I decided to go to the Singapore GP the moment it was announced just over a year ago. I was so excited about the race that I even travelled down to Singapore last December to walk to the Formula 1 track to be. After that visit there was no way back, the 2008 Singapore GP was a go, for me and for a bunch of friends. It got a bit tense first when the ticketing system failed, then again when the F1 time hotel prices were published. But we overcame all these issues and we were all set. So, how did it go ?
The trip started with minor hick up. Our pilot found out not all is right with our plane and instead of taking off we returned to the gate for repairs. An hour later all was fixed (at least that is what we all wanted to believe ) and the trip was on. We arrived in Singapore an hour later than expected but our time was still OK to make it to the hotel, turn around and be on the track on time for the first practice session. We had so much time, that we decided to make a “pit stop” on the way. We had our own minibus with a driver, so we were flexible .
Duly refreshed we continued our journey, next stop – hotel. We stayed at the beautiful island of Sentosa (that is what the hotel people called it when they mailed me before the trip). Not exactly in the city center but still only about 15-20 minutes drive from the track (unless it is Friday late afternoon peak hour). If you don’t mind the travel time, this is what you get:
We checked in without any difficulties (except those we created ourselves ) and after a short while of doing nothing (or something) we all met up in the lobby, boarded our minibus and moved in the track direction. The one thing we totally forgot about was the small little fact that besides heading to track we were also heading into the peak of the Friday late afternoon Singaporean rush hour. On top of that the road also included an overpass, the one passing above the start finish straight, where many cars slowed down to get the view of the race track … All and all it took us over an hour to make that 15 minutes trip. Not expecting that sort of delay we made another strategic error – we did not take any beer on board. We were never again going to repeat that mistake .
The bus dropped us off about 10 minutes walking distance from the Gate 1 – that was the gate we were aiming at. Somehow we all dispersed in all possible and impossible directions (although all trying to get to the same place). It took us anywehere between those 10 minutes to half an hour but at the end, thanks to calculating on getting lost, we all made it to track on time. There was quite some noise made about the security procedures at the gates. The reality was, the security check was pretty thorough, but very quick and smooth, with smiles flying all around. I was in in no time. (And this was the case also on Saturday and Sunday, when the crowds became bigger.)
I picked up my free Kangaroo TV (big thanks to the nice people from F1GPSG.com for arranging this) and we all made the next routine refueling pit stop in the Long Bar (the one they built on the track).
After a long journey, that for some begun a day earlier in Europe, for the rest that early morning in Hong Kong, we were finally about to make it to our grandstand. (Sorry, we also had one envoy, Mr. fantoci, who arrived a day in advance to do the bar research. His hard research work was very much appreciated by all the rest of us.) In certain sense this was the moment of truth. A wrong seat selection may ruin the whole race weekend. With a track none of us ever been to it is always a gamble. In Singapore case it was gamble for everybody. There sure were people who were not exactly happy with their seats (see comments here). Our view however was this:
I do not want to make too much of my ticket selection skills, but these seats were simply great. We were also a bit lucky because few meters left or right in these grandstands may mean lighting pole or a speaker getting into the view. We were fine though.
Friday at the race is for me usually the photo taking time. The grandstands are not that full so I am free to roam about. The section between Turns 1 and 3 was all accessible, so I also had a chance to see how is the view from different corners of this grandstand section. The seats where we were seated provided the view of the entire length of the start finish straight, the pit lane exit and the Turns 1 and 2. Going closer towards the Turn 1 grandstand the visible part of the start finish line was becomeing shorter, but on the other side the view extended from Turn 1 to Turn 3. Moving to the other end, towards Turn 3 grandstand, offered the same – less start finish view, more corner view, but from different angle. The lower seats had the fence disturbing the view, but in general, at least I believe so (I could not try and sit in every single seat of that part of the track), most of the seats in Turns 1, 2, 3 offered good view of the track.
There are two other things worth mentioning here. First – the TV screens were very clear and well visible (unless someone decided to stand up and block the view, but the crowd and the organizers dealt quickly with these mean people , few booooos and the view was clear again. I could even read the text, this is something I had big difficulties to achieve on Shanghai or Sepang tracks for example. Second – the speakers some time blocked the view a bit, the upside however was, that one could actually clearly hear what were they talking about over there in the commentary box !
OK, we were in our seats, the action was about to start, and … my new Sigma lense went on strike. I lost all the driver aids and had to switch my camera into fully manual mode. That is something I never even tried before. How did I fare ? You will have chance to see when I sort out all my pictures. I expect the Singapore GP photogallery to be ready here on F1Wolf sometime over this weekend. All I can say, it is not that easy to take photos of these fast moving objects under the artificial lighting with all the reflections.
What makes it difficult to take pictures makes it however great spectator experience. Luca de Montezemolo may call this a circus, and well, he may be right. It was a surreal feeling sitting in those grandstands looking at the dark skies and lit up track. But it was great. There were all sorts of worries about the light reflections, darkness, power outages, rain etc etc. The reflections – yes, they were there and I really liked them (I am talking from a spectator point of view).
The power outages never happened and although drivers complained about some parts of the track being a bit dark the lighting worked pretty well. The rain threatened on Sunday and it even rained in some parts of Singapore not that long before the race. But it never came to the track and we have to wait for another year to see how and if the night race and tropical rain can coexist.
What probably was not predicted were those bumps on the track. Drivers complained about them a lot but I would say they were not too bad for us, spectators. The bumps made it difficult to set up the cars’ height and we could see all those sparks … How often we see them these days ! I understand the drivers do not appreciate feeling like shaken martini on the rocks but … the sparks ! .
Now a bit to the entertainment, on the track. There were several stages around the venue (I believe 3 in total), we had one right behind our grandstand. The acts were changing during the day from rock, to comedy to DJs. Everyday, almost non stop. Never happened to me in any previous races to sit by the bay (was it a river or was it a sea ?) between two F1 sessions with bunch of friends around, beers in hand, getting dark, and DJ somewhere out there playing some cool lounge music … F1 felt great in Singapore .
I can’t say much about the food, because I never went to get any at the track. There was a booth with food and the only thing I heard about it was my buddy reporting that there is no more food left, all sold out. This was on one of the days, before the final F1 session.
The drinks were in plentiful supply. Not cheap, but drinks are not cheap in Singapore (unless you go to hawkers food market where you can get 600ml bottle of Tiger for SGD5.00, SGD2.50 buys a meal there ). The people were all thirsty (it is very hot to very very hot in Singapore), the drink lines were very long. It looked scary, but we never waited longer than 10-15 mins in the queue. To increase our efficiency, we always purchased double the amount of beers and water than we planned when we queued up. This strategy worked very well and I can only recommend it.
Getting to the track was easy. Getting out was a bit more difficult but we worked it out. Our minibus could get very close bringing us in, but the driver was not allowed to get to the same place after the race. He called us with his wehereabouts but we had a) no idea where is that, b) no idea how to get there. What we had was a policeman regulating the flow of people. I passed him my phone, asked him to talk to our driver and navigate us to him. The police guy was all smiles and very helpful. Took 2 minutes, and we knew where to go to find our bus. And we even found our bus at that place . On Saturday some of us discovered a shortcut, worked very well on Saturday. On Sunday we told the others we know the shortcut to the bus, all followed, but … it was Sunday, taking that shortcut resulted in walking about 3 times as much as we would following the normal people . There was also a bit more traffic regulation after the race and because of that it took us a while to find our bus. We still found it or better it found us. How would I rank getting out of the track on scale 1 to 10 (10 being the perfect score) ? Perhaps somewhere between 7-8, not bad, but we had our own minibus. I can’t speak on behalf of people waiting in those long taxi lines.
That was the track. What did we do before and after the F1 action ? Beach or swimming pool in the morning, food in early afternoon (Little India one day, hawker food the other), bars in the late night – Boat Quay, Clarke Quay, Mohammed Sultan Road). Go and google it .
Going to Singapore GP definitelly is not a cheap experience, even if you are arriving from as close as from Hong Kong. But it definitelly is an experience. Friendly attitude, good organization, everybody speaking English (most people the Singlish version ). Then the added excitement of the unique night race, the walls, the bumps, the sparks, the safety cars, the packed grandstands. Since 2004 our bunch went every year to Shanghai for the weekend of Formula 1 action and parties. This year we switched to Singapore and none of us regrets.
For those who hang out around these pages on regular bases or play the prediction game, here is the list us who met in Singapore – me (F1Wolf), fantoci, fatfish, blazena, Queen Bee, Rob The Flying Dutchman, xxMarinaxx, Gert-Jan. We visited the Hanamco restaurant that among other things also shows the F1 races, on the track I exchanged few text messages with Journeyer that you may know from his guest posts at F1Fanatic and who was at another part of the track, and I could use free Kangaroo TV thanks to Kaylen from F1GPSG.com, whom unfortunately I haven’t had chance to meet this time. And then there was the rest of our group that am not going to name here, but they all know who they are .