Introducing The F1 Class of 2015: Game Of Thrones-style.

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After I started watching the HBO Masterpiece Game of Thrones, I now categorize people into two sections:

1. People who love Game of Thrones and; 2. People who have no idea yet how much they’re going to love Game of Thrones.

The show, adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of books titled A Song Of Ice And Fire, contains drama, sex, wars, power plays, politicking, violence, and hedonism, among others. What’s not to love? Also, doesn’t it sound a lot like the world of Formula One that we love (and hate)?

And so this season, I have decided to imagine F1 in terms of the GoT World. Shall we get to know the main characters who shall contest the Iron Throne…er, the 2015 WDC?

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LH

House Hamilton

Led by: Lord Lewis Hamilton

Liege to the Realm of Mercedes

House words:

“Only God Can Judge Me.”

He is the current ruler who the rest will do their best to dethrone. His swagger is immeasurable. His temper flares, unpredictable. And he’s too #Blessed to care what other people think of him. Stay pressed.

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NR

House Rosberg

Led by: Lord Nico Rosberg

Liege to the Realm of Mercedes

House words:

“The Pretty Remembers.”

Beneath that blonde gleam is steel. Valyrian steel. Don’t provoke him and make him channel his inner Lannister, this heir to the 1986 F1 WDC is both beauty and brains and he knows how to play this game pretty damn well.

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DR

House Ricciardo

Led by: Lord Daniel Ricciardo

Liege to the Realm of Red Bull Racing

House words:

“We Do Not Frown.”

This Aussie’s biggest, and possibly most baffling weapon in his armory, is none other than his ability to maintain a smile upon his face. Do not be fooled by it and be lulled into thinking he is a racing pushover, for you just might wake up his alter ego, the honey badger.

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DK

House Kvyat

Led by: Lord Daniil Kvyat

Liege to the Realm of Red Bull Racing

House words:

“A Russian Always Pays His Debts.”

He may be young, but you would not want to mess with this one. His teenage looks belie the ice (vodka?) in his veins, and while it is easy to dismiss him as one of those entitled, backed-by-wealth racers, he has already shown flashes of brilliance that neither money, nor political influence, can acquire.

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SV

House Vettel

Led by: Lord Sebastian Vettel

Liege to the Realm of Ferrari

House words:

“The Finger Is Coming.”

Having been dethroned after ruling this racing kingdom for four straight years, Sebastian has switched allegiances and is now ready to take back what was once his. Can he channel his inner Targaryen and restore House Vettel’s prestige? Watch out for the Finger, it may have been down, but it’s certainly not out.

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KR

House Raikkonen

Led by: Lord Kimi Raikkonen

Liege to the Realm of Ferrari

House words:

“Racing. Fishing. Screwing.”

Way before his now infamous quote, “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” the verbose (not) Finn has already made it known what his life priorities are (actually, that’s what he said Finns pretty much do). And who can blame him? Sounds like a life truly worth living. Carry on being you, Kimi.

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FA

House Alonso

Led by: Lord Fernando Alonso

Liege to the Realm of McLaren-Honda

House words:

“Scheming Strong.”

There is no one more savvy on the grid when it comes to politics and psych wars than our beloved Fernando. He makes hardcore politicians and champion chess players look like amateurs compared to his tireless tactics. Could he be F1’s very own Peter Baelish, aka Littlefinger? Think you can stay one step ahead of him? He’s already plotting your downfall as you read this. So good luck. And better leave him space.

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JB

House Button

Led by: Lord Jenson Button

Liege to the Realm of McLaren-Honda

House words:

“Get A Grip.”

Our Jenson is like a Tyrell—rich (in racing talent), popular and attractive but seemingly lacking in ruthlessness that is necessary to claim the throne in not-so-perfect conditions (i.e, not having the ideal/dominant car). His time may be running out soon so he’ll want to up the ante, lessen the groans and grind it out each race. And with a teammate like Fernando, it’s more than necessary for him to watch his back!

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Williams F1 Driver Studio Images. January 2015. Felipe Massa. Photo: Williams F1 (Copyright Free FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) ref: Digital Image WILLIAMS JAN1240 Edit House Massa

Led by: Lord Felipe Massa

Liege to the Realm of Williams Racing

House words:

“Uncrowned. Unbent. Unbroken. For Sure.”

He was World Champion for a few precious seconds in 2008, until…he wasn’t. Still, despite a change in teams, this peppy Brazilian has not given up on that crown and is still actively contributing to the number of “For sures” in every article/press release.

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VB

House Bottas

Led by: Lord Valtteri Bottas

Liege to the Realm of Williams Racing

House words:

“See Me Soar.”

Because he is the new Flying Finn. Get it?! Besides, we should know by now that Finns would rather show than tell.

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NH

House Hulkenberg

Led by: Lord Nico Hulkenberg

Liege to the Realm of Sahara Force India

House words:

“As Tall As Talent.”

He stands out in the paddock for more than just his height, and yet he is still waiting for that Eureka Moment (i.e, a top team to sign him up) to arrive. Nico is like a Lord in the Vale: Well-regarded, yet often overlooked and vastly underestimated.

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SP

House Perez

Led by: Lord Sergio Perez

Liege to the Realm of Sahara Force India

House words:

“I Don’t Know Nothing.”

People are quick to criticize Sergio when he makes on-track mistakes, but they forget that he was a podium finisher twice in his young F1 career now and has proven he can dice with the best of them.

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MV

House Verstappen

Led by: Lord Max Verstappen

Liege to the Realm of Scuderia Toro Rosso

House words:

“The Seed Is Strong.”

Father Jos may not have set the world of F1 alight, but the son has already set the record for being the youngest-ever F1 driver in history at the age of 17. Max has been touted by pundits and insiders alike to be the 2015 Rookie to watch out for. Premature hype? Watch Lord Max prove his critics wrong.

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CS

House Sainz

Led by: Lord Carlos Sainz Jr.

Liege to the Realm of Scuderia Toro Rosso

House words:

“Fire In (Spanish) Blood.”

He is not the offspring of the Carlos Sainz for nothing. And he has already shown that he is not scared of going wheel-to-wheel with veterans and newbies alike. Could this hombre be out to dethrone Fernando Alonso as the Great Spanish Hope? I smell a n F1 Kingslayer in training…

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PM

House Maldonado

Led by: Lord Pastor Maldonado

Liege to the Realm of Lotus

House words:

“Ours Is The Notoriety.”

You know you’ve made it into F1 Infamy when you have your very own website dedicated to your on-track snafus: http://www.haspastormaldonadocrashedtoday.com

Nevertheless, let us not forget that this is the last driver to have won a race that is not from Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes or McLaren. There is clearly talent there, but hey, good on Pastor for owning his notoriety so well that it’s only a matter of time before critics can’t use it against him anymore.

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RG

House Grosjean

Led by: Lord Romain Grosjean

Liege to the Realm of Lotus

House words:

“Mistakes Are Wind.”

Who are you calling “1st Lap Nutcase”? Romain has surprisingly shed this infamous nickname this past couple of seasons and has emerged a calmer, more…subdued racer. But to be honest, more than a few fans are missing the ballsy Romain of old. Lets’ hope he finds that precocious balance between calm and ballsy this year and regains a valuable place in the pecking order.

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ME

House Ericsson

Led by: Lord Marcus Ericsson

Liege to the Realm of Sauber

House words:

“Stealth Is Wealth.”

Hands up if you still remember what Ericsson achieved last season and what team he drove for. Anyone? Well, what is important is that he is still on the grid, waiting for that one chance where he can do something spectacular that will make the racing world remember his name once again.

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FN

House Nasr

Led by: Lord Felipe Nasr

Liege to the Realm of Sauber

House words:

“It Is Known (I Am My Own Felipe).”

It is not easy to enter F1 when the name Felipe is automatically connected to Massa, but this seasoned young racer is already debunking the “there can only be one” memes out there with his early results. Can he sustain this good fortune and win the Battle of Felipes this season? Stay tuned.

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WS

 

House Stevens

Led by: Lord Will Stevens

Liege to the Realm of Manor GP

House words:

“Now My Race Has Begun.”

After a lot of…roadblocks and difficulties, Stevens has finally made his proper F1 debut, and already had a race finish under his belt! Now the question is, until when can he extend his stay and can he do the impossible and fill the boots of Jules Bianchi?

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RM

House Merhi

Led by: Lord Roberto Merhi

Liege to the Realm of Manor GP

House words:

“A Start Is A Start.”

His future in F1 is as unknown as Jon Snow’s parentage, but perhaps Merhi can take comfort in the adage, “Enjoy the present, for it is a gift.” Take it one race at a time, and let’s see where that leads…

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Which House will win the F1 Game Of Thrones 2015?

All I know is that: All Men Must…Race.

 

 

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

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

So there, you all have been warned.

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

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

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

First autograph of the trip! Danke, Nico!

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

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

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

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

At the Swissotel Stamford, Ticket Collection Centre.

Glorious, precious, shiny race tickets!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Button with Tag Heuer’s Big Boss.

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

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

Mayhem at the Opening of Red Bull Racing World!

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

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

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

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Friday, 21 September. No Rest For The Wicked…

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

Reporting for duty for FP1!

FP1: Schumi!

FP1: Nico Rosberg.

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

View of the track from the Singapore Flyer.

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

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

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

Reporting for duty for FP3 and QLF!

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

The GP2 cars, post-race.

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

FP3: Red Bull charges.

FP3: Fernando Alonso.

FP3: Kimi Raikkonen.

Q1: Schumi attacks.

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

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

The ginormous crowd at the Padang Stage.

Hey, Schumi has his own merchandise stand!

And this is where it got really, really interesting.

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

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton chats with fans.

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

Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, aka Kimi 2.0.

Lotus Renault’s Big Boss, Eric Boullier.

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

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

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

Marussia’s Charles Pic.

Scuderia Ferrari’s Marc Gene.

Gene’s signature.

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

Vergne’s signature.

Lotus GP’s Romain Grosjean.

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I was wrong.

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

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

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

Schumi: *takes pen* “Sure.”

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

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

Schumi: *returns pen*

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

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

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

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

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

Schumi’s signature!

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

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

#BOTTAS!!

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

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

Nice guy Heikki.

Kovalainen’s signature.

Defending champ and crowd favourite Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel’s signature.

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

Sauber’s Big Cheese, Peter Sauber.

Marussia’s Timo Glock.

Glock’s signature.

Sergio “Mr. Perfect Teeth” Perez.

Perez’s signature.

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

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

Alonso’s signature.

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

Mission Impossible? Accomplished.

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Sunday, 23 September: Keep Calm And Race On.

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

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

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

Hamilton and Maldonado.

Button and Vettel.

Alonso and DiResta.

Webber and Grosjean.

Rosberg and Schumacher.

Raikkonen and Raikkonen 2.0…I mean, Hulkenberg.

Massa and Perez.

Vergne and Kobayashi.

Ricciardo and Kovalainen.

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

Pic, Karthikeyan and Dela Rosa.

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

Here’s a video of the first lap:

And a clip from the Safety Car Period:

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

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

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

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

The podium finishers!

Champagne shower time!

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

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

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

The cars at Parc Ferme.

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

Farewell, Singapore race track! Until we meet again!

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

 

 

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P.S.

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

Breaking The Ice: Fairly Serious Thoughts On Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 Comeback.

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And so it came to pass that the first and last day of the F1 2012 pre-season testing was topped by none other than returning F1 champion Kimi Raikkonen.

I know it is difficult for us Kimi-supporters to take this with a grain of salt and not as some sort of an omen from the racing gods–but we have to. In fact, we must.

The Red Bull still looks strong, and the McLaren is not too far behind. Mercedes looks like it’s finally ready to mount a serious threat, and even though Ferrari does not seem like the force that it used to be, it still is very much unclear where Raikkonen’s team Lotus stands in the pecking order.

So below are some “Kimi Supporter Orders” that I shall impose on myself for the 2012 season (barring any meddling or complaints from Bernie, the FOM or the FIA):

Thou shalt not expect a race win, or even a podium finish, immediately.

I know that I, along with millions of Kimi fans will be praying to the racing gods that his first race, and his first full F1-season in two years, will be an emphatic one, but we have to give Kimi enough time to completely acclimatize himself back to F1 and to “get to know the car”, so to speak.  No doubt that he has the ability to surprise us all, but it’s always better to keep expectations in proper check.

Thou shalt not expect a more verbose Kimi in pre- and post-race interviews.

While I am grateful that the so-called “post-WRC” Kimi seems to be more open and willing when it comes to doing press duties, we have to remember that the constant, and sometimes-suffocating media attention and circus is partly what led to his sabbatical in 2009. And let’s face it, his racing skills are what gained him scores of fans through the years, not his elocution skills. So bring back the code-breakers and let’s try to decipher Kimi’s infamous mumblings once more!

Thou shalt maintain an objective eye on performances and results, and refrain from “feeding the trolls”.

The Kimi Army is famous (or should I say infamous?) for standing by and defending the Iceman to the moon and back, and while it is tempting to keep the rose-tinted glasses firmly in place, we must expect that not all results will be positive, and there will inevitably be criticism. It is already a fact that the media and some factions of fans are well-fond of finding faults in Kimi, and the least we Kimi fans can do is to have the class to be indifferent to  the negativity.

Thou shalt be patient, accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Above all, enjoy the “ride”.

Pretty much sums up everything in a neat, pristine bow.


The days are quickly passing by, and the tension and excitement are mounting. It has been said and written innumerable times before, but when you have 6 World Champions on the grid this season, there is bound to be some epic battles on- and off- the track. Bet on it.

It is not an easy task, but in the crazy world of F1 where the only predictable thing is its unpredictability, we have no choice but to Keep Calm and Hold On.

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The Calm amidst the Impending F1 Storm.

An Open Letter To Kimi Raikkonen, Part 2.

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I've to say, black does suit you, Kimi. And, I still don't know what goes on in that pretty head of yours. (image via PF1 Forum)

Dear Kimi,

You’ve got some nerve, you know that?

Once again, you’ve managed to ruin my impending life plans for 2012 by announcing your Formula 1 comeback just when I was starting to oh-so-slowly adjust to the F1 life without your icy, self-contained racer self.  How could you?!

My plans may have been ruined, and yet, I cannot stop smiling.

To be honest, the moment I heard your deal with Williams fell through, I just wanted to curse and shout at the racing gods for punishing us fans over and over again. The optimist in me has already started to consider what other options you have in motorsport, but still, 95% of my being is still screaming and wishing for that much-elusive F1 return.

And it happened. It felt so surreal and incredible. I’m still actually trying to digest all of these developments right now. Oh, and I was quite surprised that the internet did not explode the second your comeback made the news. See, even though you’ve only been within the periphery of the F1 circus in the last 2 years, only you have the power to make hundreds of thousands of racing fans collectively flail at the words “Kimi + F1 + comeback”. You like to keep that darn poker face on nearly 24/7 but come on, even you have to admit that that’s quite an impressive power to have.

So you’re going to Renault/Lotus, then? I find it a bit ironic and funny that you
somehow ended up with the team that you inadvertently iceburned when they tried to persuade you to return to F1 last year. Not that I’m complaining, though. You could have announced that you were coming back to F1 by way of resurrecting the old cult favorite team Super Aguri and I’d still let out a whoop of joy as if I’d won the lottery. Just watch out for that Boullier guy, yeah? I’m not entirely sure I trust him just yet. Then again, you have a pretty good built-in bullshit-detector so just keep that in tip-top shape and you should be ok.

I have not even given a thought about your future teammate, to tell the truth. I
suppose if it is Petrov then the media/fans would either have a field day in
making up spoofs on both your lack of verbosity or just simply be reduced to looking up at the sky and wondering how the hell they’d find the words to embellish their articles. On the positive side though, I suppose vodka would become Team Lotus’ drink of choice?. If it is Senna, then the sponsors would probably piss their pants in joy and you two would be one of, if not the most photographed team in the grid (of course both of you ain’t bad on track, either). If it is Grosjean, then…you’d have a new teammate in Grosjean? I don’t know, I’m not too keen on him, not that my opinion matters anyway. Hang on, is there any way you can convince Robert Kubica to come back quickly and partner you so my dream of Team Awesome Poker Face can come true? Just a thought.

At this point, I do not even care to know your exact reason/s for returning. I
know it’s not because you miss Bernie and his shenanigans or the media BS or the whole circus of it all. What matters most is that despite all of that, you came back, and that single action is more than enough to make the upcoming season an awesome one, and it has not even begun yet.

So, allow me to thank you, Kimi. Thank you for the twists and the turns and the downs and the ups and the slaps and the spanks and the punches of this rollercoaster ride. No one ever said it would be easy to be a supporter of yours, but every one of us wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tonight, I will sleep with a huge smile on my face and the knowledge that in 2012, there will be 6 World Champions in the grid competing in F1. Not to mention the fact that I will get the chance to see you and the Michael Schumacher renew your rivalry on-track (I need a moment to process this, someone hold me). I know that for you, those guys are just mere mortals and simply other drivers to overtake on the track, but that factoid is really blowing my mind right now, so don’t piss (or should that be “shit”?) on my parade, ok?

What’s 2 years of absence, anyway? Your true fans know you’re worth the wait and the expense to see live in action (still, that doesn’t mean I enjoyed the agony of your sabbatical. Damn you for the heartaches. Oops, I’m digressing…). Surely even the haters/critics, whether they admit it or not, are pleased to have you back.

Give them hell, Kimi. See you again in a few months’ time in Singapore. And
brace yourself for a “homecoming welcome” from your fans unlike any other. You may not be easily impressed but I’m telling you, it will be so good, you’ll regret why you ever left F1 in the first place.

Love,
Bouncebackabilitrix xx

P.S.
I know it’s not in your character to do this, but just in case you ever bump into him, can you please go all gangsta and say “In yo face, Jacques Villeneuve!” to that muppet JV? It will really make my year. Thanks. 🙂

P.P.S.
Also, would it be too much to ask you to get a decent haircut? Unless you’re still on that phase of wanting to channel James Hunt, I (and thousands of others) really do think that short hair suits you better. Now go on and enjoy your winter of fishing and screwing!

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

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*a.k.a I Went To The Singaporean 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!