportation choices abound, so there really is virtually no hassle waiting for you once you touch down in Singapore.

Apps

The F1 Night Race has its very own app, specially designed to enhance and improve your GP experience. You can download it for Apple devices HERE and for Android devices HERE .

Personally, I like the app named Singapore Map by Streetdirectory because it not only helps me navigate through the city but it also provides up-to-date information on public transportation and even fare prices. You can download it for Apple devices HERE and for Android devices HERE .

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B

Baggage

  • Pack light for your trip on-track. Just bring your essentials like your camera, mobile phone, hotel key, wallet, and the like. You’re going to be doing loads of walking so it’s not the best of ideas to bring your shopping bags with you when you enter the circuit.
  • Please make sure to read the tiny brochure included with your race ticket (or take a free circuit map outside the track) and read up in advance on what you can and cannot bring inside the track. Also, there’s a mandatory baggage search before you enter the circuit, so spare the security guys the tedium of going through your life’s belongings and shopping, okay?

Note: I have to admit, I always break this rule because I cannot seem to function without having a capacious handbag with me. However, I always make sure to make a pit stop back to my hotel to drop off all my shopping before I proceed to the track. Trust me, you will function better and enjoy more if you have 2 hands available.

Banners

Fans are allowed to bring banners or flags in support of drivers and teams, but they are not allowed to be tied/mounted on railings.

*Please contact the organizers if you plan to bring huge banners or flags, to make sure they will be allowed inside the track.

Behavior

No one is going to tell you off for making some noise, so go ahead and express your support for your fave driver/s! But, don’t get too over-excited, either. Basically, know when to cheer and know when to jeer (if you’re brave enough!). Also, there will be certain parts of the track that will be extremely crowded, mainly the passageways from one Zone to another and bridgeways/exit points, so always be nice and polite to your fellow F1 fans and mind the queues!

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C

Clothing

Dress appropriately. It will be hot and humid in the afternoon, and after the sun sets, it can even turn a little chilly, especially in the areas close to the bay. Now is not the time to channel your inner fashionista, especially if you have walkabout tickets. Comfort is key, especially with your choice of footwear, as you will be walking on different materials and terrain and standing for several hours. Wear light and breathable shirts. Bring an extra one, if you sweat a lot. Believe me, once you’re there, you’ll thank me for this.

Commentary

Live commentary will be heard throughout the whole track (via 102FM), so even if you’re not within eyesight of a wide-screen, you’ll still be able to keep up with drivers’ positions and everything relevant that is happening on- and off-track.

*You can now buy headsets that provide commentary inside the track.

Companion/s

To go solo or to bring companions? This can be a bit of a sticky situation. For the 1st 3 years that I’ve attended this GP, I’ve brought companions with me, and while I enjoyed spending time with them, the truth is that they’re not as huge of an F1 fan as I am, so I had to take into consideration their feelings/interests. As a result, I didn’t get to 100% explore and enjoy the circuit offerings. I went alone for 2012 and 2015, and found that I quite enjoyed the experience, because I got to move around freely, quickly and was somehow “forced” to interact with fellow fans—in a good way. So yes, this is quite subjective, depends on you really on how you’d like to experience the GP weekend.

Contests

Want to win goodies or get the chance to meet your favourite drivers in person? Then vigilantly check the drivers’ and teams’ Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as their official websites on news regarding contests and promos. You can also check out the accounts of their major sponsors. Check regularly and join as many as you can! Good luck!

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D

Drivers’ Autograph Session

Unlike the other GPs, the autograph session for the Singapore GP operates quite differently. Yes, it does occur and is not just a myth, but from my understanding, you have to be a winner in one of their promos in order to attend this super-exclusive event. If you have already purchased tickets, check your email regularly and be on the lookout for the one promoting the contest to win tickets for this event—all you have to do is to do submit your ticket transaction number, cross your fingers and hope with all your heart that you win those much-coveted passes.

Driver-Spotting

So you’ve joined all the contests, but didn’t win any? Don’t fret, not all hope is lost. You can still see your favourite driver/s in person using several ways:

  • Refer to Contests above and then note the times and locations of their PR events. Go to the said locations and try to catch them when they arrive or when they leave.
  • F1 teams usually book the same hotels every year, so use your best sleuthing skills and again, try to catch the drivers when they’re about to leave or enter the hotel. This is a bit tricky, as I’m sure hotel personnel may become strict with fans interrupting/ambushing the drivers.
  • Work out the Gate/s nearest the hotels where the drivers stay, and try to catch them before they enter and exit the track (Hint: Check the circuit map and zoom in on the Gate near the Ritz-Carlton).
  • If your ticket allows it, wait outside the Paddock/VIP entrance in Zone 1 and try to catch the drivers there before they enter or leave. Just make sure to behave and not to be too aggressive so as not to provoke the ire of security.
  • Keep your eyes peeled! I once chanced upon then-Force India test driver Nico Hulkenberg on a taxi queue outside a shopping mall (Yes, he very politely queued up with his companions and weirdly enough, nobody else recognized him but me!). The city isn’t that big so if you know where to look, you’re bound to find members of the F1 circus!

Note: From experience, I’ve found that drivers respond better to fans who are calm and polite, so keep your emotions in check and try not to be too excited when interacting with the drivers. Oh, and don’t forget to thank them after they sign your stuff and pose for photos!

Nico Rosberg at the Puma pop-up store outside Raffles City Mall (2012 Night Race).

Jenson Button at the Tag Heuer store opening at Wisma Atria, along Orchard Road (2012 Night Race).

Hulk signing stuff for fans (2015).

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Drivers’ Track Parade

This occurs at 18:30 on the race day, and one of the good things about the Night Race is that the drivers are given their own vintage car to ride around the track, they’re not just lumped into a single truck, so the fans will get to see each driver more. From experience, if you position yourself in one of the sparsely-populated areas (like some viewing platforms on Zones 2 and 3) during the parade, you can stay really close to the barriers, and if you’re brave enough, you can shout your fave drivers’ name as they pass by to get them to acknowledge you. I’ve done that a couple of times, and it works, honestly!

 

Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher during the 2012 Night Race’s Drivers’ Track Parade.

The drivers during the 2015 parade

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 E

Earplugs

You need them. Without question*. Don’t even attempt to be cool or hipster or macho because your eardrums will be mercilessly assaulted by the roar of the engines. I always bring my own pair, but just in case you forget, you can always pick up a pair at convenience stores for a couple of dollars or buy the “Survival Kit” on track, which consists of a pair of earplugs and a plastic poncho. Proceeds go to charity so you’re hitting 2 birds with 1 stone.

(*Now that the V8 era is over and the V6 engines rule, the roar isn’t as fierce as they once were. However, that doesn’t mean that you can forego wearing earplugs. Better safe than sorry!)

Entertainment

There’s no shortage of entertainment options around the circuit park. Go around the F1 Village and you’ll spend hours shopping, amusing yourself, or even getting to meet some like-minded petrol heads.

Check out this guy channeling his inner Ferrari driver (2015).

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F

Fireworks

Keep your eyes peeled for the firework show at the end of the race. They’re always spectacular and a memorable way to cap off the race and to signal the start of the all-night Sunday partying!

Flights

  • Book early! Diligently monitor the websites of your fave airlines, sign up for e-newsletters or download apps like Skyscanner to get the best deals on flights going to Singapore. The earliest I’ve booked my flights for the GP was during a seat sale on a January, but I know of some fans who’ve booked their flights as early as November of the previous year! So do your research and remember to read the fine print and the terms & conditions of your flight details, just in case you need to make necessary/emergency changes.
  • Based on personal experience, if you’re returning home on the Monday after the GP, do not book a flight earlier than 8 am local time. Leave ample time for you and your companions to enjoy everything the track has to offer before you head back to your hotel and pack everything up. Trust me, it is not fun to be speed-packing with barely an hour’s worth of sleep just to catch a very early flight the next morning!

Food and Beverage

  • Food and drinks are more expensive inside the track. That’s a fact. Bottled water, for example, are priced twice, even thrice as much as those sold in convenience stores, so my advice is to buy your water outside (each person is allowed to bring up to 500mL of bottled water inside the track) if you want to save on cash. As for food, if your ticket allows it, you can head over to the Singapore Flyer and try the different food stalls there. If you’re a Zone 4 ticket holder, exit through Gate 3 or Gate 7/8 and head over to the nearby malls to find more affordable nosh. If you’re not a heavy eater like I am, you can just bring some energy bars and/or granola bars to tide you over.
  • On raceday, there will be some areas where the race marshals will generously give away extra bottled water. Usually, they are the sparsely-populated areas in Zones 2 or 3. I’ve experienced this twice and my advice is, even if you already have some water with you, accept an extra bottle still, because believe me, you will need to rehydrate yourself during and after the race.
  • If you run out of water in a part of the track that’s far away from a beverage stand, please do not hesitate to approach a race marshal and politely ask for some bottled water.

Free Practice Sessions

FP1 is on Friday at 18:00-19:30 local time; FP2 is on later at 21:30-23:00 local time while FP3 is on Saturday at 18:00-19:30 local time. Practice sessions are a great time to move around the track to try to find the best vantage points, and also to practice and improve your photo- and video-taking skills.

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G

Gates

  • I’m a creature of habit, and to be honest, I’ve only ever used 3 gates in my 4 years of attending this GP: Gates 2, 3 and 7/8. Gate 2, I’ve used to exit the track after “stalking” the drivers, Gate 3 to check out the track early in the afternoon after claiming my tickets (it’s just a stone’s throw away from the Swissotel Stamford), and Gate 7/8 has always been my preferred entry/exit point, mainly because you have to go through several shopping malls to get there after you get off the City Hall train station (multitasking for the win!).
  • Study the circuit map and choose your entry/exit points in advance, to save time and effort.

Note: The organizers sometimes reassign Gate numbers, so do check the updated Circuit Map for reference.

Interior view of Gate 7.


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Greek Theatre

Located in Zone 2. My favorite place to: hang out in/rest my legs/have a bite to eat/update my social media sites/people-watch in-between practice/qualifying sessions. Lots of race marshals like to hang out there to rest, too.

View of the Greek Theatre.

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H

Hawker’s Centers

Singapore is a foodie paradise, and if you want to experience the rich culinary offerings of the LionCity, then definitely go to one of the numerous hawker’s centers around the city and eat, drink and be merry! A lot of them stay open until the wee hours of the morning, so you’ll have plenty of time to get your cravings satisfied.

Heat and Humidity

Singapore is a tropical country, and you will be subjected to different levels of heat and humidity throughout the race weekend. As previously mentioned under Clothing, dress appropriately, don’t forget to put on your sun cream, and remember to constantly hydrate yourself!

Hotels/Hostels

Hotels and hostels apparently report close to 90+% occupancy rates during the race weekend, so make sure to book your accommodation early, to save on rates as well. Regularly check websites such as booking.com, agoda.com, expedia.com, etc. to get news on room sales and get the best deals. If you have a certain chain of hotel that you’re loyal to, it may be a better idea to book directly through them or their website, as they will be less strict on cancellations or rebookings. Remember that the closer the hotel is to the track, the more expensive their rates will be. However, take note that the city is not that large, so definitely don’t discount the hotels/hostels that may not necessarily be near the track, because with their very efficient transport system, I can guarantee that you won’t spend more than an hour (at worst) to get to the track and back to your hotel. Alternatively, check out the offerings at Airbnb.

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 I

Internet

There’s no free wifi inside the track, so if you’re on a foreign service provider and don’t want to be shocked by overseas roaming charges, then I suggest you buy a prepaid SIM card from a local service provider, whether in the airport,  convenience stores, or mobile phone shops. They’re speedy, reliable, and cheap too.

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K

Kimi Raikkonen

Finnish driver also known as the Iceman. Known to be one of the most-difficult drivers to track down during the race weekend. If you do manage to find out which hotel he is billeted in (hint: it’s usually the same one every year), then your best chance to see him up close or to get his autograph is to patiently wait outside his hotel and catch him when he goes out of the hotel to go to the track or vice-versa.

Note: He now does a lot of PR Events for Ferrari and their sponsors, so do check their social media accounts to find out how to (possibly) see the Iceman up close.

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L

Little India

One of the more famous tourist spots in Singapore. It’s also where the country’s only 24-hr shopping mall, Mustafa Centre, is located.

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M

Map

Ushers inside and outside the track will be handing out maps throughout the race weekend. Get not just one but a couple or more, so you can always refer to it, use it to fan yourself, and even use it as emergency seating when you want to rest your legs.

Merchandise

You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to racing-related merchandise not just during the GP weekend but pre- and post- GP weekend as well. Official merchandise shops will be present along Orchard Road as well as in several areas inside the track. There will also be numerous pop-up stores inside and outside other major shopping malls. Prepare yourself, though—official merchandise are most certainly not cheap.

Some of the merchandise stalls inside the circuit park (2012).

One of the GP Merchandise Stores along Orchard Road (2012).

Official Singapore GP Merchandise stall (2015).

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Miscellaneous Travel Tips

  • Do not forget to bring extra three-prong travel adaptors for your electronics.
  • Singapore, like the UK and Japan, drives on the right-hand side. Be careful when you cross the street and look both ways twice!
  • Please use the zebra crossing when you cross the street. I always see a lot of foreigners disregard them and it makes me cringe because it’s not very respectful to a country that works hard to maintain order.
  • Bring a pair of mini-binoculars if you really want to see the F1 cars/drivers up close. I have a set of folding mini-binoculars and it’s always interesting to use them when I watch the cars race as you get an extreme close-up of so many fascinating things.
  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen! It may be a night race, but no doubt that you’ll be exploring the city during the day as well and if you’re an ‘early bird’ like me,  you’ll be arriving on-track way before the sun sets–so avoid the unsightly tan lines and possible sunburns and remember that you’ll be in the tropics. Better safe than sorry!

 

Musical Acts

Musical acts are usually announced and confirmed 3-4 months before the GP. However, 2 or 3 major acts are also usually revealed during the Early Bird Ticket Sales Phase.

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Orchard Road

Singapore’s famous shopping district. If you’re a shopaholic, then you’d definitely love it. However, even if you’re not a fan of shopping, this place absolutely comes alive during the GP week, so it’s definitely worth checking out because it will be teeming with loads of interesting exhibits and activities!

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Padang Stage

This is where the major musical acts will play on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the race weekend. It’s a bit of a walk from Zone 1, so if you want to get a good place to watch the musical acts, then you’d better be prepared to channel your inner Road Runner!

Some fans who want to get prime locations for the musical concerts actually camp out in Padang early and just watch the race there via the wide screens.

Paddock

Want to satisfy your inner paparazzi? Then head to the area just outside the Paddock Entrance/Exit (if your ticket allows it) and see the who’s who of F1, motorsport and the media pass right before your eyes. Try to stay cool and be friendly to the security, so you won’t get shooed away.

Defending Champ Sebastian Vettel signs for fans outside the Paddock Entrance (2012).

7x WDC Michael Schumacher signs for fans outside the Paddock Entrance (2012).

Nico Rosberg chats with fans (2015).

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Petrol Ed

He’s like The Stig, only he’s Singaporean and yeah, he’s the F1 Night Race’s beloved “mascot”. Try to find him around the circuit and take creative photos with him, and you might stand a chance to win some cool prizes!

 

Photography/ Photographic Equipment

  • Tripods and monopods are not allowed in the grandstands, only in the general walkabout zones.
  • I’m no expert when it comes to taking photos or videos, so it might be a good idea to ask your tech-savvy/photography buff friends for tips in advance on taking photos of high-speed objects such as F1 cars. I can confirm, however, that using my Lumix camera’s “Burst Mode” was extremely helpful whenever I took photos of the F1 cars in action. Oh, and when in doubt, just switch to video mode.

 

Podium Ceremonies

If you’re a Pit Grandstand ticket holder, then you’ll pretty much get a clear view of the post-race podium ceremonies. If you have Premier Walkabout Tickets, then get yourself to the area nearest the start straight several laps before the end of the race, because after the chequered flag is waved and all of the cars have been brought to parc ferme, the marshals will open a gate there and allow the fans to “invade” the track and watch the podium ceremonies up close. It really is worth the trek (and barrier-climbing experience), as the atmosphere there is quite incredible.

The 2012 Podium Finishers.

The 2015 Podium Finishers.

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 Post-Race

Think the action stops at the dance of the chequered flag? Wrong! The party’s just beginning! Do the track walk, search for tyre marbles and/or crash debris, take as many photos as you can, and then head on over to the Fan Village to watch the concerts, ogle the cars at the vintage car display, channel your inner F1 driver by trying out the simulators, or what the heck, even get a motorsport-related tattoo (temporary, of course)! There are absolutely loads to do and check out so just…start walking!

PR Events

They are usually held on the Wednesday or Thursday of the GP week, all after 12 noon local time (see Time zone for explanation). If you want to see the drivers up close then diligently check the schedules for their PR events (see Social Media for helpful links).

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Q

Qualifying Session

This starts at 21:00 local time on the Saturday and lasts an hour. Usually, it takes a while for the stands and viewing platforms to fill up because a lot of people leave the track after the FP3 to head to the nearby malls to have dinner.

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Race Officials

Would you like to try the awesome, possibly life-changing experience of being a race official in the F1 Night Race? Then check this LINK regularly for updates on how to apply!

Restrooms

  • There are a sufficient number of restrooms around the track, but my tip is: go and use one already before the race/qualifying/practice sessions. They can become quite congested and the queues annoyingly long after the sessions, so save yourself the trouble and force yourself to use one in advance.
  • For the picky ones: If you’re in Zone 4, then you can exit through Gate 7/8 and use the restrooms in the nearby shopping malls. If you’re in Zone 1/2, then you can head over to the Singapore Flyer and use the restrooms there.

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Shopping

Singapore is an absolute shopper’s paradise! Just head over to the famous Orchard Road and you’ll know exactly what I mean. If you want more shopping choices, you can go to Bugis or even Sim Lim Square (for all your techie needs). If you want a comprehensive guide to all the shopping places, then grab a “shopping specific” map at the airport or at one of the Visitor’s Centres around the city.

Singapore Flyer

Want to have a different perspective of the race track? Then check out the Singapore Flyer and see the many facets not just of the GP but the city as well! Premier Walkabout, Zone 1 and Zone 2 Ticket Holders get to enjoy unlimited rides* throughout the race weekend, so if you want a temporary airconditioned refuge without spending a penny, then this experience is for you.

*This provision seems to change yearly, so do check with the organizers.

View from the Singapore Flyer.

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Social Media

The Singapore GP is on Facebook and Twitter and has an official app as well. Follow them and be “in the know’ with regards contests, promos and latest developments.

Use the hashtags #F1NightRace and #SingaporeGP to share your thoughts, pics and videos, as well as to find other awesome content and insider info!

@F1NightRace – Singapore GP’s official Twitter account

@visitsingapore– Singapore Tourist Board’s official Twitter account

F1 Teams Twitter Accounts:

@redbullracing –Red Bull

@ScuderiaFerrari -Ferrari

@McLarenF1 –McLaren

@RenaultSportF1 – Renault

@MercedesAMGF1 -Mercedes

@ForceIndiaF1 –Sahara Force India

@tororosso – Toro Rosso

@HaasF1Team –Haas F1

@WilliamsRacing –Williams

@SauberF1Team –Sauber

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Souvenir Programme

They will be sold at several areas around the circuit park, in case you want a little something to remember the GP by. Would also be very useful to have on hand in case you bump into a driver and need something for him to autograph.

Support Races

The Porsche Carrera Cup, the Ferrari Challenge Cup, and the GP2 Series also race in the Marina Bay Track the same weekend as F1, so even if you arrive at the track early, you’ll rarely see an empty/silent track.

Note: The lineup changes yearly.

Survival Kit

What—in my humble opinion—should be in your possession during raceday:

  • Race ticket
  • Circuit map (can also double as a fan)
  • Water
  • Earplugs
  • Mobile phone
  • Digital camera (+ extra battery, memory card)
  • Power bank
  • Sharpie/pen and notebook (just in case you see/encounter someone famous!)
  • Small, folding umbrella (or plastic poncho, in case of rain)
  • Some money and a credit card (although not too much, for the temptation to shop and spend may prove to be too strong to resist!)
  • Passport or a valid ID

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Tickets

  • Race organizers have started a special Super Early Bird promo last year, which enabled fans to purchase tickets for the next night race as early as 2 months after the previous night race. If you’re extremely sure that you can make it, then this is a good deal, otherwise, you can wait until February for their regular Early Bird Ticket Sales phase which lasts until April. Check www.singaporegp.sg for further details.
  • You may also contact your local travel agents for tickets just in case you didn’t get to purchase tickets during the Early Bird Phases. I did that on the 1st year I attended the GP and I got a pretty good rate.
  • Take good care of your tickets and keep them close! You are required to present them to be scanned as you enter and leave the track. Never detach them from their lanyards and it’s actually quite a normal sight to see loads of people wearing their tickets already even while they’re out shopping and dining outside the track. (*Some shops offer discounts to race attendees so be on the lookout.)

Tiger Balm

One of the most famous Singaporean products. It can soothe and take away all the body aches and pains you are bound to experience on a race weekend, so it’s one of my must-buys in Singapore! It’s available at various convenience stores and chemists/pharmacies.

Time zone

Another thing that’s interesting about the Night Race is that although it’s in Asia and on GMT+8, teams and the media maintain the “European Time zone”, and so it is not unusual for them to start the day past noon local time and end the day way past 2 am local time. So yeah, adjust your body clock accordingly if you plan on “keeping up” with them!

Track walks

The circuit remains open to the public until the Wednesday of the GP week, so if you want to do your very own version of the track walk, you may very well do so. Usually, teams do their track walks on a Thursday, when the circuit is already closed to the public, but there are some instances when drivers and some F1 personalities do their track walks early and/or film on the track for some promo bits on a Wednesday, so keep your eyes peeled if you do decide to try your luck!

I think fans with race tickets are allowed to enter the track on Thursday, but might only be allowed on some parts of it.

Transportation

  • The Singapore MRT is the most popular way of getting around the city—and with good reason. It is fast and reliable (most of the time). There’s rarely a place within Singapore that is not within walking distance to a train station, so resist from hailing taxi cabs and use the MRT instead. Warning, though: It can get a little crowded during the GP weekend, so get to the track early. However, they extend the operating hours of the MRT up to 1:10 am during the GP weekend, so you can still party the night away without worrying about the commute home.
  • You may want to purchase the Singapore Tourist Pass, which will entitle you to unlimited train and bus rides. It comes in 1-,2- and 3- day denominations which is an excellent deal. Check out www.thesingaporetouristpass.com.sg for more details.
  • If you’re a regular Singapore visitor or if you foresee yourself returning to Singapore sometime soon, then you might want to purchase an EZ-Link card instead, as it can also be used to pay for purchases in certain convenience stores, and it is valid within 5 years of first usage and can be topped off /reloaded as needed.
  • Taxi cabs can be a bit expensive, but their drivers are honest and straightforward. Buses are also a good option. There will be massive re-routings throughout the race weekend so expect light to moderate traffic congestion in some parts of the city.

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U

Umbrellas

It is usually not recommended to bring big umbrellas inside the track, but small, folding umbrellas are allowed just in case the heat gets too much or there’s a sudden drizzle.

Ushers and Usherettes

There will be loads of them scattered in and out of the track during the race weekend, to provide everyone with assistance whenever necessary. Don’t hesitate to approach them whenever you have questions or even if you just need to have a photo taken. They are all friendly and will be happy to help you!

The ushers saying goodbye to the racegoers (2015).

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V

Viewing Platforms

Right. This might be a bit long. If you are a grandstand ticket holder, then you can skip this part, and if you are a Zone 4 or Premier Walkabout Ticketholder, then this section is for you:

*This section needs a massive update, but most of the info is still valid as of 2015.

Legends:

P1, P2…- Viewing Platforms

V1, V2…- Vantage Points (areas where you can stay as Walkabout Ticket holder, but without a viewing platform)

I’ve only been able to try out the Zone 4 and Premier Walkabout Tickets, and here I will talk about the viewing platforms and vantage points I’ve tested. Please refer to the slightly-modified circuit map below:

*Right-click and open in new tab/window to enlarge photo.

*Note: The modifications I made on the circuit map are for information purposes only.

**For the official and updated Circuit Map, view or download it here.

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P1- This viewing platform near T14 is probably my most-overused one. Generally, it is best to stay in viewing platforms near corners, as cars will need to slow down as they go through, so you’ll not only get a better view of them but you’ll also have a better chance to take proper photos or videos. Interestingly, a lot of “incidents” have also occurred near this corner throughout the years, too, such as: Nick Heidfeld’s BMW crashing there in 2009, Jenson Button getting stranded in the run-off area and Heikki Kovalainen spinning there in 2010, and Sergio Perez hitting the barrier in 2011. This area gets easily crowded, so be sure to save your spots early!

View of T14 (2011).

BMW driver Nick Heidfeld walks past the viewing platform after crashing out of the 2009 Night Race.

Jenson Button’s McLaren gets stranded at the run-off area near T14 in one of the 2011 Night Race’s FPs.

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V1- If you are a Premier Walkabout Ticket holder, you’ll pass by this area on the way to Zones 1 & 2 (from Zone 4). It is not really recommended to stay there for a long time as it is a busy passageway.

View of T20 (2012).

*As of 2015, this area has been covered to prevent pedestrian congestion.

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P2- This viewing platform never really got crowded for the 3 days that I’ve attended last year, which I found curious because it is near Turn 21, which means it is a decent spot to take photos/videos of the cars. I recommend this spot for the Driver’s Track Parade, as you can get close to the barriers, and since there won’t be many people around, you can call out to the drivers and there’s a good chance they’ll acknowledge you.

View 1 of T21 (2012).

View 2 of T21 (2012).

View of the Drivers’ Track Parade from the platforms near T21 (2012).

View of the Drivers’ Parade near T21 (2015).

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V2- I tried the Singapore Flyer during the Free Practice Sessions, and it is quite a different experience to watch the cars go around the circuit while you’re waaay up there. As you exit, you will get to a balcony where you’ll have a view of the T21-T22 straight, and as a bonus you’ll have a view of a widescreen as well. I stayed up there for several laps alone, since it was a practice session and not many people were using the Flyer, but I’m not sure if their personnel would allow people to stay in that balcony for long during the Qualifying Sessions and Race proper, as more people tend to use the Flyer then.

View from the Sg Flyer balcony.

View from the Sg Flyer balcony (2015).

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P3- This viewing platform is between the T21 and T22 straight, just opposite the Singapore Flyer. I stayed there to experience seeing the cars literally zoom past me on a straight, as well as to enjoy the widescreens available for better understanding of what’s happening on-track. It’s quite difficult to take decent photos of the cars in this area, as their speed and acceleration rates are crazy!

View of the T21-T22 straight.

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V3- This is just near T22, and here you can get a pretty good view of the pit entry.

From the viewing area near the pit entry (2015).

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P4- This viewing platform is a good place to be at the end of the race, because you can partly see the podium ceremonies from there. If you can access this area though then might as well join the post-race track invasion for a closer look at the podium!

View of The Pit building (2012).

View from the platform opposite T23 straight (2015).

Other 2015 Additions:

You can see the back of the grid from the viewing area opposite the T23 straight (2015).

You can get a good view of the cars leaving the pitlane in the platform opposite the Start-Finish straight (2015).

From the viewing area just before T15 (2015).

View along the T14 straight (2015).

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There you go. There are loads of viewing platforms I haven’t gotten around to trying yet, so my advice is, use the practice sessions to go around and explore—and share your tips with us afterwards, of course!

Visitor Centre

I’ve always made sure to stop by the Visitor Centre for several reasons: a. They usually give out race-related freebies; b. They have free internet stations which you can use for a maximum of 15 minutes; c. They have a wide array of maps and detailed guides categorized according to your interests (shopping, sightseeing, historical walks, etc.); and d. They offer free use of massage chairs! So make sure to stop by and check out what they have in store!

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W

Walking

You will be doing a lot of walking. Not just inside the circuit but outside the circuit as well. So be prepared. Don’t fret, though, as Singapore is a very walkable and very safe country.

Weather

As with most tropical countries, Singapore is hot and humid, but you can also expect some rain showers at that time of the year. Every year, weather forecasts predict some rain at some point in the race weekend, but since I do not want to experience the “wet dog look” as a spectator, I always make sure to do my “traditional anti-rain rituals” before I travel to Singapore. And what do you know, it has never failed me yet and there hasn’t been a wet Night Race in the 4 years that I’ve attended!

Widescreens

Several widescreens are available throughout the track, and again, you may refer to your trusty circuit map to locate them.

The widescreen near the T21 straight (2015).

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X

X-Factor

The track hasn’t always delivered some exciting and nail-biting races throughout the years, but believe me when I say that the magic and atmosphere of the night race is way better experienced in person and is not always transmitted on television. The GP weekend has a certain magic that won’t leave you disappointed, I assure you!

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Y

YOLO

A good attitude to adopt while attending this GP.  🙂

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Z

Zen 

Don’t stress yourself out too much—feel the moment and enjoy!

Zones

The track is divided into 4 zones, each with their own food & beverage and entertainment offerings. So study the circuit map carefully and make the most of the zone/s your ticket allows you to go to.

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There you have it. I do hope that my humble, labor-of-love little guide was able to answer some of your questions regarding the Singapore GP. Please feel free to share this to all those who may be interested, and if you have further enquiries, or even additional tips, then please use the comment box below—I’d be happy to help you further improve your Night Race Experience!

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(P.S. A version of this article is also published on F1 Destinations: http://f1destinations.com/a-z-guide-to-singapore-grand-prix/ )

 

Return To Turn 14: The 2011 Bouncebackable F1 Singapore GP Trip*.

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*a.k.a I Went To The Singapore GP And All I Got Was A Chance Encounter And A Smile From A German Racer.

It took me a while to arrange my thoughts with a semblance of coherence, as it is a strange law of the universe that one cannot write effectively when they’re still intoxicated with joy. Now that the sobriety of real life is back, allow me to share my experience yet again.

For the third year running, I made the short trek to Singapore to fulfill what I now call my “Yearly Pilgrimage” in the name of Pure, Racing Madness.

This is what transpired during my trip*:

(*P.S. Brevity is clearly not my strong suit, so be prepared for a lengthy post filled with photos & videos—you have been warned!)

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Thursday: It’s hard to chill when you’re feelin’ the thrill.

I traveled to Singapore one day ahead of my usual schedule, hoping to catch more time to soak in the atmosphere, and also so I can play the “tour guide” to a couple of friends who were first-time travelers to the country.

Unfortunately, I was a day too late for the various PR events several drivers attended, but still, as I dragged my friend along to one of my favourite spots in the country, Orchard Road, the atmosphere was positively electric and it’s quite obvious that F1 Fever has hit the nation. And hard.

he McLaren simulator at the Hugo Boss-McLaren exhibit inside Ion Orchard.

More F1 simulators along Orchard Rd.

One of the Official F1 Merchandise stores along Orchard Rd. A.k.a the apple of my eye and bane of my wallet.

The Force India exhibit car.

Freak-out moment when I found out that Nico H. (a.k.a. Kimi 2.0) will be making an appearance on this store–on the day I made plans to be really far away from this area. Pfft.

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Friday, I’m In Love.

My precious 3-day Walkabout Tickets!

It seems it’s now a tradition of mine to somehow miss FP1, but for good reason. I sacrificed the first practice session this year to have dinner with one of my very best friends J, who was my F1 buddy last year, but had to pass this year because she and her gracious new-husband A is expecting a baby.

After a sumptuous dinner of modern-meets-traditional Chinese cuisine, I temporarily bid farewell to my friends to make the trek alone to the track for FP2. I’ve to admit that I was a bit distracted before, and during dinner, as the sounds of the F1 engines were truly hard to ignore as they serve as the background music to practically the whole city as we partake our nosh. Have I gotten used or immune to hearing that glorious roar yet? Of course not. For me, it’s like a secret language that welcomes me back to the place– somehow, Singapore at night is just never the same to me without my eardrums being caressed by the symphony of F1 engines.

Reporting for duty for FP2!

Jenson Button of McLaren gets stuck in the runoff area near Turn 14!

Free Practice 2 was business as usual. One massive change that I’ve noticed from last year was that Red Bull fans have increased their numbers exponentially and are now as plentiful and loud as the Ferrari and McLaren fans.

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Saturday, Crazy Saturday.

To maximize the trip, my friends and I decided to take the short trek (by short, I mean a 4-hour bus ride 1-way) to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, to soak in the sights, smells and sounds of Singapore’s closest neighbor.

he first sight that greeted me as I alighted the cab in KLCC.

I shall not get into the minute details anymore, let me just say that our brief stay there was nothing short of action-packed, and our misadventures were too many (some were quite embarrassing) to count. By the time we were finally on our way back to Singapore, I’d already missed FP3 and was dangerously close to not making Qualifying as well. My head was positively spinning as I stared at the numbers at the bus’ digital clock, willing time to move slowly in the hopes that I can still make the all-important Qualifying Sessions.

Suffice to say, I was beyond counting minutes by the time the bus rolled into the drop-off point, as I was counting seconds by then. We all jumped into a cab and I basically instructed the driver to drive as fast as he can so I can make it to the track in time for Qualifying. The semi-confused cab driver even attempted to give me a heart attack by saying that Quali is over, but I recovered quickly enough to rebut that it was the FP3 he must be talking about, and there’s no way in the world I could have miscalculated the time enough to miss Quali. To our collective amusement, our cab driver proceeded to regale us with his exploits of driving around Singapore in a Suzuki Swift at staggering speeds without getting caught by authorities. Of course I proceeded to stoke his ego by telling him he can still be Singapore’s first F1 driver if he wants to, and I’d completely cheer for him if he ever decides to switch/upgrade careers in the future. Anything to get me to the track on time. That seemed to work as Mr. Cabbie channeled his inner Michael Schumacher/Sebastian Vettel/Kimi Raikkonen and put the pedal to the metal. After dropping us off to the nearest area where cabs are allowed to go, I still had to channel Road Runner and activate my inner KERS as I barreled through several shopping malls before I got to the Mother Ship, a.k.a Gate 7. Was a few minutes late for Q1 but who cares, I was there amidst the excited crowd, albeit mildly traumatized, hungry, short of breath, with semi-scratched legs (I had to go through shrubbery to get closer to the barrier). Oh, the things I do for racing.

made it to the QLF Sessions just in the nick of time!

Here are a couple of clips from the madness that was Q3:

Vettel unsurprisingly got pole, the McLarens were hot on his heels, Webber completed the RBR sandwich, the 2 Ferraris and the 2 Mercedes cars lined up after them while the rest are ready to pounce on their every mistake. What will happen in the big race tomorrow? Will Seb be crowned as the youngest double-WDC in the Lion City?

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Every Sunday I Love You More And More.

THAT Chance Encounter.

Hectic was the word of the day once Sunday rolled around. We went to hear mass to give thanks for our collective safety and intact sanity, had a quick lunch and then went off to finish some last-minute shopping (hey, we’re women, don’t judge us!) before we decided that we have far too many carrier bags and we need to go back to the hotel to dump them before we can go to the track. We unanimously agreed to take a taxi instead of the usual commuter trains since we were in a hurry, so we and our shopping bags hobbled towards the taxi queue in luxurious Ion Orchard. There were a couple of people ahead of us and while my friends chatted amongst themselves, I tuned out and made mental plans on the fastest way to get to the track and where to position ourselves. Suddenly, I noticed this tall, blonde man join the queue with a couple of women. He looked very familiar but since my mind was somewhere else, I didn’t immediately realize who he was. What transpired went something like this, in a nutshell:

Me: * absently looks at the guy, trying to place where I saw him or who he looks like while making plans in my head*

Blonde Guy: *Notices me staring at him, smiles at me then looks away*

Me: *Suddenly hit by a lightning of a realization that the blonde guy is Force India Reserve Driver Nico Hulkenberg*

Nico Hulkenberg: *looks at me again, sees that my eyes are wide as flying saucers, smiles, then turns around and slowly takes a seat and hides behind the guy in front of him in the queue*

Me: *pulls 1 of my friends towards me and furiously whispers my discovery*

Taxi Queue Attendant: *shouts “Next!” and guides my friends and still a shell-shocked me inside the cab*

So there. That’s the sitcom-like, yet true story of how I almost met Nico Hulkenberg and semi-freaked him out. Just for the record, he looks similar to Kimi Raikkonen but he looks leaner and somehow “smilier” up close. Until next time, Nico. I promise to recognize you faster and not freak you out (so much).

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No Rest For The Wicked.

And so after a few minutes of ranting and raving about that encounter in the hotel, my friend N (who happens to be a Formula One first-timer! Every year I somehow manage to convert 1 friend of mine into becoming an F1 fan. Call me if you need PR help, Mr. Ecclestone!) and I hauled our butts off to the track, but not before making a quick (pit) stop to the Swissotel to claim my friend’s ticket. I gawked at a couple of FIA officials we passed by outside the hotel but decided not to disturb them anymore as they were clearly enjoying a private cigarette break before heading to the track. My drill sargent-like obsession with punctuality prevailed amidst all the detours, and we got to the track just a few minutes late of my original estimate. Much to my delight, my “beloved spot” for the past 3 years near Turn 14 was still available and we watched it like hawks as we sat down to rest our tired legs and to enjoy the tail-end of the support race Porsche Carrera Cup.

The latter parts of the support race Porsche Carrera Cup.

As half-past six drew closer, we positioned ourselves as close to the barrier as possible, to have maximum viewing capacity of the track. The much-anticipated Drivers’ Parade started shortly thereafter, and fans screamed and cheered their lungs out (especially me) as their fave drivers made their way around the track, each with their own special classic car. This is one of the reasons I love the Singaporean GP, the parade is longer and the fans can see the drivers better because they’re not just lumped in one truck!

The Safety Car signals the start of the much-awaited Driver’s Parade!

Fernando Alonso of Scuderia Ferrari. Why so glum, hombre?

A visibly more cheerful Felipe Massa of Ferrari.

Jerome D’Ambrosio of Marussia Virgin. He was looking at our side because he heard the loud cheer of the 2 Belgian guys next to my friend and I.

Heikki Kovalainen of Lotus, channeling Pinoy jeepney drivers with his white towel draped across his shoulders (Teehee).

ALL HAIL SCHUMI!! (Yes, I did yell “I love you, Schumi!!” as he passed by, just like a proper fangirl should.)

Nico Rosberg of Mercedes GP looks quite amused as he passed by groups of screaming girls.

Bruno Senna of Lotus Renault waves at an overexcited Brazilian fan near us.

Sergio Perez of Sauber chillin’ like ice cream fillin’.

Red Bull’s no.2…er…Mark Webber.

THE Man of the Year and the driver that got the loudest cheers: Sebastian Vettel (and his famous plaid shorts) of Red Bull!

The view from our left side as the sun sets and the floodlights are lit!

Before we can fully recover from seeing our fave drivers up close, the warm-up lap started, and as the cars lined up in the starting straight, I can feel the thickness of the tension and anticipation in our area, as we all seemingly held our breaths, along with our respective photographic equipment, to await the illumination of the 5 red lights to signal the start of the 4th F1 Singaporean GP!

Pole-sitter Vettel immediately stamped his authority by taking an early lead, leaving the McLarens, Ferraris and Mercedes’ to play catch-up. The German’s Red Bull was hardly disturbed even as the cars behind him seemingly played a mash-up of musical chairs/chess and got locked in a battle of wits and tactics for positions.

The real shocker of the night was Michael Schumacher’s retirement, which was the result of an incident with Sauber’s Sergio Perez. It took a couple of minutes before I confirmed this and although I was obviously dismayed, I had to brush it off and just focus on enjoying the remaining laps. After all, we’re talking about Schumi here, if he’s gonna go down, he’s gonna go down fighting—and that’s exactly what he did.

The race was not short of nail-biting incidents—Timo Glock spun and hit the barriers, Massa and Hamilton’s constant on-track duels, Alonso and Webber’s cat-and-mouse routines, and even Vettel nearly getting clipped by Kovalainen in the pit lane. Unfortunately, my “jinxing powers” did not work this year as Turn 14 was undisturbed by any major racing incidents.

Things really started to heat up once the Safety Car Period began and teams regrouped and revised their respective tactics:

An HRT clipping the barriers:

Here’s a clip of Jarno Trulli getting a ride back to the pits after his retirement:

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Surprisingly, former Singaporean GP race winners Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, who both started the race strongly, became hugely inconspicuous as the race wore on. And by inconspicuous, I mean ultimately coming up short in challenging for a win.

Golden boy Vettel romped his way to the Chequered Flag, with McLaren’s Jenson Button and teammate Mark Webber behind him. 17 more cars survived the challenge and crossed the finish line. Button’s 2nd place finish meant that Vettel still needed 1 measly point in the next round to confirm his 2011 WDC title, but that technicality hardly mattered as Red Bull and even rival fans applauded the German heartily as he did his Salute Lap to the crowd.

As the dust settled and the marshalls opened the track for the crowd, there’s really only one thing left to do: PARTY!

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Remnants I nicked from a barrier that got clipped.

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So there you go, eight months of planning, anticipation and excitement, all compressed into four absolutely grandtastic action-packed days.

There’s no tidy ultimate conclusion for all this–In racing, you take both the good and the bad. You don’t dwell on the negatives nor over-exalt the positives, what matters most is the experience as a whole. This is why I find it so difficult to turn down the chance to watch the race in person–it reminds me to fully appreciate and soak in those fleeting episodes in life when you are simply in the moment.

May you too, give in to the wonderful temptation. It’s well worth it, believe me.

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Here are my Customary “Helpful Hints” for a more enjoyable Singaporean GP Experience:

  • If you can afford to, travel to Singapore ahead and arrive on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the race weekend. The F1 circus usually arrives on a Tuesday, so you might just bump into some of them on the airport. The meet-and-greets and sponsor events are usually held on Wednesday, just around various points at Orchard Road, so there’s a good chance you can get up-close to your fave driver! (I will certainly heed this advice and arrive on a Wednesday next year!)
  • If you want to do your very own “track walk”, the track is open to the public until the Wednesday of the race weekend (Again, a chance to bump into F1 personalities!).
  • Upon getting to Singapore, you might want to purchase the Singapore Tourist Pass (www.singaporetouristpass.com for more info), a card that works for all train and almost all bus lines in the country. You can get a 1-, 2- or 3-day pass which will give you unlimited access to public transportation around the city. Screw taking expensive cab rides, in Singapore, taking public transportation is where it’s at!
  • If you want to know which other important spots to visit in between F1 schedules, head on over to the Singapore Visitors Centre and consult their ever-friendly staff. (Bonus: You can also get free leg and foot massages there after shopping at Orchard Road!)
  • For smartphone users, you might want to download the Singapore Street Directory App. It has a cool feature that not only gives you directions but also gives you extremely detailed transportation options, down to the exact fare prices! (Check out http://www.streetdirectory.com to try it out.)
  • Every year, various weather forecasts predict some rain during the race weekend, and yet every year, my ardent prayers have somehow fended them off (or at least, that’s what I choose to believe). Even so, bring a disposable poncho or your own raincoat/mac when you go the track, as well as your own set of earplugs as well. If you’re too lazy to bring some, you can always buy the “Survival Kit” on-site for the price of 2.00 Sgd. I’m a cheapo though, so I always bring my own.
  • Wear comfortable clothing and footwear! I cannot stress this enough, as you will be walking a LOT amidst heat and humidity, and this is not the time to channel your inner supermodel or fashionista. If, like me, you have a preference for getting the Walkabout Zone tickets, then expect to stand for a couple of hours, at the least, so you better damn make sure that your feet are in comfortable gear to support you.
  • Speaking of heat and humidity, each spectator is allowed to bring in 500ml of bottled water inside the track, so if you want to save some dollars it’s better to buy from the various convenience stores outside the track as the beverage prices inside the track are a bit more expensive.
  • Always have your ticket/s with you, as loads of stores around Singapore offer discounts and freebies if you are part of the F1 crowd.
  • Pack light. I don’t always heed this advice because I almost always shop before heading to the track, but if you don’t want the hassle of having several bags inspected at the entrance, just bring the absolute essentials. Also, read the tiny brochure that comes with your ticket/s and review the list of what you can and cannot bring inside the track.
  • Unfortunately, there’s no free Wi-Fi zone inside the track (at least where Zone 4 is), so if you want to be able to update your status on various social networking sites, make sure that your mobile phone/tablet is able to connect to the web through your local service provider. You can also buy prepaid Singaporean SIM cards in convenience stores and shops and just register for their data service promotions while you’re there.
  • Speaking of gadgets, make sure to fully recharge your mobile phones and digital cameras, or better yet, bring extra batteries, just in case! It’s also good to bring extra memory cards as well so you won’t have to worry about running out of disk space for your precious racing photos and videos.
  • Explore the whole track if you can! This year, there was a complimentary tattoo booth, the usual classic car exhibit, race simulator challenge booth, and various photo stations where you can channel your inner F1 driver.
  • After the race on Sunday, the track is opened for the whole audience to enjoy. Go ahead and kiss the ground where your fave driver raced on! (If that’s your thing, that is.)
  • Make some noise! You’re not in a library, so don’t be afraid to cheer, whoop and scream for your favorite drivers and teams!
  • Above all, let loose and have fun!

Bouncebackabilitrix Roars in the Lion City: The 2010 F1 Singapore GP Diary

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I’ve put off writing this entry for as long as I could, hoping to hold on to the semi-euphoria in my head (or perhaps that’s the effect of inhaling engine fumes from the F1 cars). Anyway, here’s the account of my sophomore year of attending the Race Weekend in Singapore:

Day 1

I almost nearly could not sleep the night before, as I was too excited about several things: 1. The whole F1 race weekend, obviously; 2. This was the first time I was going to be traveling alone. I usually travel with my siblings or my friends, but since my destination is Singapore, my ever-protective parents allowed me to go off on my own; 3. I wanted to see my friend J, one of my closest friends since I was barely a teen and a fellow F1 nut like myself.

The whole process to get off the ground was uneventful, as sadly, our international airport is mind-numbingly boring. I went around the duty-free shops around 5 times before deciding to just park myself on some bench and wait until the boarding gate opens. Interestingly, I picked a spot that was directly across the shop that sells G.H. Mumm champagne and had a bottle prominently displayed on a podium. G.H. Mumm happens to be F1’s Official Champagne provider. Must be a sign, eh? It has to be mentioned that I got a few strange looks from the shop assistants while taking a photo of the champagne bottle. That’s me, official Champagne Paparrazzi.

My flight aboard Jetstar was generally pleasant–it was my first time with the airline company and it certainly won’t be the last. My only beef wasn’t with them, but with the annoying toddler that kept crying throughout the whole 3-hour flight. Thank heavens for my mobile phone’s trusty music player. I was almost tempted to put on the earplugs I’ve brought for the race. Hey kid, perhaps you should use that lung power of yours to good use and try to become the female Michael Phelps in the future? Just a thought.

The small amount of annoyance I harbored in the plane vanished as I stepped off and was welcomed by the sight of the Changi Airport, which is just my favorite airport in the world. After spending some time browsing the shops and eating the copious free candy, I arrived at my hotel around 3pm–Settled in, arranged my stuff, found the Football Channel on the telly, before deciding to get out and explore a bit before meeting my friend for dinner. However, within 2 minutes of exiting my hotel, the gentle afternoon drizzle turned into a ferocious torrential downpour, and to my horror, my poor folding umbrella broke in the middle of my traverse of Bencoolen Street. I took my soaking wet self into the nearest Guardian and bought another folding umbrella, in cheery bright orange, as if to insult the dreary hunter green of my old and injured umbrella. It took another 15 minutes for the rain to fully stop, and as I stepped outside, I realized that the famous Sim Lim Square is within walking distance of my hotel. I stood on the sidewalk, holding my new umbrella, and stared at the white building, debating with myself whether I should take a peek at all the mobile phones, digital cameras, laptops and gadgets of my techie wet dreams, but then I remembered my credit balance and briskly turned on my heel. Oh, the pain of poverty.

I took a moment to come back to my hotel and blow-dry my damp self, and when I looked presentable again, I set out on another quest, finding a foreign exchange stall with reasonable rates. I was unsuccessful and had to jump in the first taxi I saw, after getting an SMS from J that she was at Suntec City Mall already, where we’d meet for dinner before heading out for the Free Practice Session. As soon as I stepped out of the taxi, I immediately heard the glorious roar of the F1 engines, and that was enough to make me forget I paid 12.00 SGD for a short cab ride (in my defense, I was running late and my feet were already aching so bad that I had to forego the walk to the nearest MRT station). I can’t believe it has been 12 months since my eardrums were tickled that way. I practically skipped all the way inside the mall.

J and I both sacrificed watching Free Practice 1 to get a decent dinner and to catch up. After all, it has been 6 whole months since we last saw each other. Hey, when you’ve been friends for more than half your lives, 6 months apart is nearly an eternity. Fast forward a couple of hours, and we’re on our way to the track. I couldn’t help but squeeze J’s arm and squeal “This is it!” as we firmly planted ourselves on the area near Turn 14.

My 3-Day Walkabout Race Tickets. This year, I made sure to get them early, and thanks to J, we got a good deal through the Early Bird promo. 🙂

Gate 7. My favorite entry/exit gate for the past 2 years.

Free Practice 2 commenced. Suddenly, a vision appeared: Zooming straight towards me was a silver car with that distinct orange helmet sticking out. I almost could not process the thought that I’m seeing THE Michael Schumacher race live in person for the very first time. I’m even amazed I had enough self-awareness left in me to take a photo of that moment:

7-Times F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher. My mouth hung open as he whizzed by. Yes, he still had that effect on me.

After that, J and pretty much just soaked in the atmosphere and focused on ogling the cars. Here’s a short clip from FP2:

I went back to my hotel that evening thinking, I can’t believe I still have two more nights of that to experience.

Day 2

I woke up brightly and with a clear agenda on my mind: I need, nay, want to shop at Orchard Road. Never mind that I do not boast of a Rockefeller-like credit card limit or a rapper’s exorbitant cash flow, one of the perks of having me as a family member/friend/employee is that I always buy gifts for people close to me whenever I travel. So, with my capacious bag, along with my measly cash and credit card on hand, I set off to Orchard Road on my own, ready to do the necessary lightning-quick currency conversions in my head.

It’s hard to miss the smattering of tents that housed Official Formula One merchandise lined along Orchard, and I had to approach them with a mixture of glee and caution, as I prepared myself to be shocked by the First World prices of the goods.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t too impressed with the goods in the first shop. What’s interesting though, is that this shop had a huge bargain bin outside selling old Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari caps. I was very nearly tempted to buy a blue one, that was, until the Voice of Reason screamed inside my head, “You already have a prefectly good Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari cap at home! You don’t need another one!”

Raikkonen Ferrari caps at half-price off. Make my heart bleed even more, why don’t you?!

I quickly moved on to another shop, and that’s where I’ve decided to linger, since they have cardboard cutouts of Lotus drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, which I giggled at, and a mini Lotus race simulator, which I had to be content with goggling at, since I chose to wear a dress that day and getting into it is sure to attract some unwarranted attention.

I was lazily browsing when a male sales assistant approached me to ask which driver I’d be supporting that weekend. I automatically replied “Sebastian Vettel” and poked at one of his caps displayed. I could not resist asking if they sell caps with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari’s number (long story), but the assistant just gave me a puzzled look and said no.

I decided on purchasing a Sebastian Vettel Red Bull cap, a teensy-weensy F1 car-shaped pin/brooch, a Ferrari pit crew member teddy bear and last, but not the least, a small toy replica of Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes GP car. Spend now, worry about my credit card bill later.

My 2010 Race Weekend Souvenirs. They still smell of the cleanliness of Singapore. Honestly.

I then moved on to Wheelock Place to get my geek on at Borders, where I proceeded to speed-read nearly every new issue of all the football and racing magazines I never get at home. By the way, if you are not a football fan, you might want to skip this section, as I am about to wax lyrical about my favorite football player’s book: While I was at the Sports Section, sniggering at all the unauthorized biographies of football players, I suddenly spotted 2 small paperback books that were worth their weight in gold–Michael Owen’s Autobiography, Off the Record was right there, in front of me. I was almost too afraid to touch them, fearing I might be hallucinating. But they were real, and although both copies were not at their premium condition, I would have gladly paid 100.00 SGD for a copy. See, it has taken me 6 full years of hunting down this book, and I will shamelessly admit that my trip has already been 80% made after snagging one. Oh, and there was this one guy who chatted me up whilst I was basking in the sheer beauty of the book’s cover–I think he was flirting, even. Unfortunately, several things went against him: He’s an Everton fan, he had a thick accent that I had trouble comprehending, and no man nor demigod will be able to distract me while I am holding a copy of Michael Owen’s book. So if you ever get to read this, Francis, sorry to cut our “chat” so abruptly. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s me (and my Owen obsession).

THE book I’ve waited 6 whole years for.

A few hours and several hundred SG Dollars later, my friend J and I were back on the track, just in time to catch the parade of gorgeous Ferrari cars that preceded the Qualifying Session:

Gorgeous Ferrari cars lazily drives past, tormenting the petrolheads.

Qualifying Session then commenced, and we were all reduced to constantly transforming ourselves from amateur paparrazzi to boggle-eyed spectators.

My infamous “jinxing powers” worked yet again, as only a few minutes after I was telling J that we need to see an interesting “race incident soon”, the commentators blasted on the sound system that Ferrari’s Felipe Massa just ahd a car problem and had to retire from Qualifying. I was craning my neck to try to catch a glimpse of Felipe’s yellow helmet, and sure enough, I caught sight of him being whisked off back to the pits by a race marshal on a scooter:

Below are some clips from Q1 and Q2, respectively:

Fernando Alonso of Ferrari got the pole, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull was a close second, and the two McLarens in 3rd and 4th. With all 5 of the Championship contenders in the Top 5, predicting the race winner would have been nothing short of a Herculean task.

Day 3

Two days of non-stop walking, stretching/contorting our bodies to get better views, and screaming, caught up with us fangirls, so J and I were in no rush to get up and channel Road Runner come Sunday morning. We spent nearly 3 hours having brunch, and took a walk around the neighborhood before deciding to drop by The Good Shepherd Church to hear the 11.45am mass. We can’t help it, 11 years of strict Catholic schooling is still ingrained within us. It happened to be World Migrants Day that Sunday, so the mass was lighthearted and peppered with cultural references from several countries whose workers now call Singapore their home.

After doing some last-minute shopping and a lazy late lunch, we’ve decided to head to the track early, for fear that our precious spot near Turn 14 would be occupied by unworthy spectators. I’m paranoid and territorial like that. Thankfully, our favorite spot for the past 2 days was still free when we got there, and we even got to see the tail-end of the Porsche Carrera Cup race. Unfortunately, the afternoon sun was still blazing hot, and we spent some time hiding under my umbrella to avoid being baked.

A shot from the Porsche Carrera Cup Race.

At the stroke of half-past six, one of my favorite parts of the race weekend finally started– The Drivers’ Parade. It is not very often that a racing fan like myself will see all the F1 drivers up close (well, around 2-3 meters away, anyway), sans their helmets and racesuits, and I’m ever grateful that for this GP, they put all drivers on separate cars instead of lumping them all on one truck. Maximum exposure for them and maximum squealing time for fangirls like me.

Apologies for the quality (or lack, thereof) of the photos below–I was trying to multitask by looking at the Drivers zooming by and taking photos and chatting with my friend all at the same time. Suffice to say, I need more practice before I can join the game show Distraction:

Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel. The red horns I wore during the race were in his honor. 🙂

Red Bull’s Mark Webber. He sort of looked like a giant on top of a top car. 🙂

Lotus Racing’s (Blurry) Heikki Kovalainen. He was moving so quickly!

BMW-Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld. From Mercedes GP to Pirelli Test Driver to his 1st F1 Team in 1 season. WB, Quick Nick!

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.

McLaren’s Jenson Button. he got a lot of screams from female fans, to be fair.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

After the thrill of the Parade, we took a few moments to compose and to steel ourselves for almost 2 hours or hardcore racing. As soon as the five red lights went off, our area went quiet as everyone held up their digicams, iPhones and camcorders to record the first few laps. And yes, I was one of them:

The first 3 cars were never really in danger of losing their positions, even as some of the cars became casualties as the race wore on. As I was discussing with J the predicted WDC standings if the top 5 contenders finish in their current positions, the biggest surprise of the race occurred, as McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton fell by the wayside after bungling an attempt to pass WDC rival Mark Webber. The spectators, especially the McLaren fans, all gasped in unison as they absorbed the information that their golden boy and the 2009 race winner would not get a victory, nor any points from this race.

The Safety Car leading the pack:

The Race Restart after the SC Period:

Lewis Hamilton gets a ride back to the pits:

The racing sadist in me wanted to see more racing incidents, and just a few minutes later, Lotus Racing’s Heikki Kovalainen spun right in front of us as he had a mild collision with Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi. Here’s Heikki’s swift recovery:

However, Heikki’s “exciting” race was not over yet, as his engine suddenly caught fire and he had to play the part of an impromptu firefighter by taking the car to the start-finish straight to extinugish the flames. Well played to Heikki for his quick-thinking!

EDIT: Here’s a clip taken by a spectator of Heikki channeling his inner firefighter (via WTF1)

The top 5 positions were fully cemented going into the last few laps, and there was a palpable buzz in the air as the spectators prepared for the cars to cross the chequered flag:

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won from pole, the Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were 2nd and 3rd, while Jenson Button of McLaren finished in 4th. 16 cars were classified and barring a few banged-up cars (and buckets of sweat and fire extinguisher remnants, in Kovalainen’s case), everyone was safe and sound.

Now, on to another favorite ‘tradition’ of mine–the Drivers’ saluting the fans post-race, on their way back to the pits:

I was satisfied enough with the race results–the Ferrari fan in me was pleased that Alonso notched another win for the Scuderia, but since I am firmly behind Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel’s bid for WDC, a part of me wished the young German took home the full 25 points. Alonso’s win, however, made the 5-way WDC title-fight even more exciting, and let’s face it, for a true racing fan, it’s extremely hard to be worried and over-analytical when you’ve just witnessed a spectacularly-staged race by a truly efficient and tourist-friendly country with some of the most passionate F1 fans.

So, what’s the best way to let out all the extra energy post-race? TRACK INVASION!

The spectators mob one of the Official F1 Safety Cars. bet the blokes inside felt like proper superstars!

Below are my Personal Tips on Attending the SG GP:

  • Plan ahead and plan early! You can save a lot when you purchase tickets through their website http://www.singaporegp.sg during their Early Bird Promo Period. Keep a lookout for seat sales from your local airlines as well.
  • It often rains in Singapore, mostly during early/late afternoons, so best to bring a small folding umbrella and/or a raincoat with you at all times. It hasn’t rained during the FPs, QLF and Raceday for the past 2 years I’ve attended, but best safe than sorry (and soaking wet).
  • DON’T forget to bring earplugs! The sound of the F1 engines are unbelievably loud and can cause damage to the ears of the uninitiated. Bring your own from home if you’re a cheapskate like me, but if you do forget to take some, there are vendors outside the track that sells some, but they are expensive at 5 SGD a pair. Better to buy the Survival Kit, which contains a pair of earplugs and a disposable plastic poncho, from inside the track from the Red Cross Volunteers.
  • Speaking of being a cheapskate, I also brought several pieces of bottled water along with me for the entire trip. The track allows each person to bring 1 500mL (max) bottle of water, so if you want to spend your hard-earned SGD on other things, pack light and stock up on water.
  • If you refuse to cough up moolah on overpriced F1 merchandise, then just go walk along Orchard Road or drop by any Singapore Tourist Information Centers and get loads of race-related freebies such as mini race flags, fans, postcards and posters.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes at all times–You’re going to be moving and walking around a LOT! My friend and I had a right giggle at some of the girls who were dressed like they’re attending a party or they’re going out clubbing–Short, shiny dresses and 4-inch stiletto heels to watch a race? Really?
  • Make the most of your ticket– One of the unique, and fantastic things about attending Singapore GP is that spectators will never get bored, what with the constant stream of entertainment and performances available pre- and post-race. Get out there and go to all the shows while you can!
  • Always have your digital camera/camcorder on hand. Bring extra memory cards and batteries if you can. A lot can happen in a span of 1 FP/Qualifying Session/Race, so you’d better be prepared to capture those moments!
  • Don’t be afraid to make some NOISE! As a crazed football fan, I’m used to hearing (and making) a lot of noise over the smallest and silliest of things. Last year, I was more than a bit puzzled when my fellow spectators seemed to be too timid to make noise throughout the race, and I was probably the loudest fan in our area during the Drivers’ Parade (Yeah, I got a lot of amused looks and laughter with my uninhibited reactions, thankyouverymuch). This year, I was a little bit more restrained, but I still made a lot of noise to show my appreciation and excitement. You are not in a church or in a library, so make yourself heard!
  • Above all, forget about any worries/fears/hang-ups and just ENJOY!

Just like that, my weekend of pleasure and hedonism had to come to an end.

There you have it– 17 years of F1 fandom, 5 months of saving and planning, 3 days of pure bliss.

Thank you, racing gods.

I’ll see you again next year, Singapore. Don’t worry, I will hurry back.